Saturday, 7 April 2007

Easter - A time of new beginnings

Well, I returned home from holiday late last night to a busy Swanage. The tourist season has started and the town is busy. Looking out to sea things are busy there too. Yesterday (Friday) heralded two shouts, look here for details.

Meanwhile tonight, at 5.17, our services were called upon again. This time for a yacht in difficulty South of St Aldhelm's Head. I was in the middle of cooking the kids tea so, after a very quick handover to Liz, I was out of the door. At busy times like this I tend to choose my bike as the preferred method of transport to the station. This is no ordinary bike, it is my glorious pink 'Pub Bike' (I didn't choose the was free from the dump!) More about that another time.

The shout was in many ways typical of a busy weekend shout. A man and wife were making passage from Dartmouth to Poole, in a dying wind their engine overheated and failed them. They tried to solve the problem but couldn't; there was no wind, a strong tide and insufficient anchor chain to anchor. Doing the right thing they contacted Portland Coastguard and asked their advice. Understandably Portland wanted them out of there, a drifting yacht on the busiest day of the year so far. Portland Coastguard asked via VHF radio if anyone could assist, a fellow yachty 'Stood by' but was unable to tow. With darkness approaching Portland decided to seek the assistance of the lifeboat.......and we were only too happy to help.

Swiftly on scene we put two crewmembers onboard, attached a tow and spent a pleasant hour towing them back to our mooring in the bay. They were very grateful and no doubt their problem will be swiftly resolved in the morning. No great feat of maritime rescue, no lives saved but their safety guaranteed without fuss. Job done.


Anonymous said...

Hi John, anon again (I really ought to sign up!! lol)

How does the RNLI determine when a life is saved? Bit of an odd sounding question I know, but at what point would a simple tow job become a life saved?

mk said...

...and can a man who rides a pink bicycle really be a life saver?

Anonymous said...

did you LIFEBOAT!!

Unknown said...

Hi anon,

This is one of the things that those of us who are involved in saving lives outside the RNLI are always slightly dubious about.

All credit must go to the RNLI for having a very thorough data collection system, and clearly statistics are very very useful when approaching people for funding. However, some of the ways in which the RNLI stats are interpreted (as with all stats) require a bit of careful reading and analysis.

I would be very interested to learn what the RNLI define as a "life saved".

lifeboatjohn said...


Sorry, had meant to respond to this sooner but I've got that holiday feeling just now!

I have to say I am not exactly sure what the distinction between brought in, rescued and life saved is. I seem to remember hearing that it was considered a life saved if without our intervention that person would most likely have lost their life.

However, to me the distinction is pretty unimportant. Yes, it's vital to do those shouts where a person really is prevented from dying, but, I also feel that all those other shouts we do are vital too. I've seen the look on all those peoples faces when we turn up. Even in simple engine failure situations, they have run out of options and can see no way out. We are very pleased to help.

Somehow, and I don't understand this Dan so help me out, the RNLI seems to get a hard time for fundraising hard and for using facts/statistics to help them do this. The reality is, no matter what their reserves, how the accounts are distributed, how they are presented and how statistics are used to help fundraise....they absolutely do need the money. If people loose sight of this then the money dries up, the RNLI has to make cuts and people are no longer removed from the scary situations they find themselves in. Not ideal?

Unknown said...


I have not made myself clear. Whilst I appreciate that many people criticise the RNLI on financial grounds, I am not one of them. I do see the value of the data collection, and obviously, the use of those statistics in such a way as to make an effective advert.

What I have concerns about, is those people (which may not necessarily be the RNLI) taking the stats used in publicity (which have been very carefully selected to paint a very controlled picture) and presenting them as empirical evidence of the number of people being rescued from the water.

I'll give you a very extreme example.

In 2001, RNLI Beach Lifeguards "saved" 20 lives, out of a total of 3326 incidents.

In 2004, RNLI Beach Lifeguards "saved" 53 lives, out of a total of 8010 incidents.

From a fundraising point of view:
"Clearly... there is carnage on our beaches, and we need to throw much more money at it. Look how many more lives we could save with your cash"

From a statisticians point of view:
"In three years, incidents have more than doubled."

The important bit of information missing from this is that the RNLI expanded the number of beaches covered in this time period (to include the whole of Cornwall!).

My concern, is that the stats provided by the RNLI are chosen to illustrate a point, and get people to put their hands in the pockets (not a problem in itself). It is people who take these stats, and do not appreciate that they do not show the whole picture - or that important relevant information is missing.

I recently had a discussion with someone about the dangers of kitesurfing, and how kitesurfing was responsible for a huge jump in a particular set of stats from the RNLI. But when I actually looked at it, and broke them down - the difference was negligible.

Basically, I'm just a water rescue geek... and I don't like incomplete information being held up as the complete picture in a research context.

Again, I'm not saying this is necessarily the RNLI doing this - it's people outside the RNLI using the incomplete data that they can get access to.

I can give several examples where the distinctions between "lives saved" and "rescues" and "recoveries" and whatever else is quite important - but I'll leave that to another post.

Thanks again for an interesting blog.