Thursday, 31 May 2007

Rules are Made to be Broken

When John gave me the role of guest blogger, he did it with the strict instructions that I was not allowed to write about him. Well, it would be rude not to wouldn't it? And as he is so keen on lists of three, I have managed to whittle my long list of things that I love about John down to that very goes, this one's for you John!

1. When you talk he listens and he cares about what you are saying. A more warm, considerate, generous and loyal friend you could not hope to meet.

2. He lives his life as a series of adventures, always up to something exciting or planning the next great expedition.

3. This man Knows how to party!

"I'll be there for you

When the rain starts to pour

I'll be there for you

Like I've been there before

I'll be there for you

'Cuz you're there for me too..."

(The Rembrants)

Launch Request

Last night was a busy one for the Swanage Lifeboat crew, the Coastguard requested the launch of the ALB to assist a yacht that was in trouble, the boat launched at 18:03. I'll let Dave tell the tale..........

"Today saw the first service launch of our All Weather Lifeboat 'Robert Charles Brown' following her recent refit. Portland Coastguard received a VHF radio call from the single handed skipper of the yacht 'Vengara' saying that his forestay had snapped, he was having difficulty getting the sails down and was worried that the mast could come down at any moment, he was aprox 0.5Nm South of Old Harry and was being pushed to the North East by the wind and tide. The Lifeboat launched and was alongside the casualty a little over 10 minutes later. Crew member Steve Williams was put aboard to help secure the mast and get the sails down. Once this was down a tow line was passed across and the yacht was taken in tow towards Poole Harbour as its engine wouldn't start. As the two boats approached Poole Harbour entrance the problem with the yacht's engine was rectified and the skipper was left to return to his mooring under his own power. The Lifeboat was the released to return to station and was back on her slipway at 19:43."

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Learning the Ropes

Today Kev and I went over to the RNLI HQ in Poole, to crew for a staff induction day. Every now and and then we are called upon to assist on such occasions as it helps new staff to gain an understanding of what the organisation is all about.

Today was especially interesting because the Severn Lifeboat that we were on, was being used to assist in the training of Atlantic crew.

The trainers took the opportunity to pull alongside our vessel and transfer crew, a useful exercise for situations when you need to assist moving vessels.

Kev is truly committed to the cause, he even collected a few phone numbers so that he could offer his assistance in answering any difficult questions that the new staff came up with later on in the day!

Monday, 28 May 2007

Bank Holiday

It has been a busy bank holiday for lifeboat stations in the South West with launches at Exmouth, Torbay and St Ives to name but a few. The weather in Swanage has been rather wild, talking to the a few of the crew I know that they have been thinking about the changing weather and the restlessness of the sea. Some of the crew have taken the opportunity to go away for the bank holiday, those of us that are left are trying to keep as available as possible to ensure that that there are enough of us to man the boats, should we get the call.

Paul, Skid, Steve, Kevin, Tom, Gav, Dan and John Deas are all starting a two week radar and navigation course tonight which will take place in Swanage in one of the RNLI's mobile training units. The course is fairly intense and consists of seven three hour training sessions, but is an essential part of their crew training. We wish them luck!

Sunday, 27 May 2007


A shout can happen at any time and it is fairly typical for your pager to go off at the most inconvenient moment. We frequently have shouts in the middle of the night, we've had a shout on Christmas day and whenever there are lifeboat crew get togethers you can generally expect your pager to start beeping five minutes before you are due to arrive.
When the pagers go off it is not just the crew that are affected. Many a family day out and a romantic meal has had to be abandoned when the pager goes off. While the crew make their way to the boathouse a thought needs to be spared for those left behind to make the best of the situation. On winter nights it is those same people left behind worrying about what is happening. I think it's fair to say that without their support it would be difficult for the crew to function as well as it does.

I needed the shelter of someone's arms and there you were
I needed someone to understand my ups and downs and there you were
With sweet love and devotion deeply touching my emotion
I want to stop and thank you baby
I just want to stop and thank you baby
How sweet it is to be loved by you
How sweet it is to be loved by you
(James Taylor)

Friday, 25 May 2007

Lights, Camera, Action!

As we wave John off on his adventure and with the baton firmly in my hand, I will do my best to fill Johns boots and rather large boots they are too.

We regularly have people who come to see us at our station, whether they are first time visitors who've come to see what it's all about, regulars who know the drill, or people who've come for a specific purpose, they are all welcome. We had one such visitor for our exercise on Wednesday night, Jeremy a camera man who was doing some filming for the company that make our pagers. After a quick hair and makeup session, the crew headed out to sea so that some of the action could be caught on film. Lets hope that he managed to get some good footage that will highlight the work that the RNLI does.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Bullhorn Gal..........

