Thursday, 27 December 2007


So, what does a lifeboatman do while on holiday? Well, as it happens, last week I was in Yorkshire (my childhood home) visiting my family. Whilst there I went on several walks with the kids, one to Runswick Bay and one to Staithes. both of them are small fishing villages, Staithes is now part fishing village and part holiday village and part dormitory for Teeside. Runswick is now almost entirely a holiday village with almost no full time residents. Very sad.At 4 a.m. on 1st July, 1978, the people of Runswick Bay stood on the beach to watch their lifeboat put to sea for the last time. After 112 years’ of service to fishermen, sailors and holidaymakers, an era had come to an end. Ultimately it had become too hard to crew the boat with the number of able bodied men available in the village.

The first lifeboat, The Sheffield, had come to Runswick in 1866 and was manned by a crew who had to be able to row for miles in stormy sea. The launching of the boat was a feat in itself: the children placed lanterns on the beach to mark the way then the boat was pushed on rollers to the sea edge by anyone available to help.

Perhaps the most famous rescue occurred in 1901. The men had done out to fish in calm weather but a gale blew up. The lifeboat was needed but the crew and most of the launchers were at sea, so in spite of the harsh weather and strength required, the women and old men of the village launched the boat and stood by until the cobles were safely in.After its withdrawal a new station was opened in Staithes, the next village along the coast (in fact there had previously been a pulling lifeboat here so the station was actually re-opened). As a nod to the sensitivities of the Runswick residents it was named the 'Staithes and Runswick' lifeboat station. Today the RNLI operate an Atlantic class lifeboat from Staithes.

The loss of the Runswick lifeboat, while grounded on sound principles, left many people in Runswick feeling there remained a need for an immediately responsive facility within the village. The number of potential rescue situations, which were invariably “nipped in the bud” by village boatmen, often at some risk to themselves and their boats, reinforced this view. So in 1982 the people of Runswick provided their own craft to go to the aid of locals and holidaymakers. This is now housed in the old tractor shed alongside the lifeboatstation. Meanwhile the lifeboat station itself has become a store for fishing gear and a makeshift holiday cottage. This facility is now known as the 'Runswick Bay Rescue Boat' and each year provides a valuable service to those people in their boats in the bay.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

We wish you a Merry Christmas!

Well, Merry Christmas everybody from all of us here at Swanage Lifeboat. Thanks for all of your support over the last year. Thanks for coming to read this, for letting us have your comments and for all of the kind messages you have sent. Spare a thought though for those crew at Poole, Fowey and Amble who have all launched within the last 24 hours. Lets hope that they are now safely tucked up in their homes enjoying some Christmas cheer.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

(Henry W Longfellow)

Sunday, 23 December 2007


Well, I'm not sure whether to thank Dave for his efforts or not. I've certainly enjoyed reading what he has to say, however, can I ever forgive that picture being shown the light of day? I seem to remember Jo did something similar to me in May. Perhaps I should ditch the idea of guest bloggers?

Anyway, I'm back in the hot seat and preparing for a quiet Christmas. I hope. At least I say quiet......of is the tradition in these matters my Mother-in-Law has landed. Some say she can hear you think. Others believe she can spot a false smile at a thousand paces. All I know is, she's here and she's staying for Christmas.

Wish me luck ;-)

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Winter solstice

They say you learn something new everyday. Today is the winter solstice, I couldn't remember whether it was the 21st or 22nd of Dec and that's because it changes! Have a look on Wikipedia for more info.

Anyway today is my last day in charge of John's blog and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your comments and Christmas wishes, to thank you for your interest and support of the RNLI and Swanage Lifeboat Station and to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I seem to remember a comment on here a while back asking whether boat windscreens ever need de-icing . . . I think this might answer that question.

This is Fraserburgh Lifeboat on her mooring, perhaps our crew will realise how lucky we are to keep our boats inside out of the weather!

Over to you John . . . .

Friday, 21 December 2007

On this day . . .

