Wednesday, 31 January 2007

A night to remember?

29th August 2003, 0418 in the morning and our pagers go off. It's rough, the sky overcast, NE 6 winds. Portland Coastguard requested us to investigate reported sightings of red flares approx 15 Nm SE of Anvil Point.

A commercial ship 'Dart 8' was in the area and they were also investigating. They had located a yacht that was thought to have fired the flares but was unable to make contact. We let go the mooring and made full speed to the position given by 'Dart 8'. A little under an hour later we were on scene to find a 36' yacht with total electrical failure. The yacht's crew had been at sea for 48hrs and were very tired. They had lost all their navigation equipment and making little headway into the strong NE wind. We decided to try to put a crewman aboard to connect a tow line. A couple of attempts were made to get alongside the final of which resulted in the lifeboat's guard rails being badly damaged as they were struck by the yacht. The lifeboat backed away and the damage was assessed. It was decided to run in again and this time 2nd Coxswain Robert Aggas was successfully put aboard, slightly injuring his leg in the process. A towline was quickly passed and secured to the yacht. Due to the bad weather the yacht would have to be towed into Poole Harbour. Good speed was made and the lifeboat was alongside Poole Quay at 08:55. The yacht was secured to a pontoon berth and the lifeboat was taken up to RNLI Headquarters so that Engineers could look at the damage. It was decided that the lifeboat would have to go for repairs if a relief boat could be found. It was decided that we would head for Lymington to pick up Lifeboat 12-001 if it's 'pass out trials' were a success. Unfortunately as the we approached Hurst Point we were told that 12-001 was not going to be ready and that there was no option but to return to Swanage and affect temporary repairs for the time being. The lifeboat finally arrived back in Swanage at 14:45.

What I haven't told you is that the first crewman to be put aboard was supposed to be me. I never made the jump, in the collision as we approached I was knocked overboard into the sea and narrowly missed being impaled on the yacht's anchor. Now 5am in the morning is no time at all to be swimming around in the middle of the channel. I was not happy. Thankfully Martin broke off his attempt to get alongside the yacht and maneuvered to fetch me back. He achieved this in an impressively short time I am glad to say.

I think that this may have been the only occasion that I have seen our ex navigator David Corben out on deck during a shout?

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm doth bind the restless wave,
Who bidds't the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep:
O hear us when we call to thee
For those in peril on the sea.

(William Whiting)

Head Launcher

We don't have many launchers here at Swanage. We don't need them, to launch we simply climb on board, take off a padlock, remove a chain and then knockout a pin. Easy work for two men. In charge of the operation at Swanage is Jon Deare, all round man of mystery. His responsibility is to knock out that pin at the vital moment when told to by the Coxswain.

Of course, whilst the boat is away Jon is not without work to do. His first priority is to use any remaining crew members to rig the slipway for the boats return. He then has the responsibility of managing the crew who remain behind. This sounds simple but in reality is not unlike trying to control bedlam in a kindergarten.........our crew are, in general a lively and spirited group of folk! Then begins the lonely vigil, waiting for the boat to return.

Tuesday, 30 January 2007


All sorts of people give generously to the Lifeboats. Paul Bedford is one of these. He joined the crew some years ago with the intention of going to sea on lifeboats. For whatever reason Paul decided that this wasn't for him and has since then trained himself up to be our Winchman. This is without doubt a thankless task most of the time. When recovering in a heavy sea it is doubtless the Winchman's fault when things go wrong. Heaving in too fast, or heaving in too slowly, it could be either. Despite this Paul constantly returns for more. Like the rest of us, I guess he gets as much out of it as he puts in.

Monday, 29 January 2007

Sunday exercise

Sunday dawned bright and calm and both boats launched on exercise. Gav was ILB helmsman so he went to sea with one experienced crewmember and 2 inexperienced crew. This works well, good old sharing of knowledge. It is off course important to always have enough people on board to be able to safely and effectively conduct a shout. Many is the time that our services are called on whilst we are on exercise. Though not on this occasion.

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Counting the cost

Amid destruction and uglyness lies beauty and wonder.

