Wednesday, 28 February 2007

It's not cricket!

What do the spare crew do whilst the boat is away? Play cricket of course.........Boathouse rules apply.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Pipped to the post

Helo lift, originally uploaded by lifeboatjohn.

Well, I'm back from holiday and now firmly in the yoke again. Despite my gloomiest predictions of multiple shouts in my absence this didn't happen.........

However, at least I know now where all our shouts are going. It would appear that Poole lifeboat are taking to hanging around the harbour entrance on exercise in the hope of getting a few of ours! On Saturday they did just this and were tasked to rescue a small rib which had capsized off Old Harry. Not only that but Whiskey Bravo was also pipped to the post by an RAF rescue Helo! Perhaps this is the beginning of the end for both of us?

Sunday, 18 February 2007

Dear son come home from sea

Well, it's holiday time again and Mother has summoned me to the North of the country. With the excitement of lastnight's shout barely subsided I am away for a break. However, I holiday safe in the knowledge that for as long as Swanage Lifeboat crew are poised for duty, Collies of Dorset are safe.

My dear old mother wrote to me
Go down, you blood red roses, Go down
Oh, son, dear son come home from sea
Go down, you blood red roses, Go down

Oh, you pinks and posies
Go down, you blood red roses, Go down


Saturday, 17 February 2007

Would you Adam and Eve it?

Nineteen minutes past 7. I'd just put the potatoes in to roast. All was good in the world. And then the pager went off. My sister is here visiting so there is no surprise that this was the moment chosen for our first shout of the year. Quickly the old routine kicked in. Kiss the children goodnight, grab a warm jumper, car keys, shoes on and then off. Hurrying but not being reckless.

At some point in the journey between home and the boathouse the second page comes saying which boat it is. In this case it was the ILB. Not a shout for me but still things to do. As I arrived in the boathouse there was already an ILB crew assembled. As it was nighttime they were wearing extra clothes and grabbing the 'night' bag containing extra searchlight, batteries and image enhancer. Steve Williams was dressing as the Helmsman and asked me to call the Coastguard to get a heads-up about what it was..........And as it turned out it was a gentle introduction to the lifeboating year:

Swanage Coastguard had been called by the owners of a dog that had fallen from cliffs near Old Harry and had searched the area to find that the dog was at the base of the cliff. As access by sea was the easiest option, they asked for the Swanage Inshore Lifeboat to assist and the ILB was launched shortly afterwards.

The collie, Ellie, was quickly found and transferred to the ILB for the short trip to South Beach, Studland, and the waiting Coastguard team. The Coastguards, along with the owners, arranged for the dog to be taken to a vet and the ILB was able to return to station.

The brave crew on this occasion were Steve Williams, Tom Greasty and Matt Steeden. Well done you valiant chaps!!

Thursday, 15 February 2007


Well, would you believe it. This is my one hundredth post and still no shout! When I started I could hardly have imagined that this much time would have passed with no action. Still, you seem to be coming to read it all the same........perhaps you are getting an authentic view of the lifeboat year? Anyway, I'm away on holiday next week so I am certain that there will be a full week of action whilst I'm away, there's bound to be!

In any case, it has not been without it's benefits. Gav turned up this morning to fix my staircase. As it happened, he didn't complete the job, however, I'm sure that now he has got started it won't be too long before he gets it completed!

We're sailing on a strange sea
Blown by a strange wind
We're sailing on a strange sea
Blown by a strange wind
Carrying the strangest crew
That ever sinned

(The Waterboys)

Wednesday, 14 February 2007


Many people assume that HM Coastguard maintain a regular watch over the coast of Britain. This certainly used to be the case, a constant vigil upheld by an unbroken chain of manned stations placed around our sceptred isle. Sadly this is no longer the case. Apparently it wasn't efficient or necessary.

As it happens the move from manned watch stations to manned offices, without even a view of the sea, has been relatively trouble free. And this is in part due to the establishment of NCI. Mostly manned (and womaned) by the ever growing 'Grey Power', these guys picked up the baton where the Coastguard dropped it, they took over the coastal watchtowers and, at least in daylight hours, maintain their own solitary vigil. Grandmas and Grandpas of Britain, we applaud you.......

All along the watchtower
Princes kept the view
While horsemen came and went
Barefoot servants too

(Bob Dylan)

Tuesday, 13 February 2007


Martin is a carpenter by trade. Historically some very important people have been carpenters. You could say that Martin is following in a noble tradition. Martin has a very good reputation within the town. This could explain why he is so busy. And also why my banisters have not yet been fitted?! However, I have faith, Martin promised he would do it by 1/2 term..........I'm beginning to worry that we didn't specifically agree which 1/2 term that would be. Ah well.