Yesterday I eluded to the fact that today was John's birthday . . I'm sure you'd all like to join me in saying "Happy Birthday!!" Because of data protection laws (and the fact that John's wife Liz is a very scary lawer) I can't tell you exactly how old he is but I do know that he's now closer to 40 than 30 . . now that is scary. I hope you've had a good day John wherever you are at the moment, don't drink too much tonight we wouldn't want you to end up like this again!

The other thing that happened on this day in 1992 is that I was officially enrolled as a new crewmember at Swanage Lifeboat Station. I knew it was in December some time but until I looked it up at the beginning of the week I didn't know for sure. I can't quite believe that it was 15 years ago, I know you're probably thinking Dave doesn't look old enough to have been there 15 years, well that's because I joined when I was 11! I wish! Actually I was 19 when I joined and was one of six new crew taken on to crew the new D Class that was to be evaluated at Swanage from March 1993. Of those six only Colin Marks and I remain, scarily for Colin (and me a bit) I'm now the age he was when he joined! The first winter as a crewmember was a little odd to say the least, for a start we didn't have a boat, we didn't really know that many people and we had pagers that didn't receive the DLA's page so we only knew about a shout 2 or 3 minutes after everyone else. But once the Spring came we got a boat and a capsize boat and we could start training in earnest.

By the middle of the day our saluting was coming on quite nicely! I think this was because Neil happened to appear at station, one thing I do remember is that it was bloody cold. Its worth noting the old style beaufort lifejackets, Tony (far left) is wearing an orange bump cap, the rest of us have motorcycle crash helmets on, you can imagine how heavy these got when they were wet, which they were most of the time.

Look at this fresh faced young lifeboat man :o)

By April of 1993 the relief D Class was officially put on service only to be taken away again for the winter. At that time quite a lot of ILB stations were summer time only. In the spring of 1994 another relief boat arrived and this time we got to keep it for a whole year. After evaluation in the Winter of '94, Spring '95 the RNLI concluded that there was a case to have an ILB at Swanage all year round. This meant that on the 8th April 1995 we had our brand new boat 'Phyl Clare 2' and we also had a boathouse to keep it in rather than a portacabin in the boatpark that we'd using up until then. Unfortunately I can't find any photos of the portacabin, if anyone's got any please let me have a copy.

As time went on I moved up the crew, I became an ILB Helmsman then ILB Senior Helmsman, ALB 3rd Mechanic, ALB 2nd Mechanic, ALB Deputy 2nd Coxswain and finally Station Mechanic in Feb 2002. I haven't forgotten my ILB roots though and I like to do one shout a year in it. Obviously I don't go if its cold, wet or too far from the station that's why we've got those keen fresh faced young ILB crew . . ah now I know why I used to get sent out on all those trips years ago!

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Mind your head

Today has been a pretty quiet day at the lifeboat station, other than Neil our LOM arriving with 30 bottles of wine! Every Christmas Mrs Phyl Cleare gives each of the crew a bottle of wine. Mrs Cleare is the lady who bought us our first D Class, Phyl Clare II, along with her late husband, Jack. She also bought our current D Class and it is named Jack Cleare in his memory. Thanks Phyl and Happy Christmas from all at the station.

I was also expecting my line manager, Dave Page (Divisional Engineer/South) to come and visit today for one of our P&D (Performance & Development) meetings but he suffered a blow out in the outside lane of a dual carriageway on his way up from Cornwall and he needed to return home to steady his nerves and possibly change his trousers! Anyway this gave me a chance to get a few things done at the station.

