Sunday, 30 September 2007

Laid up

Only a few weeks ago it would have seemed un-believable that in the middle of a Sunday afternoon the boatpark would be as deserted as this. The only activity was one boat being taken out of the water. Almost every mooring in the bay was empty as the forecast Easterly wind arrived.The part-time inshore fisherman have dragged their boats up the slip ready to be put back in when the weather moderates.Dinghies tucked safely out of harms way.All in all a pretty bleak look to the place........just how I like it.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Take me to your leader

I am delighted to report that something of an epiphany has occurred in my photography career. After much effort and no small number of failures I have finally managed to take a photo of the Coxswain almost smiling. Goodness knows what he had to be so cheerful about?

The only other news that I have to report is that Jon Deas will be away this weekend (big sigh of relief from protective mothers in Swanage). He is travelling up to Snowdonia to take part in a 'Swift Water Rescue Technicians' course in support of his work as a rapid response team member. I imagine that this will be a pretty cold affair but probably great fun. He has promised photos on his return. Watch this space.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007


Funny things lobsters. Hugely expensive to buy, succulent and tasty to eat. And surprisingly simple to catch.

I spent a good amount of my summer hauling pots and boiling lobsters. Great fun it was too. But perhaps the most satisfying part of it has been the fact that all of the materials used have been recycled. I guess in the old days this would have been referred to as beach-combing. Call it what you will, over the last couple of winters I have returned from walks on windswept beaches laden with old floats, crushed lobster pots, bits of rope, spinners, hooks and pot necks.........all of it damaged but good enough to catch me a few lobsters. I've even managed to get my friends in on the act, Mrs R returned form the Scilly Isles at half term with a smashing float which has since served me very well.

But as with all fishing there is always 'the one that got away'. And this picture is my 'one that got away'. On a recent Sunday exercise Gav and Chad spotted this beauty and retrieved it from between some rocks. Without doubt the finest beach-combed pot I have ever seen. It should have been mine......Oh yes! it should have been mine.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007


Casting my mind back over the summer's photos I realise that I have several hundred images from lifeboat week which have yet to see the light of day. Add to these Mark Savage's collection and I have enough to keep me going for many years to come. I like this particular shot for 3 reasons:

1. Because it could have been taken on any one of the years that I have been on the crew and so seems timeless.
2. At a glance it looks as though Skid is doing something spectacularly foul to the poor paddlers.
3. It also shows Skids mildly challenged hair follicles off to perfection.

Monday, 24 September 2007

When the gales of November came early

Since commercial shipping began to ply the Five Great Lakes in America, there have been 6,000 shipwrecks. Half have never been found. There are three storms the sailors still talk about:

The Great Storm of 1913 claimed 250 lives and 12 ships.

The Storm of 1940 claimed 100 lives and two ships.

The Storm of 1975 claimed only one ship. On the 10th November,1975 the Edmund Fitzgerald sank and 29 men lost their lives. Canadian folk singer Gordon Lightfoot immortalised the wreck in his song and I cannot listen to it without a shiver going down my spine. Likewise, whenever the winter storms come early I am reminded of it.

Last night the wind howled and a full gale roared around the house. Sleep is always hard won when the weather turns fierce like like this and there is always that concern that the pager might go off at any time. It didn't but it might have and as I stood shaving this morning I couldn't help but catch myself humming the tune to the 'Edmund Fitzgerald'.

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
Superior, they say, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early.

(Gordon Lightfoot)

Friday, 21 September 2007

Essential Kit (Part IV)

A sense of humour. Someone once told me in my Navy days that if 'you can't take a joke, you shouldn't have joined'. The same certainly applies to being a crewmember on a lifeboat. No doubt much of what we do is rendered significantly more bearable by being able to see the funny side of things. The photo shows the awesomely humorous Jo in the tiller flat (the singularly most unpleasant place to be on any lifeboat) with Paul for no particular reason other than Martin thought it would be fun for her!

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)

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Business as usual.

Last night was exercise night and there was a good turn out. Unusually the ALB went to sea with a crew who were all practically fully trained for their roles onboard. This made for a slightly different exercise where the emphasis was more on doing than learning. No more than 1 minute after launching Martin threw an engine room fire at us and like seasoned pros the lads fell to their tasks. And slick it was too. We then ran through some search patterns, the drogue and some boathandling before heading back to the boathouse for a crew-meeting. This turned into something of an epic. As usual we discussed the successes and the areas for improvement in what we do before moving on to crew matters. Well done to Becky who has now completed her Probationary period and is a full on crewmember. Some other, slightly harder, decisions were made. Hopefully these will prove to have been the right ones.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007


Perhaps one of the nicest things about falling asleep on the sofa is the occasional unexpected pleasure to be found from waking again to a different programme to the one which sent you to sleep.

Last night I fell asleep and woke to Storyville on BBC 4 which was being presented by the American Irish Poet and undertaker Thomas Lynch. And what an incredible way with words he has. It was beautiful, poignant and inspirational. I have a hazy memory of him describing the ocean.......'out there at the edge of the weather where the Seagulls wheel'. I love that idea that you can be so far out there as to be at the edge. Perhaps that's how early explorers felt?

