Volunteers going the extra nautical mile(s)

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The Royal National Lifeboat Institution, a charity that serves Great Britain and relies mainly on volunteers, had a record year rescuing 7,834 people in 2007, according to an article in BYM Marine News.

The RNLI launched lifeboats 8,141 times and 4,287 — more than half — were for recreational boaters in distress. This figure was down by 74 pleasure boat responses in 2006, according to the report. Out of the 2007 pleasure boat responses, 43 percent were for powerboats, 40 percent were for sailboats and 17 percent were manual (rowboats, kayaks, etc.).

The main causes for distress calls were machinery failure, being stranded or grounded, and vessels being in adverse weather conditions, although that mostly applied to manual crafts, according to the report. There was also a 25-percent rise in man overboard incidents: 161 in 2006 to 201 in 2007.

The RNLI was created in 1824 by British soldier Sir William Hillary, which was originally called the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, according to their Web site (www.rnli.org.uk). With no government support, the RNLI relies solely on donations from the public to stay afloat.

There are more than 230 RNLI lifeboat stations across the United Kingdom and Ireland, operated by 4,800 lifeboat crew members, of which 95 percent are volunteers, according to the report.

— Elizabeth Ellis