Today was another day off from Lifeboating but again a kind of busman's holiday drew my attention. Joined by Mark 'Jedi-Master' Rainsley and his talented (and tolerant) wife Heather, I travelled west to paddle through the scene of the MSC Napoli disaster. In some ways guilt was strongly present, to be joining the hoards of much reviled scavengers and rubber neckers. However, I felt a strong urge to see the extent of the damage for myself rather than just rely on inflated or distorted press stories.It certainly was an impressive sight and apart from a small amount of oil on the water all seemed well. We got good and close, close enough in fact to be firmly escorted from the premises by the coastguard patrol boat.We skirted round the exclusion zone and came back into the shore at Brancsome to see for outselves the extent of the destruction caused by the looters.This was extensive and, though superficial, still completely un-necessary. All the discarded contents of containers had been dumped and then inevitably washed along the shore for at least 5 or 6 miles.Despite there being few traces of oil, we did see a number of oiled sea birds. Clearly a great deal has been done to save as many as possible, however, there are many like those we saw which will avoid being collected and will inevitably die from ingesting the oil. A sad end to the day........

Friday, 26 January 2007

Testing Testing

The pressure of being tested by an assessor is certainly intense. Almost enough to reduce grown men to quivering wrecks. Thankfully our crew tend to be pretty well prepared and ready for examination. As a result they invariably pass well. In the photo Craig and Matt are being assessed on rigging up an alongside tow using the slipway to simulate the vessel. This works and works well. It's a simple manoeuvre but one which tests seamanship skill (which I believe are the basis upon which all other knowledge is built). Our assessor on this evening was brutally thorough and this is a change from previous assessors.

The Competency based system which we run is a relatively new development. In essence the RNLI has identified key knowledge and tasks which competent crew in different positions should be expected to know. Each crewmember then receives a personalised 'taskbook' based on their position in the boat. Then, over a period of time they must get themselves qualified in each of these tasks and get a 'green light'. Once this has happened they are then safe for a while until 3 (sometimes more) years have elapsed when they must be re-assessed in each skill or task.

I guess in a way this sounds complicated, however, it works. What it means is that to progress in the crew, a recruit must be competent and able to perform tasks as demanded of them. This then allows the Coxswain to have complete faith in his crew and that they can achieve what is required as and when. A lot is asked of lifeboat crews, they are expected to be good at what they do and demonstrably competent, CoBT achieves this.

I've got bills to pay and children who need clothes
I know there's fish out there but where God only knows
They say these waters aren't what they used to be
But I've got people back on land who count on me

So if you see my Downeaster Alexa
And if you work with the rod and the reel
Tell my wife I am trolling Atlantis
And I still have my hands on the wheel

(Billy Joel)

Thursday, 25 January 2007

Life is like a box of chocolates............

Floating debris is a big problem at sea. And events of the past week have brought this sharply into focus. There is now a vast amount of debris floating around in the English Channel. Not just whole containers, but fuel oil and also the discarded detritus left over by the marauding scavengers. It would be easy to view this lightly, roguish scamps against the filthy rich capitalists. But this ignores the reality that they are not just hampering the clean up but making it far harder. To them I say.............Think more carefully about what you are doing, buy your nappies like the rest of us, don't pick up discarded ones from the beach. And why not put your energies into helping rather than being so selfish.

We deal with the resulting damage caused by this floating trash all too frequently. Vessels are often caught up in old bits of rope or netting. This is exactly what happened to the 38' yacht 'White Oryx IV' 11Nm South of Peveril Ledge Buoy last year. They were on passage from Cherbourg to The Solent when suddenly the yacht's engine stopped. They had run over a large quantity of heavy netting. The yacht's skipper went over the side to see if he could clear the prop himself but unfortunately it was too deep for him to reach. There was absolutely no wind and the yacht was drifting West with the ebb tide at nearly 2 knots. As the yacht was disabled Portland Coastguard asked for assistance from Swanage's All Weather Lifeboat. We were paged and launched 9 mins later, a course was plotted and best speed made towards the casualty. We arrived alongside a little under 40 mins later. A tow line was passed across and the slow tow home began. Meanwhile crew at the lifeboat station were busily trying to find a diver to clear the yacht's prop to allow them to continue their passage. As luck would have it a local dive charter boat 'Mary Jo' was coming back into Swanage with divers onboard at about the same time as the Lifeboat and its tow. They very kindly offered to help and one of their divers soon cleared the large net allowing 'White Oryx IV' to continue on their passage to The Solent. We were then released to return to station.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Wintry sea

Thanks for the first few suggestions for sorting out my photography. Here was MarkR's advice, fudge it....Judging by the forecast winter has set in, it certainly seems so from the temperature outside. However, this would appear to help with the photography. I'm just starting to get to grips with the new camera, still early days but I am beginning to get some pleasing results.All I need now is a tripod and some hints..........any ideas?