Over the years the RNLI has had various different types of helmets ranging from bump caps to motorcycle helmets. More recently though we have been using helmets produced by Gecko Headgear. These started off as the Mk8, then the Mk9 and most recently the Mk10 (left to right Mk8, Mk9, Mk10)

At first glance they look pretty similar but they are very different. The Mk8 was available in XS, S, M, L, XL and XXL and as a result everyone had to have one of their own that was the right size. They were also pretty uncomfortable and I never really had one that fitted me properly. The Mk9 was a great improvement, there were 2 sizes, Small and Normal. A correct fit was achieved by fitting different thickness pads into the helmet, 3 different thicknesses were provided and within 5 minutes you had a pretty comfortable fit. The drawback was though that you still needed one each.

The introduction of the Mk10 though changed all of this. It is fitted with an inflatable liner that moulds to your head, simply opening a valve on the end of a tube allows the wearer to adjust the fit. This means that there is no need for people to have helmets of their own as they can be adjusted to fit very quickly.

As I was going to have to order 5 new helmets for newly enrolled crew at a cost of £160 each it seemed like an excellent time to rationalise the helmets at the station. Previously some crew have had 2 helmets, 1 for the ALB, 1 for the ILB this was due to the fact that they are stored in totally seperate places and ILB helms had intercom wires that just get in the way if you're not plugged in. So after talking with Martin the Coxswain and our Divisional Inspector we decided to change the system completely. We decided to put 8 helmets aboard the ALB, 6 in the ILB shed and 3 for the ALB shore crew. This meant that we could send 9 helmets to another station in our Division and send the remainder back to Poole for re-allocation although its unlikely that the Mk8 helmets will be re-issued as they are pretty much at the end of their working life now.

Ensuring that the money people give us is put to best use can be a bit tricky but in this case its just a case of using your head!

Look out for tomorrow's post . . its someone's birthday . . someone who has a blog but currently is not in control of it . . someone who is going to be nearer 40 than 30 . . I'm saying no more!

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Keeping in touch

Yesterday's post was all about us knowing when there's a shout, its a pretty vital part of the setup of the station, its not much use having a lifeboat if you don't know when its needed!

Nearly as important is letting people know when the lifeboat is (or has been) in action. All our funding comes from voluntary contributions and if we don't let people know when our lifeboat(s) have been out their interest in the station and the RNLI may start to dwindle. I remember a time 6 or 7 years ago when we totally ran out of maroons, there was a problem with the manufacturer by all accounts. It was one of our busiest summers but people would say "You've been quiet, we haven't heard the maroons for ages". It was around this sort of time that I set up the first version of our website, it was something that interested me and I thought it might be a good way to let people know what was happening at the station. So was born. The site has gone through various changes over the years, this year we've had 145,000 page loads which I'm pretty pleased with. For those of you haven't visited lately why not take a look. Why not subscribe to our 'Latest Launch' email service and be one of the 500 or so people that we email every time we have a shout.

A year or so later Steve Williams and I put our heads together and we decided that it would be a good idea to get some 'Latest Launch' posters out and about in the town. Perhaps in some of the pubs and shops but definately in the Lifeboat shop and in the notice board at the station. Steve now generates a poster for every launch and these are distributed to various people through the website, if you'd like to get one to display at your office, shop or local pub then just sign up online in the Rescues Posters section. Steve's old firm, Marconi, were also generous enough to buy us a colour printer to print the posters. This was made even better when Steve managed to persuade a guy from Olympus to donate us a digital camera complete with waterproof housing! Its a great camera and quite a few of the 'Rescue' pics that you see are taken with it. Its great when I spot people reading the posters, you know its worth the time and effort to do it.

If we're invloved in a big newsworthy incident such as the one on Mayday last year then the RNLI's Press Office will kick in to help us. Becky Mack is our LPO (Lifeboat Press Officer) she is the station's point of contact for the press, she is then backed up by our Divisional Media Relations Manager, Tamsin Thomas and the Press Office at RNLI HQ in Poole. There is a Press Officer on duty 24/7, its vital in these days of 24hr news that we can get our message out quickly, accurately and if possible with either still or moving images.