Shortly after moving to Swanage my wife (Liz) and I were feeling lazy and thought we would have fish and chips for dinner. She suggested we get them from Martin.........I couldn't understand how that would work. Until Liz reminded me that Martin is a Chippy! Bless.

Monday, 12 February 2007


Why is it that evenings like this occur just when you have to go and pick up the kids?!

Next door neighbours

Picture this, you've spent a great deal of time and money creating your dream home. It is in a lovely part of town, high on the hill, sea views, a dream residence in fact...........then Gav and Tom move in opposite you! Pity poor Ron, dreams of a comfortable retirement then the chuckle brothers arrive. Life will never be the same again.

Friday, 9 February 2007

Man in a rubber suit

Once a crewmember reaches the ripe old age of 45 they are no longer eligible to go to sea on the ILB (because it places a lot of strain on your body). However, there are some crewmembers (Nos. 1-6) who are the core of the ALB crew and therefor, regardless of their age only train on the ALB. Nevertheless, some of them, myself included, are in fact young enough to go out on the ILB. Occasionally, very occasionally, they go out and train on the ILB to keep their hands in just in case the situation arises where they have to make up numbers (this happens just a couple of times a year). On Wednesday Robert, our Second Coxswain, donned a drysuit and put to sea in the 'Jack Cleare'. Now this is momentous, not only because there are many on the crew who have never seen Rob in the ILB but also because he borrowed Jon Deas' drysuit..........and it fitted, with room to spare!

Thursday, 8 February 2007

A wintry night

Well the forecast throughout the country was for snow last night. The order of the day on exercise was dressing warm. However, the predicted freeze didn't quite materialise, it was cold but not that cold.

We launched at 7 and in the ALB we proceeded westwards towards St Albans Head. Tom has returned from his NAVSAR (Navigation Search and Rescue) course at Poole so he undertook the navigation under my supervision......a very good job he did too. I would say that he has now arrived at a point where he can do the job. Well done. With an inexperienced helmsman, Tom conned the boat according to the route he had planned, in this way he gained experience and some less experienced helmsmen got experience on the helm.

On completion of that we came into the bay and anchored. This was intended to give young Oli a taste of working on the deck in a bit of sea and complete a seamanship evolution in the dark and cold. The trick here is to allow him to sense the dangers without actually being in danger. And it worked. There was a fair swell running and the boat was pitching all over the place, not an easy environment in which to work safely.

After re-housing the boat and washing her down it was off to the pub for a de-brief. Always a very popular part of the exercise!

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

A game of two halves

Tonights exercise is going to be played out in two very different ways. Half of the crew are travelling to Weymouth to visit the Coastguard Operations room there. This will give them an insight into how things are run, why we get asked to do things and what they can do for us. Of course it also helps them and us to put names to faces........this is very important too.

The other half of the crew will be going to sea as usual. It is a crisp and cold night, a time for wrapping up warmly and taking it easy!

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Rapid response

Around the world, every year, there are news headlines of violent storms, cyclones, hurricanes, flooding and huge waves. Vast areas of countryside at home and abroad have been flooded and devastated by natural disasters. Perhaps surprisingly, the RNLI has been present in some form or another in many of these situations.

7 Year ago in Mozambique after weeks of torrential rain, an eight-man RNLI team was asked to take desperately needed medical relief to 10,000 people in villages marooned by floodwater in Mozambique. These areas had been written off as ‘impossible’ because helicopters could not land there and no one could get there by road.

The lifeboat crews had to navigate uncharted rivers in temperatures of around 47°C. Some of their boots melted and the boats were too hot to sit on so they had to plaster them with mud, to cool them down. The crews feared they would encounter crocodiles, hippos and poisonous snakes, not to mention being bitten by the malarial mosquitoes. They were also told that there were anti-personnel mines in the area – all very different conditions to those normally experienced by lifeboat crews.

Following the 2000 Mozambique operation the RNLI formed a permanent Rapid Response Unit (RRU), which the UK government’s Department for International Development (DfID) could call on at 24 hours’ notice. The RRU consists of three teams of up to 20 people, which rotate their state of readiness. One team is on 24-hour standby, the second at 14 days’ readiness and the third acts as a reserve pool, all ready to travel to assist in flood relief work across the globe. The cost of RRU deployment is generally borne by the DfID.

Here in Swanage a number of our crew are on RRU teams and each year undergo a significant amount of extra training including specialised Swiftwater Rescue Technician (SRT) training which prepares them for the dangerously complex behaviour of floodwaters and rivers. Once crew members become SRT qualified, they undertake annual exercises to keep their skills and knowledge up to date, and have to requalify every three years.