Feeling in a thoughful mood I logged into Alison Dyer's blog this morning and was once again struck by the power of some of the words she had chosen written by the ecologist Rachel Carson, "The shore is an ancient world...that keeps alive the sense of continuing creation and of the relentless drive of life." "Only the most hardy and adaptable can survive in a region so mutable." In a different way this demonstrates the edginess of the sea.

But of course there is a point to these ramblings. Seafarers (including lifeboatmen) still perceive this edginess and respect it. Once off the slipway we cut our ties with the shore and enter that world "at the edge of the weather" with little knowledge of what outcome to expect. Just sometimes the outcome is not pleasant. No happy ending, just a job to be done so someone can tend to their grief........

Some days the worst that can happen happens.
The sky falls or weather overwhelms or
The world as we have come to know it turns
Towards the eventual apocalypse
Long prefigured in all the holy books --
The end times of floods and conflagrations
That bring us to the edge of our oblivions.

But here brave men and women pick the pieces up.
They serve the living tending to the dead.
They bring them home, the missing and adrift,
They give them back to let them go again.
Like politics, all funerals are local.

(Thomas Lynch - Local Heroes)

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

It's all Greek to me.......

So whilst we drive around in the finest lifeboats available anywhere in the world, out in Greece things are not quite the same. Nick's father-in-law has recently returned from Greece and brought this photo with him to share. It's simply superb. Minimalist lifesaving!

I heard recently that when Mother Theressa died the sum total of her possessions was a bucket and two Saris. It certainly makes you wonder how much is enough?

Still, I for one am happy that the RNLI has a policy of providing the best kit available at the time to allow it's crews to do the job as safely and well as possible. I know there are many mothers of lifeboat crew out there too who are glad that we have the best chance of surviving the worst conditions because we have the best kit available.

We got everything we need right here
And everything we need is enough.....

(Jack Johnson)

Monday, 17 September 2007

3 more best lifeboating things............

1. People are drawn to the lifeboats seemingly magnetically. Sometimes you connect with these people and strike up friendships. Even my children are capable of developing friendships based on a shared interest in all things Lifeboating.

2. Some of the kit we get provided with to use is simply the best in the world. For example, this atlantic 85 must be without doubt one of the most capable small power boats in world. I am mightily jealous of the lucky blighters who get one of these on their station.

3. Lifeboating is never as simple as pager goes off, get in a boat, rescue someone. For much of the time we are turning our hands to all manner of unexpected things. Here is the painting done by the crew during lifeboat week. A talented bunch hey?!

A busy weekend

September is a great month. The vast majority of the tourists have packed up and gone home. Those people who are out tend to be locals making the last of the good weather. Not surprisingly they sometimes get caught out as the weather deteriorates and fresh breezes spring up without warning.

Both shouts this weekend were simple jobs which came to nothing really but were perfectly valid calls by the Coastguards. The first was a yacht aground at Old Harry. Fortunately he got himself off before we arrived. The ILB escorted him on his way to check that he was not taking water. The second was a windsurfer apparently in difficulties close to Old Harry. Several members of the public had called the Coastguard to alert them to his perceived plight. As it turned out he was was fine. The ILB escorted him home to Bournemouth too. So there you go. A busy September weekend with thankfully nothing nasty to report.

The cold north wind they call "La Bise"
Is swirling round about my knees,
Trees are crying leaves into the river;
I'm huddled in this french café
I never thought I'd see the day,
But winter's here and summer's really over,
And even the birds have packed up and gone,
They're flying south with their song,
And my love, she too has gone, she had to fly,
Out there, it's such a lonely sky,

(Chris de Burgh)

Friday, 14 September 2007

Sitting here on top of the world

So I'm two weeks into my new job. For the last 8 months I have been terrified that by now I would be convinced that I had made a huge mistake and be regretting my move. I'm pleased to tell you, I am not. In fact, I am delighted with the move. Sadly it has reduced my availability for the lifeboat but that's the way life is........not always perfect. Still, it brings the reward of an extra 4 weeks Holiday a year to add to my already munificent 13 weeks a year. I've worked out that this means I work 175 days of the year and have 190 of them off to recover from the stresses which it might impose!! Not surprisingly I consider this fact to be one of the most compelling reasons to teach.

Happily all this time gives me plenty of time for reflection. I think it is time I spent some of this time sorting out my lifeboat photographs which have sadly turned into a pretty dreadful unstructured mess. Still, the odd little gem just pops up when you are least expecting it. I rather liked this one, it shows the boat heading out onto a shout early one morning towards the end of August. Annoyingly I could not be on board. Nevertheless, the lads did a fine job and delivered a paramedic to a crew member of a sail training vessel who was experiencing some difficulties.

