NCI Portland Bill Gives Support to the Coastguard and Identifies Yacht in Distress

On Sunday 14th Mach 2017 the NCI Portland Bill watchkeepers recorded a yacht passing Portland Bill, they later noticed it with engine failure 1 nautical mile and on a bearing of 300 degrees from the lookout, eventually drifting with anchor down to a bearing of 345 degrees from the lookout before the lifeboat arrived.

Weymouth AWL 17-32 approaching Portland Bill on route to the yacht.

 Watch leader Tony Marshall said “We were aware that there was a possible problem with this yacht some time before she radioed a “Pan Pan” distress call to SCG and we were keeping her under close observation”.

SCG telephoned us to ask if we had a visual and for vessel details, we gave full details and offered assistance to the RNLI in conning the lifeboat to the casualty if required. We heard nothing further from SCG

Yacht under tow from AWL 17-32

 Photographs by Tony Marshall


A visit to Portland Bill Lookout by The High Sheriff of Dorset, Sir Philip Williams.

By Geoff Peters

Sir Philip Williams receives instruction on the use of the radar from Deputy Station Manager Michael Gregory.

We were very honoured and privileged to entertain Sir Philip at the Lookout on Tuesday 31st January. Not only was he very impressed with our work and dedication and really fascinated with our equipment, Sir Philip could not believe we were totally self funded, which means we have to do all our own fundraising.

Sir Philip was greeted by Station Manager, Geoff Peters, the visit began with a visit to the Watchroom where duty Watchkeepers, Michael Gregory & Paul Clarke together with Roger Harrington, explained and demonstrated the technicalities of the high tech equipment. Sir Philip was then entertained in The Training Centre by other Watchkeepers Len Heath, Stan Zapiec, Trefor Morgan & Roger Sutherland who also showed a short DVD, documenting some of the highlights of Portland Bill’s 20 year history, an anniversary which will be celebrated later this year. The event was completed with tea and chocolate mini rolls provided by Pam Peters and Ellen Zapiec.

Sir Philip in The Training Centre with Station Manager Geoff Peters and surrounded by Watchkeepers Roger Sutherland. Roger Harrington, Stan Zapiec, Len Heath & Trefor Morgan

Thankfully the fog lifted sufficiently as Sir Philip arrived to enable some vision of the Lighthouse, which had previously been completely shrouded in fog. Sir Philip has promised a return visit when hopefully the weather will show the area around the Lookout in all its true glory.




by our in-house correspondent

RIN Morning 1

The NCI Portland Bill Deputy Station Manager Rear Admiral Mike Burgoyne CB opening the presentation.

 On 10 April serendipity came to Portland Bill Station when a visit by the Royal Institute of Navigation (RIN) coincided with Force 9 from the East and a low Spring tide.  The Race was at its most daunting as members of the RIN Small Craft Group arrived for a presentation.

The RIN is a learned society aimed at furthering the development of navigation on land and sea and in the air and space.  It is held in high regard both at home and abroad.  The visitors included a Past President, a Commodore of  P & O Cruises, a Nuclear Submarine Navigation Officer  and an Authority on the history of Radar and Air Traffic Management.   The guests were welcomed by The Deputy Station Manager Rear Admiral Mike Burgoyne CB who during the eighties was the Director of the RIN and for a time Vice Chairman of the Sea Safety Group, the forerunner of NCI. The hosts included Senior Watch Keepers Roger Sutherland (Media Support), Eleanor Fitzgeorge- Parker (Quartermaster) and Tony Bartlett ( Technical Officer and Watch Leader.)

RIN Morning 4

The RIN visitors enjoying a tea break between presentations.

The role of NCI was described in a new video, produced and narrated by Roger Sutherland followed by an account of the HMCG’s World War II bravery when an LCT was wrecked on the shores of Portland. Afterwards the NCI team answered a wide range of questions that developed into a very useful and interesting debate on UK SAR.  It transpired that not all the small craft skippers present knew about Channel 65 and they were strongly encouraged to make full use of it.

RIN Morning 2

The Deputy Station Manager Rear Admiral Mike Burgoyne CB demonstrates the stations AIS system which allows watchkeepers to monitor AIS equipt vessels during bad weather and also at a distance.

The group then visited the Watch Room and were briefed on the equipment available to the Watch Keepers. Again serendipity struck as they watched The French Navy and the Royal Navy exercising and listened to Solent Coastguard dealing with a PAN PAN call before retiring to the crowded Lobster Pot for lunch.

Subsequently it transpired that one of the visitors intends to visit his local NCI Station and who knows where that may lead!


New Radar at NCI-Portland Bill

151219 John Rose and Sheila Belsten Radar Training (1)

Senior Watchkeeper John Rose and Trainee Watchkeeper Sheila Belsten Radar Training

Following total failure of the existing radar, which had done sterling service for in excess of 8 years, a replacement was ordered, delivered and installed within 10 days over the Christmas period. We were fortunate that the management team had notice the degradation of the existing radar over the six months prior to it’s failure and had been carrying out on-site testing of radar systems from 3 manufacturers offering a total of 5 different radar systems and a capital expenditure request had been submitted for the replacement. The system chosen by the evaluation team was the ‘Halo’ Radar system offered by Simrad.

Because the NCI-Portland Bill look-out is 700 m from the Portland Bill lighthouse and 50 m above sea level the look-out suffers from obscuration of the Portland Race by sea mists, which means that the local fishing fleet is invisible to the watchkeepers under these conditions. To overcome this visibility problem and the severe sea clutter caused by the Portland Bank a radically different type of radar was sort by the evaluation team. To this end initial findings indicate that the ‘Halo’ radar is a major improvement over our previous radar. The ‘Halo’ radar has multiple ‘chirp’ technology combined into one scanner, the ‘chirp’ technology is combined with a Broadband 4G radar system for multiple ranges. The Simrad ‘Halo’ Radar uses an unprecedented mix of close and long range detection, combined with precise target definition and low clutter. Solid-state technology means minimal warm-up time, maximum reliability and compliance with future Low Emissions standards.

The radar set-up uses a 24” monitor which can be st to a single screen or a split screen, this means that in split screen the radar can be set-up to two ranges which are totally independent of each other and this has shown us that we can identify wooden and fibreglass hull vessels on the pulse compression short range.

At the time of writing the system is being fine tuned by the NCI-Portland Bill technical team in concert with the local Simrad agents staff, this is giving us total comfort for future operation and with a 5 year warranty and maintenance contract we should never be in a position to declare ourselves off radar line for more than one day.

Len Heath 19/01/2016


fleur graphics Ltd 1