Monday, 5 February 2007

Twice in a week

Well, having said that we rarely hear from people again after we have brought them in, this letter arrived hot on the heels of Dieter's e-mail. This gentleman was rescued by us late last year. His large power boat was high and dry, aground on some rock ledges close to Egmont Bight. Needless to say he was very pleased to see us. We recovered him from the boat using our little inflatable, put out a kedge anchor then took him and his crew back to the boathouse. At high tide we returned with them and put them back on board their now floating vessel and then escorted them home. I would like to think we provided a good service. Judging by the very generous cheque which accompanied the letter it would seem as if this chap thought so too.

Keeping it in the family

Last week I mentioned Laraine Ogden, one of our tremendous TA's here at school, who is often called upon to hold the fort in my absence. Her burden is doubly large as many is the time that not only am I, but also her husband Dave is also called out.

Dave, all-round top bloke, biker, fellow Northerner and comic genius, is our site-manager here at school. He also volunteers as an Auxiliary Coastguard and is the Swanage Teams Deputy Station Officer. Not surprisingly we are often called out simultaneously. One minute we are talking face to face in school, 10 minutes later I hear his dulcet tones on the radio. I guess small communities are like that, we all operate in more than one sphere and work alongside each other in a number of different ways. Real community and real responsibility.

Sunday, 4 February 2007

A pleasant suprise!

So often we set out to sea, collect someone from the parlous state they have managed to get themselves into, sort them out, set them back on their feet and then we hear nothing ever again. Sometimes this can be quite sad. We do care and not surprisingly want to know how things have panned out.

However, sometimes folk keep in touch and even update us on how things have worked out. Last summer we were called out to a German yacht who's mast had quite unexpectedly fallen over the side! Not surprisingly the crew, including the skipper Dieter, were fairly shocked by this. Sadly there was little we could do to remedy the situation other that get the bolt-croppers out and cut all of the rigging adrift. By way of comfort I offered Dieter what little advice I could regarding getting the boat fixed up. Imagine my delight then when I received an e-mail this morning from Deiter giving me a full sit-rep on the boat. Thanks Dieter....

If you believe inside your heart
Nobody's second class
Every day's a brand new start
What's past is past
And if your dreams go nowhere
Don't give up the fight
Come with me and you will see
It all looks different in the morning light

(Stock, Aitken & Waterman)

Saturday, 3 February 2007

The best laid plans of mice and men........

Things don't always go according to plan. Today's plan was to circumnavigate the Island of Portland, on our neighbouring patch, in the sea Kayaks. The forecast was perfect for this, we had planned the tides to perfection too. In the event the wind was far brisker than anticipated and there was a much heavier groundswell. Early in the trip we decided that discretion was the better part of valour. Good call!

Friday, 2 February 2007


Presently our youngest crewmember is 17 years old.......until the weekend that is. On Saturday night it is Oli's 18 birthday party. Oli is a quality recruit to the service. A keen sailor he has a good knowledge of boats and the sea. He is training to be an electrician so is technically able. He also has bags of enthusiasm and a very thick skin. This he needs. In the inevitable run of things Oli is the butt of our jokes. As the youngster he has to endure all manner of ridicule and leg pulling; sent for 'long waits', to fetch the 'Tartan Paint' and to ask the mechanic for a 'sky-hook'. And he takes all this in his stride. He is also a mean fiddle player and front man of his own band, 'Bus tours from Hell', they are a folk rock ensemble and will of course be performing on Saturday night at his birthday bash. Happy Birthday Oli. Welcome to the club.......

Thursday, 1 February 2007

What if?

With the exception of Dave the Mechanic, we all have day jobs. When our pagers go off we expect to be on the boat, sliding down the slip in under 10 minutes. With few exceptions this means that if we are at work then it is a case of drop whatever you are doing and running. Consequently this is something that most of us plan for and have in mind most of the time.

For me this is doubly difficult as I invariably have responsibility for 30ish students at any one time. Thankfully I frequently have a teaching assistant with me. I like to think that this is not entirely because I can't cope on my own! In the event of a shout they are the first to hold the fort. I leave the room, run down the corridor and call into the office on the way out of the door. Almost always there is a teacher or two lurking in the staffroom. Inevitably they then get asked to cover for me. Thus, on my return, there are often some ruffled feathers to smooth and I will loose my next few free lessons paying people back.

Mostly my TA is Laraine Ogden, all round school superhero. There is nothing she can't do and little she won't. Surely one of those people without whom it would all cease to function. Laraine............thanks!

And all the roads we have to walk are winding
And all the lights that lead us there are blinding
There are many things that I would
Like to say to you
But I don't know how

Because maybe
You're gonna be the one who saves me ?
And after all
You're my wonderwall