The next weapon in our PR arsenal is something that I'd been thinking about for ages but had never really been able to figure out how to get it to work. Text message alerts to people's mobile phones when our lifeboats launch. In September 2006 I stumbled across a firm called iTagg who provide a premium rate bulk text messaging service with no monthly charge, no limit on how many messages you could send but equally as important if you didn't send any messages at all for 3 months it didn't matter. I signed us up and our text alert service was born! Basically we earn 10p commision for each message that's sent, messages cost the user 25p the 15p difference is how iTagg make their money, it is possible to make a higher percentage but that means paying a monthly fee and as we don't know when our next shout is going to be I didn't think it was worth it. Messages are sent automatically when our pagers go off but are subject to a delay of 5 mins, we don't want the public to arrive at the station before the crew! If you'd like to sign up then text the following from your mobile phone.


to 60300

You'll get a confirmation message back pretty much straight away . . then all you need to do is wait for the next shout!

In the summer of this year the RNLI launched its desktop pager. It give people the chance to become a 'virtual crewmember' for any or all the RNLI lifeboat stations around the country. To quote from the RNLI's website.

  • Be notified of RNLI lifeboat launches as they happen.
  • The desktop pager launches and beeps when we have been notified of a launch.
  • Keep informed of the latest launches.
  • Choose to monitor all stations or selected stations.
  • Includes an information banner telling you of latest RNLI information.
and last but not least I couldn't leave out John's blog could I! There is something very satisfying about putting information online and then finding out that people are actually enjoying reading it. I remember when John first got the blog going and how pleased he was when people started reading, commenting and coming backing for more. I can't quite believe that was over a year ago! At our AGM recently Martin, our Coxswain said "If you want to know what's going on at our station then have a look at our website, if you really want to know what's going on then read John's blog!"

No comment :o)

Tuesday, 18 December 2007


When John handed over the blog to me he asked me to do 2 things.

1. Increase the hits to 500 a day

2. Tell people about the pager system

One of these is easy, the other a little more difficult! So I thought I'd do the easy one first.

In early 1999 the RNLI embarked on a nationwide project to replace its existing paging solution. This varied from BT pagers, Multitone pagers triggered by the Coastguard on VHF Channel 0 and another BT type system in the Channel Islands. The plan was to replace all these different systems with one. After testing at a handful of stations around the country the COACS (Call Out and Communication System) was born. The contract was awarded to NTL (who were bought out by Arqiva a couple of years ago) and in Sept 1999 the role out to all 232 RNLI Lifeboat Stations began. Our station was the first of the official role out, mainly due to our proximity to Poole HQ and Poole Lifeboat Station that was one of the trial stations. There were a few teething problems including our pagers going off everytime Poole ILB went out . . the pager would helpfully say 'Poole ILB launched on service' great, just what you want to know in the middle of the night! These were quickly ironed out and the system has basically remained the same since then.

The Call out part is basically the pager and the system used to trigger it. The pager that we are currently using (although this is being replaced gradually now) is a Multitone unit. It does pretty much what you'd expect . . makes a noise, vibrates and displays text.

The first message we get when there's a shout is 'Launch Request Coastguard' this is Portland Coastguard requesting assistance from one or both of our lifeboats. This message is intended for the Duty Launching Authority but all our crew receive it and they understand that there may be a 'Cancel Launch' message if the DLA decides that the job isn't one for a lifeboat. 90% of the time within a minute or two the pager will go off again, this time with either 'Launch ALB', 'Launch ILB', 'Launch Both Boats' there are also a couple of immediate readiness messages too. Once a launch message is received the crew know that the DLA has authorised the launch and they can proceed to sea. All of the paging is done by phone, the Coastguard and DLA dial into this box of tricks (each station has one with a choice of pine or beech wood trim!).

Inside this box there's the fancy electronics, transmitter, battery backup etc required to fill Swanage and the surrounding area with a strong enough radio signal to trigger the pagers. In order to make sure that the coverage is 100% the signal is also rebroadcast from a remote aerial site on Nine Barrow Down. In the event of phone line or some other sytem failure it is possible to trigger the pagers by pressing the buttons on the front panel (yes there is a secret to it to stop people fiddling!).