Sitting here on top of the world
I got everything
I need from this world
Oh tonight, I got it right
Just one time

Cruising down the Sunset Strip
And there is nothing that's not,
That's not within my grip
Oh tonight, I can fly
I can fly

(Courtney Love)

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Essential Kit (Part III)

Of course without a pair of Binoculars any ship feels under equipped. The pair we carry are rather good and have a compass and light contained within them. Thus they can be used not only for watchkeeping but also for taking visual fixes to plot our position. Obviously in a big sea with flying spray they are of fairly limited use, however rare is the occasion that I have been on a shout and not used them at some point.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Essential Kit (part II)

Rather Pleasingly this photo shows me in action with my two favourite pieces of 'Essential Kit'. On this occasion the megaphone was being used to inform folk on the beach of our lifeboat day (I think). Perched on my head you can also spot my sunglasses. Now these may appear to be mere vanity, however, search for anything at sea on a sunny day for long and you will be mightily glad of a pair of polarising sunglasses. We are issued with a couple of pairs on the boat but I prefer to use my own. Here they are in action. (Thanks to Andy Lions for the photo).

And of course it
wouldn't be like me if
I didn't bring along -
Some sunglasses
to hide behind. Sunglasses
to cry behind.
to die behind.

(Tracy Ullman)

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Essential Kit (Part 1)

Loudhailer, megaphone, bullhorn. Call it what you will. For my money this is one of the most valuable, useful and versatile pieces of kit we carry. Sure, it's great fun to use it on an exercise to heckle crew whilst they are ashore or doing other stuff. However, it truly comes into it's own when working near the base of the cliff with people who have no direct comms with us. That's not to say that it's without it's faults. Turn the volume above 7 and it feeds back like a banshee. The best bit though is the little red button. Press this and the contraption emits and loud piercing wailing sound. Not sure why you'd want this but I love it!

Monday, 10 September 2007

Get into the groove

Well, it's been a long summer. There's been lots of sun, plenty of fun and a real sense amongst the crew that life is great. Yesterday was our first real exercise since the summer ended. As luck would have it, it was a delightful morning, sunny, hot and flat calm. As you do on these occasions we got every bit of kit out that we carry and had a play with it all.Jo and Craig went into the cliff in our shiny new 'x' boat as part of a breeches buoy and investigated the shoreline.The rest of the crew handled the anchor, created search patterns and rigged up the emergency steering.The ILB was out too and seemed to be having a good exercise playing in amongst the rock gardens which make up the base of the cliffs between Anvil and St Aldhelm's head.

Get into the groove
Boy you've got to prove
Your love to me, yeah
Get up on your feet, yeah
Step to the beat
Boy what will it be


Friday, 7 September 2007

Brothers in arms

For some time now Swanage Coastguard have been trying to get planning permission so that they can build a new base for their operations. We have just received this letter from Ian Brown, the station officer, asking for our support in the planning application. Naturally this is an emotive and sensitive issue for us in Swanage. Please give your support as you see fit!

Dear All

Plan for a New Coastguard Station in Swanage look set to fail as the planning officer is heading for "refusal" for several reasons including the design not being striking enough.

Please take a few minutes to have a look at the plans at;

If you think you can support the application please send your comment via the internet link shown on the application.

If this plan fails then the future of your local Coastguard looks doubtful, as the Agency have spent six years getting to this stage. We can no longer stay at Peveril Point as the lease has run out and with the building being 165 years old we do not fit in it any more and as many of you know we have no facilities there.
Do you want the Coastguard responding from Worth Matravers or Poole to incidents in Swanage Bay and Studland as this could happen.

Please help, and show your support to your local team.

Ian Brown

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

New beginnings

You may have wondered why my blogging has been somewhat intermittent of late. Unfortunately I have been somewhat busy preparing for a new job. Sadly this change of employment has meant a move out of Swanage to work so I will no longer be quite so available for shouts as I was previously. Still, as my new head Andy Browning pointed out in assembly this morning, there are only 175 school days in the year so that leaves plenty of time for other things! Nevertheless, this is for me a very exciting change and one which I have a feeling I will come to be very glad to have made. Even more exciting is the fact that my two young girls will also go to school at the same school so they will have the pleasure of being taught by Daddy. Though perhaps not for a few years yet!

Anyway, now that my legs are under the desk I will do my best to do more in the way of blogging from now on. I certainly have an awful lot of photos from the summer months to share.

I am just a poor boy
Though my story's seldom told
I have squandered my resistance
For a pocket full of mumbles such are promises
All lies and jests
Still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest

(Simon & Garfunkel)

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Turns out, size does matter!

Tom, our resident fisherman is a great chap. He looks after me and my family very well by supplying us with a regular supply of fish and crustaceans. This afternoon he rang me and was very happy with can probably work out why! Photos never truly do justice to creatures of the deep, however, take it from me.....this was one large fella. 7lbs to be precise. So big in fact that he wouldn't fit in my usual large lobster boiling pan. Indeed, he didn't fit in my enormous large ham boiling pan. Sadly, I had to remove his claws before cooking him. No easy feat I can tell you.
Still, I'm sure he will taste fantastic......I'll let you know!