My Summer - David Curran, National Coastwatch Institution

National Coastwatch Station Officer, David Curran

The role of an NCI Station

The primary remit of an NCI Station is to identify any vessel or person in distress at sea or on the shore. We also conduct local weather monitoring and reporting for the benefit of vessels and other coastal users on the water in the Bristol Channel. The local weather conditions have a direct impact on the latent level of risk to maritime users and therefore the likelihood there will be vessels or persons in distress at any one time. It also directly impacts on our ability to visually monitor our area of observation.

Local weather monitoring

Personally, I always check the Met Office weather app before leaving home for a watch for an early heads up of what to expect.

When on watch we constantly monitor the local conditions and transmit them on our own maritime channel (Ch 65) three times a day for the benefit of local vessels. As well as conducting our own local physical weather checks and using our own equipment to check wind speed and air pressure, we also monitor the local inshore waters forecast and national coastal monitoring website for additional information. Key factors for us are wind and sea state, tides, visibility, and pressure (rising or falling as an indicator of changing weather).

Watchkeeper David Curran checking the latest weather

The impact of summer

NCI’s Minehead station’s observation area includes Minehead Beach which is much busier in the summer with local users and holidaymakers, many taking to the water in different forms. Hence the need for increased vigilance and longer watches as daylight hours extend. There's also an increase in charter fishing vessels using the channel and general maritime traffic with leisure boat users out on the water so again more activity to monitor.

As well as seasonal differences daily weather variations are significant too. Higher temperatures and sunshine means increased levels of activity as well as bringing with it the additional hazards of sunburn and dehydration.

Find out about more about the National Coastwatch Institution