In case there are visitors in the boathouse, and there are plenty in the summer, there is a scroll board and a number of sirens that go off with the pagers. The scroll board displays the same message as the crew's pagers. This gives our Boathouse attendants a chance to escort any visitors out before the crew arrive. In the days before the new system I've been the first to the station opened the back door and promptly fallen over a pack of brownies who were having a talk!

If the pagers go off at night (somehow the magic box knows when sunrise and sunset are every day of the year) then the red lights inside the boathouse and the lights on both slipways are switched on. This gives the slipway lights a chance to warm up and get to full brightness and is one less thing for the crew to worry about when they arrive.

The Communication part of the system is made up of 3 parts. 6 handheld PMRs, 1 fixed radio on the Mersey and a transmitter/scrambler on Nine Barrow Down. This system allows us to have secure comms with the lifeboat when its at sea, secure comms between the shore crew, secure comms between lifeboats and even patch into a phone line to make phone calls.

Initially it was thought that DLAs would carry one of these PMRs at all times as it is possible to phone the Coastguard from it and page the crew but as mobile phone coverage got better and better they tend to be the prefered method.

Arqiva constantly monitor all RNLI lifeboat stations for any problems with the system and if it should fail, which it never has for us in 8 years, then there are always good old maroons!

Monday, 17 December 2007

A good servicing

Lifejackets are probably the most important piece of PPE (personal protective equipment) that we have. We have 22 in total, 11 ALB and 11 ILB. Both jackets are made by Crewsaver to the RNLI's spec. The ALB jacket has no natural buoyancy but has 2 inflatable bladders, 1 that fires automatically if the wearer enters the water, the other is fired manually to give extra buoyancy to support another person or help if you're going to be in the water for any length of time. The ILB jacket has built in foam buoyancy and a single manually activated bladder to provide extra support. They are exchanged annually, usually towards the end of February for our station, but we are required to service them every 3 months to ensure that everything is as it should be. If a jacket is used in anger, ie inflated, then it must be serviced before it is made available to the crew again. Monday night is the night that myself, Paul, Skid, Kev and a few others, Mr B, Matt and Ollie turned up tonight, go to the station to do routine maintenance. Given the cold North Easterly wind that was whistling through the station being upstairs in the crew room seemed like an excellent idea.

We usually start with the ALB jackets as they're the most time consuming, complicated and awkward to repack. The first thing to do is to remove the 2 CO2 gas cylinders and inflate the jacket using the oral inflation tubes.

With the jacket inflated as hard as you can get it (this shows the smokers versus the non-smokers!) you can then start to check the webbing straps, the light, the flares, lifeline and the general condition of the material. After about 10 or 15 mins its pretty obvious whether the jacket is losing air or not, if all's well then all the air is let out the CO2 cylinders are re-fitted (failing to do this, packing the jacket away and then finding them on the table where you left them is called 'Doing a Shi' due to the number times that he manages to do this!). Once all the air is expelled and with a bit of careful folding the jacket is back to a usuable state. The servicing log is then signed along with the label on the jacket itself.
Once all the ALB jackets are done its time to move onto the ILB jackets. These are split up slightly as there are 3 that are used just for the ALB slip the only difference is that they don't have the 2 day/night flares fitted. The jackets are serviced in the same way but as they have foam buoyancy there is only 1 inflatable bladder to inflate . . that's good as some people are getting a little out of breath by now!

Once again you need to check the straps, light, lifeline and flares (if fitted). Once you're happy the air can be let out, the gas bottle re-fitted and the jacket packed away, again the servicing log has to be signed along with the label on the jacket. Its always interesting to see where some of these jackets have been and wonder what sort of shouts they've been out on before we got them.