And now for the inshore waters forecast:

Selsey Bill to Lyme Regis.
24 hour forecast:
Wind: North veering northeast 5 or 6, occasionally 7 around exposed headlands, decreasing 3 or 4.
Weather: Isolated showers.
Visibility: Good.
Sea State: Slight or moderate.

The path to power

They say that everyone has a skeleton in their closet. Some have more than one. Martin, our Coxswain, lifeboat tower of strength, is no exception. Admire the beauty of this slug like appendage to his upper lip. Through storm and tempest it clung on there! They do also say that there is no accounting for taste.........

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

For those in Peril?

There is an assumption that we lifeboat crew must get irritated by trivial callouts. After all, we exist to save life at sea, not to provide tows when people get into difficulty through their own fault. Yet that is not how we see it.

Neither do we feel that people should be charged for the service we provide. As soon as that starts to happen people become reluctant to make the call and our job becomes far harder. Rather than dealing with a simple situation, we would not be called until mistakes had been compounded and the situation had worsened. I've said it before; I would far rather deal with a situation in it's early stages before someone was in 'Peril' than wait until the problem had got worse. It's just the kind of guy I am, I like things simple.....

Incidentally, the owner of the yacht in the photo here was a Judge. He offered me tea or a cold drink, his wife provided cake. They were both embarrassed and enormously grateful. A couple of days later a sizable cheque arrived at the station. Only too happy to help your honour!

Boat show

Gav, Becky and Tom spent part of last week at the boatshow. Gav was kind enough to let me have access to his photos from the trip. It soon became clear viewing them that none of them get out of our small town anywhere near often enough. One other thing shines through the album, they know how to have fun. Gav and Tom seem to have spent the entire time trying to get close to as many attractive young ladies (normally referred to as 'Tidies' by Gav and Tom) as possible, have a look here and see how they fared.

Meanwhile Becky was behaving herself as ever and went to the presentation for the RNLI photographer of the year competition. Understandably she was delighted with her Certificate for runner-up in her category............

Some boys take a beautiful girl,
And hide her away from the rest of the world.
I wanna be the one to walk in the sun.
They wanna have fu-un.
Just wanna have
That's all they really want.....
Some fun....

(Cyndi Lauper)

Monday, 22 January 2007

The motion of the ocean

I have spent a lot of time at sea. A fair proportion of my life in fact, and in a wide variety of vessels: fishing boats, lifeboats, kayaks, yachts, mine-sweepers, aircraft-carriers and nuclear submarines. And I have never suffered from sea-sickness, not even felt queasy. That is until last year, when all of a sudden it hit me. Waves of nausea and projectile vomiting. And it hasn't stopped. It has now become a fairly regular feature of spending time at sea on a lifeboat. Thankfully I have got it down to a fine art. The urge approaches, I get up from the navigating table, stick my head out of the door, job done, back to the chart table. I can even be fairly certain of getting it clean over the after-rail of the boat. Still, I hope it is just a passing phase as it's not particularly pleasant!

Absurd thoughts

Well, often I feel passionately angry about absurd H&S rules, signage and regulations. Not because I necessarily disagree with the advice, rather because of the sense that I get that I am being patronised. At the top of our slipway is this notice.
Clearly it makes sense, you're operating near water, possibly on a boat, probably in rough weather. Despite this obvious reality, I can't help but be irritated that I have to be treated like an idiot purely because someone else is terrified of being sued by other people who patently are idiots.

However, I still chuckle at the thought that we must wear lifejackets on the slipway yet it's fine for us to proceed to sea in storm force winds. I think that makes it 1 all?

MSC Napoli

It would seem that no sooner had the danger finished than the farce began. The MSC Napoli story has continued over the weekend and taken a comic twist:

The drifting vessel was being towed to nearby Portland Harbour, but the MCA decided to beach it in Lyme Bay, near Sidmouth, instead, following the structural failure (large gashes in the stern). It is now firmly aground but rolling around. Two French coastguard tugs are holding the ship in place. Chris Lawson of the Environment Agency said containers holding the most hazardous substances, such as pesticides, were in the cargo hold of the boat and because of this there was "very little risk" of them leaking just now. However, more that 50 40ft long containers have gone missing including one containing hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of BMW motorbikes!

