Friday, 23 November 2007


One of the particularly enjoyable parts of blogging is receiving comments from people. I know that many people read this daily but sometimes it can be rather like working in a talk lots but get no response! So I was delighted last night to get a comment from the legendary Dr Douglas Wilcox; sea kayaking photography guru. He had read the post about capsizing 'D' class lifeboats and had a few questions. I'll try to answer them:

Douglas noted that capsizing at night sounds horrendous. I wouldn't know, I've never done it, and hope it never happens, but he's quite probably right. It's pretty disorientating to be under a capsized boat by day, I can only imagine it would be worse at night. The already small space between the upturned hull and the sea becomes more confined as the padded mat falls from the floor onto your heads. You struggle to find the handheld, flares and rope in the dark confined space. Yep, I think you're spot on Douglas...........horrendous by night! Incidentally, in the new wave pool at the training college in Poole, crews can practise this in a simulated environment which has darkness, waves, thunder, lightening, wind, rain and cold. It's so realistic that many people get seriously sea-sick in there. Wenley has posted a 'youtube' film on his blog which gives you an idea of what this might be like, have a look here.

Douglas also asked about the procedure for restarting the engine. To be honest it is surprisingly reliable and simple, just time consuming. The system is different for the old 40hp mariner engines on 'D'class boats and the 50 hp on the new IB1s.

On the older 40hp the instructions are on the inside of the engine lid, they read: Step 1, remove lid! There then follows a sequence (which I can't remember) involving removing the plugs, pulling the engine over by hand, replacing the plugs with new ones, pulling it over some more, then trying to re-start it. Generally it works.

On the IB1 the 50 hp is fitted with a 'PIRS' (post inversion recovery system), this simplifies things. Again, I honestly don't remember the system but think it involves pulling out a lever, removing the fuel lead, turning it over (using battery) for a while, replacing fuel lead and trying to start it. This always works. I can't remember if the plugs need replacing but I suspect they might.

As for Douglas's question about how many capsize, I'm afraid I don't know but I will try to find out. I suspect that it is not that many as there is an upper operating limit for the 'D'class. I also have a feeling that as many happen in training as on shouts. I would imagine that most happen in surf and not in horrendous rough weather. I will try to clear this one up............

I guessed that Dave our mechanic might have read this and had something to add, he's now done this so for extra details read the comments below. He's right too, it's a long time now since I've been in our IB1, I will find an opportunity to rectify this soon.


Anonymous said...

You can tell that you haven't spent much time in the new D Class! The PIRS (post immersion restart system) on the new (IB1) D Class was called FAST PIRS - cos it was faster! That was as simple as pulling a lever, cranking the engine, pushing the lever back into place and then starting the engine. All this was done with the engine cover in place. That has now been removed as there were problems with the valves that sealed both the head and crankcase. Basically they could leak and catch fire, not ideal! So now the 40hp & 50hp share the same PIRS procedure its just that you can use the starter motor to turn the engine over on the 50hp.

There are usually 3 or 4 ILB capsizes per year, normally on exercise. One of the reasons that D Classes don't have the same PIRS system as the atlantics (immediate restart once the boat is righted) is that it adds a huge amount to the cost of the engine and normally D Classes end up on the beach before you get a chance to get them the right way up again.

Hope that's of interest. DT

Unknown said...

That video was interesting. I had imagined that they would re-flip the boats as in white-water rafting... with one guy staying under the boat and hanging onto something, so that when it flips the right way up, there is someone already in there to help the rest of the crew in.

Unknown said...

Dan, I guess you're talking about the Atlantic, but it's an interesting idea that might translate to the D Class. We'll try it out next time we have a capsize boat at the station - it's quite possible you need all three crew to right it so can't afford to have one in the boat. But with Tom on board.....

Douglas Wilcox said...

Thanks all, I am delighted to hear that technology is improving things slightly. It is a shame that cost is limiting introduction to the D class. I just hope that all readers are lifeboat supporters. In a small way I have supported the RNLI since I got a "shot" on the Cromarty lifeboat in 1959. I can remember it as if it was yesterday. I think the station was closed about 10 years later.

Douglas :o)

lifeboatjohn said...

It's not quite that cost is limiting it's introduction on the 'D'class, as Dave says, it's more a case that 'D' classes tend to capsize in surf and in those situations it's on the beach before anything can be done. Even if the Institution spent more money and fitted PIRS to all ILBs the result would just be a more expensive engine upside down on the beach!


Unknown said...


I can't imagine a D-class would need 3 guys to flip it. I've done exercises re-righting a small RIB with only two of us... admittedly it wasn't full of the kit a D-class has in.

But, yes I was originally thinking of the Atlantics... it would be interesting to see if it would be possible for that to re-right itself with all the crew hanging on inside it... that would certainly speed up recovery times.

Regards, Dan.