Luckily tonight we didn't find too much wrong, just a cracked flare cap and a light that wouldn't turn off after testing. These were easily rectified and with the extra help that we had tonight all the jackets were done in just under 90 mins, not too bad at all. With that done and no more working Monday evenings this year (I won't make them do Xmas eve and New Year's eve!) we retired to the East Bar.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Off Duty

Well . . my first post. Hopefully there'll be a few interesting bits and bobs happening this week to let you know about.

Other than the Christmas Party this weekend has been a lifeboat free weekend for me. Being the only full time RNLI employee at Swanage means that things are a little different for me. I spend a lot of time on call but I do get 2 weekends a month off plus 26 days annual leave, not a patch on John I know! In order to cover my absence from station I have two deputies, Paul 'Shi' Elleray and Colin 'Skid' Marks (both pictured here giving John some well needed first aid). They are 2nd and 3rd Mechanic respectively. This weekend Paul was good enough to cover me for the Friday so I could go to Gatwick, for the Xmas party and the whole of the rest of the weekend (thanks mate). When they're giving cover they do get a small amount of money (trust me you wouldn't do it for the money!) its more of a disturbance allowance really, some weekends there's nothing to do others there are 2 or 3 shouts to keep you busy. Anyway I'm on blog duty until next Sunday, lifeboat duty through to Friday, then its my second weekend of the month off :o) John has asked me to double the number of blog readers so if you've got any sensational gossip or pics that the world needs to see then let me have them!

Saturday, 15 December 2007

With a hop and a skip and a twirl

So yesterday was our final fling of the year; the social event of the season in Swanage. It was of course the Lifeboat Christmas party. This year we decided that we would have a real blow out. We took over the whole of the Ship Inn for the evening. Nathan's crew put on a spectacular event which suited the mood perfectly. Greeted by Champagne, Bucks Fizz and Kir Royale the Ship was soon awash with friends and buzzing with happy chat.The crew of course looked impressively smart in their DJs and best bib and tucker. They were there almost to a man.Wives and Girlfriends were there too of course, as were many of our friends from town who give us so much assistance throughout the year.Martin was looking resplendent in his retro 70's fancy dress and Paul was cutting a fine dash in his impressive 'Tie Your Own' bow tie.The DLAs held court in the corner, an Oasis of sophistication and calm amidst the social storm of the crew.And then the dancing began! Music was provided by local band 'Black Sheep'. Led by Titch they describe themselves as Cask Conditioned Celtic Rock. I don't know about that but they were certainly superb and brought the party to life.Rapidly the dancing became more enthusiastic and energetic. With their usual passion for making complete idiots of themselves all of the crew took part. Ultimately it became positively lethal with bodies flying around and egos ruined.One thing is certain, they are no wallflowers!During a lull in the dancing Jon stood up (at least we think he did) and made his traditional speech prior to handing out our Rose Bowl. This is awarded each year to the crewmember who has made the biggest contribution to the lifeboat season; either due to bravery, foolery or a job well done. Steve Williams nearly won it for his impressive 3 mile sternboard. The ILB crew came close for having to deal with the aftermath of a rather grizzly suicide. But in the end Jon awarded it to Terry Pond for his huge contribution over the years. Well done Terry. We also took a moment to honour and remember Walt Bishop, three cheers and a gulp of a pint seemed appropriate.And then on with the dancing! The band even became unplugged at one point and roamed the floor as they continued to play jigs.And so! A great night was had by all. I really mean that too. It was superb. Thanks to everyone who contributed and helped to organise it.

By the way, you may notice the lack of hideous drunken shots here. I took many but thought I might reserve these for Facebook?

Friday, 14 December 2007

Spare a thought

This is Becky. At this time of Christmas cheer and goodwill towards men (and women?) she is homeless. Or more precisely, she has a home which is uninhabitable due to the inefficiencies of local workmen (who are very good but work to a slightly different timescale to many other people). So what I thought was about we auction poor old Becky to find her a home for Christmas? The highest bidder can have her for the Chirstmas period and return her in the New assured, she doesn't eat much and is quite good with the dishes.