Remembering that the Men of Devon and Cornwall have wrecking in their blood this is clearly going to be a temptation too far. Indeed it reminds me of a classic folksong of 'Vin Garbutt's' from the north-east, the story bears re-telling:

The MSC Concorde was passaging from Teeside to Amsterdam with a full load of containers. One fell over the side containing a load of designer clothes, Super Mario 'T' Shirts and underpants. Once the container split open, the beaches from Tesside south to Runswick Bay were littered with the goods and public order was strained as people came from far and wide to get their hands on the booty. The song is called 'Fell of the Back of a Boat'

"In Loftus near Saltburn, one wintry windy day
A vessel bound for Amsterdam came sailing from Tees Bay,
Bedecked with fine designer clothes, she soon became a joke
The string holding the cargo down got damp and then it broke.

There were T-shirts for the husband
and sweatshirts for the wife
and every kid in Skinningrove has underwear for life

A great big steel container fell over the side.
It hit the rocks at Hummersea that smashed it open wide.
The treasure it was holding was spewn into the brine.
Some of it washed out to sea but most of it's now mine."
(Vin Garbutt)

Sunday, 21 January 2007

Busman's holiday

This is the lifeboat College:

In the absence of a lifeboat exercise, the Gilmours decided on a trip away this weekend. The lifeboat College in Poole is quiet this month so offered crew and station personnel the chance of a cheap nights stay in the College. It certainly saved on trashing the house!
It is impossible to find fault with the College. It is a truly inspirational facility which provides A++ training. In a short time it has become so well established in the training regime that it is hard to appreciate how we got by before.

There are a lot of boats there for use on courses, including a number of recreational craft to simulate shouts.
A fleet of old 'D' class lifeboats if you ever wondered what became of them after retirement.
And several of these purposeful craft for yachtmaster type training.

Well worth a visit if you ever get the chance. Oh, and the fillet steak was very reasonable and excellent.

Saturday, 20 January 2007


Salvage is rarely if ever claimed by the RNLI or its crews. The institution exists to save lives at sea and as a result has traditionally given preference in the matter of salvage to private enterprise. However, this has not always meant that salvage has not been claimed. In the early years of the Institution the following statement was given by the Management Committee:

" is considered that such an arrangement (salvage) cannot but be beneficial to all parties:-the owners or insurers of a valuable ship and cargo are fortunate in having their property saved at a small percentage-the crew of the Life-boat, always poor men, receive a handsome payment, calculated to increase their attachment to the Life-boat service-whilst the Institution obtains a sufficient amount to cover the risk of damage to its boat."

However, the Institution had very firm rules regarding salvage. In 1883 these were transgressed by the crew of the Eastbourne lifeboat after they had rescued eleven sailors from the barque 'New Brunswick'. Despite receiving a significant bounty for the rescue, they insisted on claiming salvage in contravention of the RNLI's rules. How were they rewarded for this persistence? Well, they received £105 (£15 more than the bounty offered) and were all dismissed from the service. Mental note to self........

The RNLI felt strongly about this matter because they rightly felt that once word got around that lifeboat crews were more interested in money than saving life, the reputation of the Institution would be severely tarnished. I agree.

Friday, 19 January 2007

The last word

Ok, so I lead a fundamentally dull life, why else would I be milking this one small moment of success? Nevertheless, I can't resist. Rob Aggas, 2nd Coxswain with our crew brought home my prize this evening from RNLI Headquarters. Rather chuffed I am too. A splendid certificate (bearing a far better photo than mine) and a very nice Pentax Optio A20.I look forward to retiring my trusty 3 megapixel digital camera and seeing what can be produced with 10mp...........Watch this space, but, be kind.

And relax

Inevitably day follows night, summer follows spring, after war comes peace and the pope tends to be a Catholic. In this certain way so calm follows the storm. Yesterday Britain was battered by storms. Fearsome winds, torrential rain and high seas all conspired to cause utter devastation and in some tragic cases, death.

This morning, Rob McElwee, of the BBC Weather Centre, said the storm passed into Germany overnight leaving sunshine and some rain expected in the UK. And this certainly seemed to be the case in Swanage this morning, the sea was calm, the skies bright with superb visibility. A time for reflection and thought, of what was and what might have been.