Well it seems some time since I have had a holiday. Indeed six whole weeks have passed with me diligently turning up for work each morning! But no more. Half term is here and I'm off. Really off! The plan is to sail to Spain (you see I am really a closet WAFI). I depart on Saturday morning, the passage should take 4ish days and I am booked to fly back a week on Saturday.

In my absence the delectable, inspirational and truly sensational Jo has agreed to be a guest blogger for the week. As I type we sit here and I teach her all I know about using blogger........shouldn't take long. So without further ado I hand over the baton. Enjoy Jo........we certainly do!

Dead Fred!

Our casualty last night was not feeling too well. In fact, by the time we arrived he was utterly lifeless. Wedged among the rocks access was going to be hard. Dave, Coxswain for the evening, chose to use a breaches bouy to recover him. Nick and Jo set this up under my supervision having first anchored.Paul E rowed the x-boat in to the coast. This is harder than it looks due to the tide and the drag from the ropes. Nevertheless he achieved it and soon had the casualty in the bouy.Meanwhile Dave, Jon and Jo advised from the Mersey on how to achieve the rescue.........left a bit, right a bit etc etc!And before long he was alongside and being recovered on board. Sadly our station Dummy, 'Dead Fred', did not survive his ordeal...........Still, I don't think he suffered too much!

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Mechanical Monday

Each Monday evening all of our crew who are trained as mechanics on either the ILB or the ALB spend a few hours at the Boathouse working through some planned or routine maintenance. This involves pumping up the ILB, ensuring the fuel tanks are topped off, cleaning, repairing and of course, doing any jobs which Dave is not able to complete during the week due to only having two pairs of hands. Last night was especially busy as D651, the trials ILB, had also been out to sea.Here the ILB mechanics are busy fettling. Jon is lubing the engine and changing the fuel filter, Becky checks the first aid kit, Paul B and Kev are sorting the ropes in stowages and Oli is checking the Oxygen bottle and masks.Meanwhile on the Mersey Dave and Paul E have found a defect from the re-fit, one of the engine room bilge sensors has fallen apart due to a cracked length of pipe. Not a show stopper as there are several more bilge sensors in the space but still needs sorting soon.

Afterwards it was a quick pint and pack of crisps in the East bar.........

Monday, 21 May 2007

School trip

Swanage is a very popular destination for school visits. Because we are open to visitors during the summer months we are often visited by these school parties. Of course we love this, it is a chance to explain and describe lifeboat work to young people. We hope that this will encourage them to become lifelong supporters of the work we do. The photos here shows Mark, in his capacity as an instructor at a local field studies centre, showing a group of youngsters around. They were having a great time too!

Saturday, 19 May 2007


Lots of lifeboating things happen backwards. Both of our boats have to be recovered by reversing slowly towards a relatively small target. Here Gav demonstrates with consummate skill how to manoeuvre the ILB back on to it's carriage.As ever, he makes a seemingly impossible task look straight-forward.From a distance he lines the boat up in what he feels is the right position. He then engages reverse gear, sights over the top of the engine and aims the prop at the centre of the carriage.A few small adjustments later and she is up against the stops. He cuts out the engine then gracefully climbs over the sponson. The waiting shore crew takes over the boat; cleans her, fuels her and replaces anything lost or damaged.

Friday, 18 May 2007

On the edge of the UK

Last year Corfe Castle postman Will Blight cycled around the entire coast of the UK and visited every lifeboat station in the country. He did this to raise funds for RNLI and was very successful, £11,000 to date. Tonight he will be speaking at a dinner at Durlston Country park about his trip. There are still places available, if you would like to go look here for details.

Spring tides

There are big spring tides this week which can be a mixed blessing. Unsure as we are about the RCB's ability to keep her momentum over the toe of the slipway we will probably launch from inside if called out at low water. This is always fun as we then have a race to get the aerials up as we are sliding down the slip. A point of pride if you like!Others take advantage of the tides in other ways. Geoff Marsh, ex-lifeboatman, crab boat skipper and plumber takes the chance to give Three Wishes a scrub and inspection below the water line.On completion he's filthy so Pete from the angling club literally hoses him down.Somehow Geoff didn't look too amused?

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Three fun Lifeboat things......