Who'll give me a camel and two goats to get the bidding going?

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Seeing double

Well, I was right, it was cold last night. We still had a profitable exercise though. In a rare occurrence we simultaneously had two lifeboats on station. The 'Robert Charles Brown' has had her repairs completed so was brought back to us from Poole by Rob, John D, Gav and a few others.Martin decided that we should use the opportunity to exercise double the number of crew and take both boats out to sea and do some towing and close quarters manoeuvring.On completion of the exercise we tied alongside the pier and swapped our kit from 'Bingo Lifeline' onto the 'Robert Charles Brown' and vice-versa. We then returned RCB to her place in the boathouse and had our crew meeting. Not huge amounts were discussed though Nick and Oli came to the end of their Probationary period and became full crewmembers so congratulations are in order. We also took on 3 new faces as shorecrew. With luck they will in due course prove to be an asset and progress onto the crew proper.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

On the blink

Given this year's spate of shouts to climbers, I thought I'd share this photos of my friend Heather climbing earlier this year. It's good to see that she's taken the health and safety notice seriously! Can you guess where she is? There's a free tour of our boathouse for whoever gets the answer correct.

It's funny how you don't give modern appliances a second thought until they cease to work. This morning, as I was writing today's post, my computer screen at home blinked then died (contrary to popular opinion I tend to write my posts at home in the morning, save them, then proof read them during break time at school). This didn't seem good, particularly as there was a very strong burning smell coming out of the top of it. I turned it off and stared blankly at the dead screen. And I'm gutted, it's been a part of my life for 4 years and now it's gone.

Still, looking on the bright side I've just ordered a 19" flat screen thing so it's not all doom and gloom. Let's hope it arrives quickly.

Talking of work, it's now only 3 days until the holidays. Mother has issued her usual summons from Whitby so I will be away next week visiting Yorkshire. This should give me a chance to visit the boathouse there and have a chat with Glen about recent events on Whitby Lifeboat. In my absence Dave, our Mechanic, is going to be a guest blogger for the week. The good news is he knows how to use a computer and take photos. The bad news is I've no idea if, being a mechanic, he can string more than a couple of words together at a time. We'll see!

The weather here is bitter just now, -4 degrees this morning. It should make tonight's exercise a fairly crisp affair. Superb.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007


I've been meaning to give more information about individual cremembers for quite some time now. So here goes........this is John Deas (Deasy) who joined the crew in 2004 and serves as an ILB crewmember and also a prospective ALB navigator. He is an incredibly competent and practical crewmember who has absolute confidence in his own ability to do everything. Not many of the crew know this, but he is following in the tradition of his Great Great Grandfather who was an oarsman on the 'William Earle', a previous Swanage Lifeboat. Without doubt (and as anyone who has ever been to the pub with him will testify) he is one of the planet's larger than life characters. He is best described as easy going and always up for a laugh. In the real world he 'works' for the RNLI as a Senior Design Engineer, mostly he designs launching and recovery equipement though fortunately for us this seems to occupy very little of his time. He lists his hobbies as wakeboarding, snowboarding and off-roading and can most often be found either on the water or tinkering with one of his engines (boat or landrover). He claims that his favourite food is a breakfast roll from the Pier Head café and in a way this sums him up; simple but probably going to hurt you in the long run.........

Incidentally, we have a busy week this week. Both boats will exercise on Wednesday and afterwards there will be a crew meeting. Then on Friday we have our Christmas party. This year it is going to be in the ship and will be a buffet with a live band. It promises to be great fun so watch out for the photos. Of course, nine of us will be carrying pagers just in case we get a shout. I will be duty crew for the ALB so at least I stand a chance of remembering enough to have something to write about on Saturday morning.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Rubber ring