I mentioned that Lizard lifeboat had been involved with the Napoli shout yesterday. I’ve since found out that Falmouth was also involved and have managed to get some more details and pictures. Their All Weather Lifeboat left its berth at 13:00 and set course for the casualties position 48 miles SSE of Falmouth. The lifeboat was able to maintain an average speed of 20knots in the poor prevailing weather conditions, thanks to the outstanding design capabilities of the Severn Class lifeboat. They were stood down when only half way there, on this occasion their services were not needed but they were there, ready as ever.

You say you'll give me
Eyes in a moon of blindness
A river in a time of dryness
A harbour in the tempest
But all the promises we make
From the cradle to the grave
When all I want is you


Thursday, 18 January 2007

Definition of relief?

I guess seeing these guys appear out of the gloom after you have had to abandon ship and take to your lifeboat in severe weather 50 miles from the nearest shore has to come close to a perfect definition.

French and British helicopters, tugs and lifeboats (lizard lifeboat) were en route to the scene 50 miles southeast of Lizard point this afternoon. After the container ship 'Napoli' got into difficulties and began to list with a dangerous cargo on board. Storm force waves had whipped up 9-metre waves and winds were gusting up to 80 miles per hour. In a classic understatement a Coastguard spokesman said: "It's very bad weather out there at the moment which is obviously going to make things difficult", hmm, difficult? Yes, perhaps just a bit.

Luckily all is well and in a large combined search and rescue operation things have panned out well. Thank God.....

I see you baby.......

In the unlikely but entirely possible event that a crewman goes over the side of the lifeboat (it has happened to me but that is another story), it is vital that they know what to do and remain visible.

On the sea survival course at the lifeboat college, crew are taught that where multiple people end up in the water, they should group together as closely as possible. This helps to save and share warmth, dramatically increases moral and also makes a far more visible target for rescuers. Our ILB crew practised this last night. Without doubt they were visible, in fact far more visible than could be hoped for. And they were comforted by this. Well, you would be, wouldn't you?!

Aren't we lucky?

It is only natural to complain and find fault in things. Lifeboatmen are no different. As a breed we are very critical of our equipment. And rightly so. The RNLI commits to its fundraisers to equip us with the very best kit that money can buy. We make sure they achieve this. Frequently crew will discuss the finer points of the materials that our superb MUSTO oilskins are made from, pass comment on small design details of a GECKO helmet or bemoan the new boots we have been supplied with. Spare a thought for the guys in this photograph. Clearly available PPE in the mid 50's consisted of a stout pair of gum-boots, wooly-pully, flat-cap, tweed coat and as much baccy as could fit in your pipe. And yet they achieved all that we do. Capable men in capable boats.

Robert Charles Brown (after whom our present boat is named) is pictured fourth from the left in the front row. The boat behind is I believe the R.L.P., a motor lifeboat but with a mast too. In 1970 Coxswain Ron Hardy was awarded a Bronze medal from the Institution for commanding a rescue on the R.L.P. where a youth was rescued from the mouth of a cave in confused seas using the lifeboat's dinghy on the end of a piece of rope. All done in a sou-wester and traditional oilskins........not a drysuit or crash-helmet in sight. These men are an example to us today.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Quiet Patch

Only a few days ago I was musing on the fact that it is now some 3 months since we have launched our ALB on a shout. To us this seems incredible. We are beginning to feel that one of two things may have happened: Either, dear old Portland Coastguard has forgotten who we are. Or, people have suddenly learned from the mistakes of the past and developed a dramatic increase in their available common sense, luck and quality of equipment. Unlikely?

However, spare a thought for the crew of Swanage's first lifeboat, 'The Charlotte Mary'. In their first year they launched but 4 times. They then had a slightly lean patch of 3 years without a shout. A further 4 years went by before their services were required again. They then had to wait 6 years to be called again! A total of 7 shouts in a 13 year period. Now I recon they felt they had been forgotten. In between shouts they did little training either. At that time most of the crew were fishermen or boatmen fully familiar with boats and the sea. Every 3 months they exercised, no more and no less.

Tonight we will exercise. We have an assessor with us who will be looking to assess a number of crew on some aspects of their competency based training plans. This can create cases of nerves. It is in a very real sense a judgement of a crewmembers skills. They are measured against an absolute standard and either pass or fail. Good luck!

