The National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) is a charity dedicated to assisting in the protection and preservation of life at sea and along the United Kingdom coastline, by providing ‘Eyes Along The Coast’.
The institution was formed in 1994 in Cornwall, by local residents, following the tragic loss of a fishing vessel and her crew, in sight of a newly vacated HM Coastguard Lookout. The residents volunteered to start Watches from the Lookout, over the sea and along the coastline. Those first Watches were the start of the national charity that now has sixty NCI stations and nearly three thousand volunteer Watchkeepers around the UK coastline.
National Coastwatch works very closely with and reports directly to HM Coastguard, when the specially trained and qualified volunteer Watchkeepers identify anything that may develop into an incident, or spot an incident happening on the water, coastal paths, beaches, estuaries, harbours and coastline.
Watchkeepers use their eyes, powerful optical instruments, ship identification software and VHF radio to monitor potential incidents, from their stations and report to HM Coastguard, who then potentially launch a search and rescue asset, such as a RNLI Lifeboat, HM Coastguard Rescue Team, Search and Rescue Helicopter, police, fire or ambulance, or a combination of the various services and organisations.
Incidents spotted and reported by NCI Watchkeepers are managed by HM Coastguard Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres.
New stations are in response to historical incidents. There are currently no National Coastwatch stations along the Somerset Coast, which has been identified as in urgent need of a station at Minehead. The new station will be known as NCI Minehead. This new station is still in the setting up stage but has already recruited and trained volunteer Watchkeepers from the Minehead and West Somerset areas.
NCI Minehead has a temporary trailer station on Minehead seafront for the summer months. The volunteers have been maintaining informal Watches from the trailer, speaking to the public about coastal and water safety and raising awareness of the charity, together with the proposed plans for the Minehead station.
Funding is vital for this new project. Watchkeepers are fundraising from the trailer and attending many events throughout the summer, to promote National Coastwatch, including the Dunster Country Fair, Dunster Show, RNLI Lifeboat Day, National Coastwatch ’23 and more.
Watchkeepers have already established networks and friendships with local Search and Rescue teams, including Minehead RNLI and HM Coastguard Minehead, plus local police and PCSO’s, Harbour Master and council officials, with the aim of providing an “Eyes Along The Coast” at Minehead as soon as possible, reporting to HM Coastguard Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres and helping to save lives along our coast.
NCI Minehead is currently recruiting volunteer Watchkeepers.
Volunteers need have no maritime experience, as full training will be provided.
You can find out more on our Facebook Page at facebook.com/nciminehead or visit
www.nci.org.uk/join. If you would like to volunteer or donate, please contact the station manager at: [email protected].