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'Eyes' needed to scan sands and seas off Yarmouth

PUBLISHED: 13:23 02 April 2016 | UPDATED: 13:23 02 April 2016

North Denes Coastwatch tower in Great Yarmouth.

Picture: James Bass

North Denes Coastwatch tower in Great Yarmouth. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk © 2014

More eagle eyes are needed to scan the sands and seas off Great Yarmouth as shifts are cut because of a dip in volunteers.

North Denes coastwatch station belongs to the national Sea Safety Group that keeps a look out for trouble at six locations.

But a critical lack of volunteers, down from 22 to around 13 in the last six years, means evening shifts are no longer covered and some are manned by a solo sea-searcher.

David Steele who has been on surveillance duty for some years said it was rewarding work.

The retired prison service worker said he enjoyed his four-hour stints, helping to break up the week while helping the community.

From their vantage point volunteers could see a wide panorama stretching seven miles towards the horizon and up as far as the Gulliver wind turbine in Lowestoft to the south.

Although there was plenty of technical wizardry involved in scanning the seas there was still no replacement for human eyes who could pick up things like inflatables in trouble, he added.

“We act as the eyes and ears for the Coastguard,” he said. “We are here to keep an eye on things. We do have radar and systems to identify boats but are there if anything goes amiss. Most of the job is what we can see with our eyes.”

Emergencies included fires on ships and yachts in trouble. In his own time Mr Steele had alerted the lifeboat service to an inflatable boat drifting out to sea as the two men manning the oars became tired.

However, more recently the service had struggled to keep two on every shift and no-longer did an evening watch.

Volunteers need to be physically fit and able to climb a vertical ladder inside the station, as well as fill in log sheets.

Anyone is welcome to join. Full training will be given and the tasks are not overly technical.

To find out more call the coastwatch station at north denes on 01493 332192.

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