Now I was sitting waiting wishing
That you believed in superstitions
Then maybe you'd see the signs
But Lord knows that this world is cruel
And I ain't the Lord, no I'm just a fool

Jack Johnson

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

I wasn't joking!

I forgot that I had taken this photo, just to reinforce this mornings message that we are indeed aiming at a seemingly impossibly small Target when re-housing!

Eye of the needle

The keel of the Mersey lifeboat is 15 centimetres wide at most. It fits into a channel on the slipway which is no more than 30cm wide. When re-housing the boat the two are underwater and need to be brought together. This is akin to trying to reverse your car tow ball onto the hitch of a trailer, except; you can't see either of them, you have no steering wheel, you have two engines with separate throttles driving each set of wheels independently, the road surface is moving, not only that but moving differently at the front and back, the kids are screaming in the back seat (and blocking your view). To cap it all you have a very large audience who would be shocked if you didn't manage it. No pressure!

There are two schools of thought as to how to achieve this seemingly impossible feat of boat driving: Firstly there are the full speed astern brigade, line the boat up, a good positive sternboard, and hope you get it right. Get it wrong and you begin to wish you had tried the other option. Which is, stop 100 metres off the slip, carefully observe what the tide and wind are doing to the boat, slowly come astern and adjust carefully and then hope that you are no more than 15cm to port or starboard of where you want to be!

Monday, 15 January 2007


Not infrequently I have been asked by others just why I choose to volunteer with the RNLI. To this particular question there is no simple answer. However, whilst I do personally feel the 'Call of the Sea' strongly, and of course feel motivated to serve out of a sense of duty to fellow seafarers, there are also selfish reasons mixed in. I work in an environment where I have a disproportionately large number of female colleagues. It is a very sensitive and caring place. And just sometimes I have an urge to be in a somewhat more, dare I say it, masculine environment (excuse me Becky and Jo!) The sort of place where one can say what is on ones mind. Where things can't be left for others to do or until later when you feel like it. If you cock something up you are told so. And then of course there is everything that the RNLI does for us volunteers........

The delightful Tom (raconteur of impossibly filthy stories and charter boat fleet manager/owner) is shortly to embark on a Search and Rescue Navigators course (NAVSAR). He is understandably nervous about this. Without doubt Tom's preferred style of navigating is 'seat of the pants', 'back of a fag packet' and done using the 'MKI eyeball'. However, he is being given a wonderful chance by the RNLI to learn new skills in what I consider to be the best possible learning environment, the new lifeboat college.

In preparation Dave and I have been spending time running Tom through the fundamentals of paper based navigation. He is of course an easy student as he already speaks the language of the sea. Nevertheless, he was this afternoon struggling with the principles of converting Compass courses to True and vice-versa. I tried my best to help but fear that I just muddled him more with my talk of CADETs and True Virgins..........The glazed look gave me my cue to cease my efforts to persuade him that all this was worthwhile and helpful.

To add to his burdens in life Tom is also this weeks ILB helmsman and there is an exercise on Wednesday with an Assessor! Good luck lad.

With our nets and gear we're fairing,
On the wild and wasteful ocean,
It's there on the deep, that we harvest and reap our bread.
As we hunt the bonny shoals of Herring.

Ewan McColl

This time last year

Well, another quiet weekend has passed without incident. The crew remain patiently poised. We are back up to full strength this week as a lot were away last week for the to follow.

In the absence of any fresh news I noticed that this time last year we were on our third shout of the year. This time Portland Coastguard requested that we launch the ALB to stand by the 58,000 ton Ro/Ro motor vessel 'Courage' that was dead in the water with a generator room fire 20 miles SSE of Swanage. We launched at 06:08 to assist in moderate weather and sea conditions but were stood down whilst still on passage at 07:10 (having covered 15 miles) as the ship had regained power and was making way. We returned to station and were back on the slipway at 08:13, just in time to head off to work as I remember!

Of course in this sort of situation there would be little if anything we could do about the fire, but we would be able to remove the crew if that became necessary. Luckily on this occasion this was not necessary. A happy outcome.

Sunday, 14 January 2007

And then............

At the last mintute the crew warns the Helmsman of a larger than normal set of waves approaching so he heads back out to sea to wait for a calmer patch. Prudence pays.