I like the idea of doing things in threes so here is another one:1. For some reason old ladies seem to think that knitted jumpers for teddies, and indeed knitted teddies will somehow help us to achieve heroic rescues in adverse conditions.......and I think that they are right, the boat's teddies are indeed a real comfort to us all! Clare of TBT fame agrees, she thinks that 'those teddies look very supportive perhaps the old ladies knit good wishes and good luck into them.' Is that possible?2. As a lifeboat crewmember you get to do some really cool things, of course driving a lifeboat is cool, however, getting free rides in helicopters is even better.3. We always get lots of visitors at the boathouse, many of them are great friends like Jo here. For some reason they don't seem to mind us practising our first aid skills on trusting and so funny.

I've loved, I've laughed and cried
I've had my fill, my share of losing
And now, as tears subside, I find it all so amusing
To think I did all that
And may I say, not in a shy way,
"Oh, no, oh, no, not me, I did it my way

(Frank Sinatra)

Shh, don't tell anyone......

I hardly dare to say this, we all know what's going to happen. Last night at about 1700, a small crew boarded Pinky and turned her bow towards Poole. The Repairs to the Robert Charles Brown are complete and the low water slipway trials were a success. Like I say, I hardly dare mention it but I do have a feeling that this time she is here to stay. It seems a shame really, in a way Pinky was beginning to feel quite comfortable and familiar, it's such a long time since we've had RCB I suspect she is now going to feel all wrong!

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Self rescue

One of the things we seldom witness when we are called for is self-reliance. It made a pleasant change on Sunday for us to witness someone display resourcefulness and demonstrate a clear ability to sort out their problems for themselves. Heather, in the photo here, has just deliberately capsized and then rolled upright. She made it look not only easy but also fluid. A fine example of how skill, training and prior preparation can overcome adversity.

Rollin', rollin', rollin'
Rollin', rollin', rollin'
Rollin', rollin', rollin'
Rollin', rollin', rollin'

Rollin', rollin', rollin'
Though the streams are swollen
Keep them dogies rollin'
Rain and wind and weather
Hell-bent for leather
Wishin' my gal was by my side.
All the things I'm missin',
Good vittles, love, and kissin',
Are waiting at the end of my ride

(Rawhide is a Western song written by Ned Washington (lyrics) and composed by Dimitri Tiomkin in 1958. It was originally recorded by Frankie Laine. The song was used as the theme to Rawhide, the western television series that ran on CBS from 1959 to 1966. From wikipedia via Will)

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Three Best Lifeboat Things

1. Standing on the upper steering position and helming the lifeboat in rough weather; sheets of water shoot down your neck, it's hard to stand up but somehow you feel in control, safe and so very alive.
2. The look of relief on a casualties face as you lift them on board. For that brief moment you have a glimpse into another persons soul as it's laid bare before you.
3. To have around you a team of people who care; for you, for others, for each other, about having fun, about giving without counting the cost and living life to the full.

Sunday, 13 May 2007


Did I mention that it was a bit lumpy out on exercise yesterday morning?
At times the ILB was almost entirely hidden from view as they practised for heavy weather in the tidal race at peveril.
This is really beyond the limits of their operating envelope, however, with a good helmsman and us close by it is good realistic experience to get.
There is no getting away from it is damned hard on the body and not even slightly comfortable!


We exercised this morning with my two good kayaking friends Mark and Heather Rainsley. They are both exceptionally skilled paddlers and just the people to lend some reality to an exercise involving lifeboats and kayaks. The weather was realistic to say the least and it was very easy to replicate a real life rescue scenario. However, we proceeded slow time and spent time talking through likely situations, casualty management and how to handle and recover a water filled Kayak. Both Mark and I realised that once you are in a situation in a kayak where you need rescuing, there is no escaping the fact that you are in a very vulnerable position indeed. We are very grateful for both Mark and Heather's efforts on our behalf. I know that their presence this morning has given the crew a very positive glimpse of how sea kayakers operate. Thank you! See Mark's rather jolly account of the morning here.

Nuff said..........

I believe that this says it all!

Saturday, 12 May 2007


Err, apparently she's not actually on top form after all, the latest in the comedy saga?! Here's the latest from Dave:

Sorry to say that we're stuck with Pinky for now. The Robert Chales Brown has an exhaust leak and is currently missing a rather important piece of pipework! It was supposed to be sorted on Friday but we all know that if you start a job on a Friday it will always go wrong and you'll end up worse off than you were before you started! Have a nice exercise, I may watch from my bed via the webcam :o) DaveT

She's back!

