Posted by: Pete | December 17, 2010

Save the Coastguards, so they can save you.

The coastguards at Brixham are a vital service for mariners, saving countless lives over many years.

I remember only too well how, 25 years ago, I was returning with my wife across the Channel when engine failure and rough seas set us back several vital hours. It was around 01:00 am, pitch black, foul weather, against the tide, and running out of diesel when we radioed Brixham for a position fix. These were the days before Satellite navigation and on our small yacht we had just a chart and compass to steer our course. But the one thing we could rely upon was a radio position fix and with the help of the Coastguard, we made it back to port in Dartmouth with no casualties or expensive search and rescue needed.

But today everyone has Satnav right? Well not quite; for one thing the systems frequently fail and for another, many small boats setting out from the English coast that get into trouble don’t have it in the first place.

Radio can be the only way to get an accurate position fix. Triangulation is used to form a ‘cocked hat’ giving the exact location of a vessel at sea. But for this to work, you need 2 coastal stations to be reasonably close together so that the base of the triangle is as small as possible. Brixham to Falmouth gives a workable ‘cocked hat’ for the many small craft in the South West, but Southampton to Falmouth will result in a large area if the vessel is anywhere near the transit between the two stations. To make matters worse, they will only be operating Falmouth during the day when visibility is usually better anyway!

Closing Brixham is lunacy, as is reducing the hours at Falmouth. If you are ever in trouble at sea in that area, you’ll understand why.



  1. Peter,
    Obviously you are aware that it is not just Brixham, but other major coastguard stations which are under threat. I agree that it is complete lunacy, but nothing new from this idiotic, ideology driven government. I’m fully behind any campaign to stop closure of ANY coastguard stations, knowing that they are worth their weight in gold. But let’s not stop there, they are intending to cut back on air sea rescue as well, expecting it will be taken up by private enterprise.Complete madness.That policy needs to be stopped in in its tracks too as it it is the government’s moral responsibility to care for and protect its people, not to hive it off to any Tom Dick or Harry who are in it for short term profit.



    • Iain
      I only mentioned Brixham because of my personal experience of the crucial service they provide but I agree totally with your comments. I hope there is sufficient public outcry to bring them to their senses before it’s too late because once this is done and the priceless experience of the people who run the service is lost – there is no way back.

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