Saturday, 13 January 2007


Sometimes the hard part is not launching or being at sea but recovering the boat and crew afterwards. Swanage benefits from excellent shelter from the prevailing weather but suffers when the winds come from the East. When the Easterlies arrive teamwork becomes vital. Here the crew in the ILB are poised to leap out and guide the boat into her trolley. 2 Shore crew steady the trolley and prepare to run it ashore once the boat is in. A man stands on the ALB slipway with a line attached to the ILB trolley to prevent it being washed off the slip. Out of the shot the winchman is waiting to begin winching in. Other shorecrew wait on the slipway ready to add weight to the winch and run the boat out of the surf. Everyone waits for the Helmsman signal. Teamwork.

Swanage ILB

Some 4 or 5 years ago the RNLI began to finalise plans for a replacement vessel for the old 'D' class Inshore Lifeboats. All sorts of vessels were trialed before the Institution realised that what they already ready had was about as good as it could get. Then began a methodical process designed to improve the vessel and bring it up to date.

The main problems with the old vessel were: the material stretched over time giving each boat a subtley different hull shape and hence performance, the boat contained a lot of wood which meant lots of maintenance, a lot of kit had been added since it's original design resulting in it being underpowered and slow, there was no fixed navigation system.

All of these problems were solved in the design process and IB1 was born. We as a station were priveledged to be involved in the design process and a number of us got our hands on the first prototype for a day. As with any design of boat, there are compromises,however, it is without doubt a far superior boat to its predecessor despite being the same hull shape. It also contains significant amounts of carbon fibre which, to someone as shallow as me, makes all the difference!This photo shows the 'pod' in the bow with it's stowage open, mostly made of Carbon fibre.

Friday, 12 January 2007

Further family ties

This morning's photo of Anvil point light got me thinking of the stark beauty of buildings close to the sea edge and light houses in particular. Searching briefly for more photos of Anvil point light led me to this lovely photo which puts my feeble effort of yesterday to shame. And what a photographic find, not only of our lighthouse but taken by an ex-crewmember, David Corben. Dave is a mustard keen photographer who delights in photographing our local area whilst out walking Dougal.

Dave was long a member of our crew, as was his brother John and before them his father Eddie. His son Anthony is now on the crew and his fabulous wife Marion served as the treasurer of the station until recently........Another Lifeboat Family if ever there was one. Dave achieved legendary status on the crew for his utter politeness whilst manning the radio (something he did almost by birth-right). Some suspected an ulterior motive in this as his day job was as an estate agent in the town. So attached was Dave to 'his' seat by the radio that it was even alleged that on the day he retired his oilskins were still in their plastic wrapper. I certainly never saw him come even remotely close to getting wet.

Dave has now retired from the crew but maintains his link with us by being one of our 'Deputy Launching Authorities'. For one week in 4 he is the first point of contact for the Coastguard and it is he who gives permission to page the crew. A lifetime of service to the RNLI and he doesn't even like boats!

Anvil point lighthouse

Each lifeboat's patch is littered with reference points; handy spots which can be used to quickly pass relative positions between the lifeboat, coastguard and other assets involved in an incident. One such point in our patch is Anvil Point, not in itself a particularly prominent headland but topped with a lighthouse.

As lighthouses go it is fairly typical in design although rather short, this due to the height of the cliffs which it sits atop. It was built in 1881 and planned so that "the light might be so placed as to be kept open of St. Alban's Head to clear you of all the Kimmeridge Shoals, and shut in to clear northward of the Shambles". It was meant to fill a dark gap in the chain of lights on the southern English coast.

Oh the clouds boil black and the wind will wail
Let the light from the lighthouse shine on me
And you're caught in the teeth of a living gale
Let the light from the lighthouse shine on me
And then your sailor's heart is filled with fear
Let the light from the lighthouse shine on me
When the sound of the surf on the rocks is near
Let the light from the lighthouse shine on me

Bob Zentz

Thursday, 11 January 2007

Purbeck Pirates

After a long and patient wait I finally got my hands last night (I won't say who from) on some photos of the Christmas party. Fascinating to see how differently people can interpret such a simple theme as 'Pirates'........
'Raunchy Pirates' (and Gav)OAP pirates (AKA God)Friendly pirates?'Helpful fixing a zip pirates'?!'Old hag' pirate.