After nearly nine months we finally have the Robert Charles Brown back and it looks like she is here to stay. There are still some slipway trials to be completed but for the time being at least she is comfortably ensconced in her rightful place in the boathouse. Tomorrow we exercise at 9.30 and it will be my first trip down the slipway in her, fingers crossed that all works out well! During tomorrow's exercise we are working with some kayaking friends who will be giving crewmembers an insight into a different sort of craft. My idea is that there may be value in exercising with a particular sort of craft and learning how to deal with the unique problems which they present. In a funny sort of way it will mark a collision of two of my worlds...........

Friday, 11 May 2007

The great and the good

Well, the great and the good of the Wareham branch of the RNLI came to the boathouse last night. Very enjoyable it was too, quite an experience for me as a teacher to find such a willing and well behaved audience. Indeed, seldom have I had such an enthusiastic audience prepared to suffer me talking about my passion for so long and in such detail. It was real 'pull up a bollard and lets talk about me' sort stuff. Of course, I was keen to pass on my detailed technical knowledge (stop laughing Dave) of the boat...........all they wanted was the gory details of our most heroic shouts. I did my best to enliven the stories and make them live up to their expectations. I can't help but think that perhaps I was faintly disappointing in my lack of heroics!?

Still, they were very generous and had provided a buffet supper for after the talks. I like to think that Gav, Rob and I displayed some true heroism in the way we tackled the mountain of food. Never let it be said that we ever fail to rise to a culinary challenge! To those who came, thanks for your interest and support and please come again.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Giving generously

Lifeboat crews give generously. In so many ways. Now I'm not seeking my own aggrandizement or that of my fellow crew, or indeed seeking thanks for what we do. However, the very obvious generosity of this small band of givers often masks or hides the incredibly generosity of many folk who give but without the glory. I've said it before that without the actions of the little girl stood on a corner selling stickers and shaking a box we would be nothing.

Tonight the Wareham branch of the RNLI are coming to the boathouse. They wish to see our kit, learn more about the institution and meet some of the crew. This is no chore for us, indeed it is a real pleasure, a chance to thank personally some of those kind, generous but oft forgotten givers who make our work possible. So of course we will be there and we will gain great pleasure from sharing our knowledge of lifesaving at sea with some true supporters.

But somebody's gonna have to answer
The time is coming soon
Amidst all these questions and contradictions
There're some who seek the truth

Tell me,

Why do the babies starve
When there's enough food to feed the world
Why when there're so many of us
Are there people still alone
Why are the missiles called peace keepers
When they're aimed to kill

(Tracy Chapman)

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Maintenance routine

A good maintenance routine starts with a thorough sort out after a launch. Before anything else can take place the messy tasks must be got out of the way. Here the boat is being refuelled.

Once that is out of the way she is given a thorough wash down with 'car-wash' and a sponge, inside an out. She is then hosed off.

Once this has been done she is hoisted up by the bow so that any water in her can drain out of the back. Then all of the kit stowages are opened so that they can dry out. Finally the battery is hooked up to a charger so that the batteries will be kept in tip-top condition.

Monday, 7 May 2007

Shout - ILB nearly rescues a child's inflatable!

Not all lifeboat shouts are heroic. Indeed, not all lifeboat shouts come to anything. However, something can certainly be learned from most of them. Take Saturday afternoons offering; bright sunny afternoon and a stronger than predicted off-shore breeze. Emphatically not the right time to be messing about in an inflatable toy.

Portland Coastguard received a '999' call from a member of the public saying that 2 children were being blown out to sea in a small inflatable dinghy, their mother was swimming out to their aid but they weren't sure if she would be able to catch them. The lifeboat crew were paged and the ILB was quickly in the water and on scene two minutes later. Fortunately the situation had resolved itself and the children had just made it back to the beach when the lifeboat arrived. Once it was established that everyone was accounted for and no further assistance was required the ILB was released to return to station.

Thankfully many 'incidents' in Swanage are resolved like this, people either sort themselves out or a member of the public lends assistance........just how it should be.

Friday, 4 May 2007

We all stand together

I've said it before, we are a tight knit bunch as a crew. We make no apologies for this. It's the way it works. last night we had another inspector's exercise, Tom Mansell was in town and put the boat and the crew through their paces. The main theme of the evening was search other words, methods for finding people who are in the water and lost, important stuff, particularly if it is you in the water!

Win or lose, sink or swim
One thing is certain well never give in
Side by side, hand in hand
We all stand together
Play the game, fight the fight
But whats the point on a beautiful night?
Arm in arm, hand in hand
We all stand together

(Paul McCartney)