Even a Lifeboat can sink. It has happened too many times in the Institution's history to take it lightly. Lifeboats routinely take to the seas in conditions which have everyone else scurrying home to port, so they need to know that if the worst happens there is a plan B. On modern lifeboats this plan B takes the form of a sophisticated rubber ring, known in the trade as a liferaft. Ours sits in a little slot on the back deck and can be deployed rapidly by one man or woman. Ours has just returned from 'Cosalts' in Lowestoft where it has had a service. I hope that this will ensure that it is in top condition. It should include an inflation test, repairs as necessary, replacement of flares, batteries and other perishable stores. Of course, even in prime condition, a liferaft is one of the very last places one would want to spend any time at all. Indeed, even in the Survival Pool at the Lifeboat College, crewmembers under training routinely throw up!

In his usual diplomatic way Dave, our mechanic, has corrected me on some of the details of what happens to our Liferafts. I stand corrected!

Why don't you check before you write this stuff! :o) The liferaft that you have pictured there has arrived freshly serviced from Cosalt and will be swapped with the one on our boat when she returns from Poole. This raft will be with us for 12 months and then the same thing will happen again. Once I've changed them over the one on our boat will go back to Cosalt, be serviced, inspected etc, given a 12 month ticket and sent out to replace another raft somewhere . . and so the cycle goes on. DT

Sunday, 9 December 2007


Not many people know this, but I love beach combing. In particular I enjoy collecting any sort of buoy or fishing detritus. I've just collected this particular specimen from the rocky foreshore at Peveril. It boasts the letters 'RWYC 22 Private'. I suppose if I wanted to I could track down it's owner and return it turns out, I don't want to.

On another note, thanks very much to all of you who have recently (or in deed not recently) given a donation through the Justgiving link. The total has shot up over the last few days and I am enormously grateful. If you count the 'Gift Aid' contribution from the government you have now donated over £420. Fantastic. The reason I chose £1000 as a target was that this is the amount it costs to train one Lifeboatman. Wouldn't it be nice if I was self funding?!

Saturday, 8 December 2007

New home

Some time ago I posted about the difficulties that the Swanage Coastguard Rescue team were experiencing finding a new home. They have now achieved this by gaining planning permission to build their new Coastguard Rescue centre in the North beach carpark in Swanage.

As is the way with these things, many folk don't like the idea. To call it NIMBYism is perhaps unkind, however, there was opposition to the plan for a number of quite valid reasons. Nevertheless, the planners have now awarded full permission and this can only be a good thing for those needing rescuing on our patch. Good luck to you fellas...........I hope the build goes smoothly.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Washed up

Last night was the final night of our 1st Aid course. And we went out with a bang really. We turned up at the usual time and then split in half to undertake two large multi-casualty scenarios. These included; arrested patients, life-threatening bleeds, burns, entrapment, internal bleeding, fractures and a variety of illnesses. The amazing thing was that we felt liked seasoned pros dealing with it. Good thing too because the whole thing was being observed by the steely Howard Ramm.

I first came across Howard when he was a junior ILB instructor at Cowes. Since then he has risen through the ranks of the institution and has just recently been promoted to the ivory towers as Staff Officer Coast Training (at least I think that's the job title) no matter, he is now an extremely big cheese! I think he was impressed by our responses . He was also I think pleased with our level of enthusiasm for what we have learnt.

Even so, Howard is always looking one step ahead and what he is now concerned with is that we reduce our 'skill fade' to the minimum. And I agree. If this 'new style' training is to truly succeed then reducing 'skill fade' to the minimum is absolutely essential. In other words, it's not just what we know's what we know in 2 1/2 years time that matters just as much. How are we going to preserve this knowledge? Watch this space and I'll tell you once I've found out!

We had a very detailed 'wash up' afterwards and were pretty thoroughly grilled by Howard. Lots was said by all, but the overwhelming reaction from the crew was that we loved it and want more of this kind of learning experience. Finally we feel, that as a team, we are secure and confident with our emergency medical knowledge. And for that we owe a great debt of thanks to the inspirational Paul Sáuvage.......thanks mate!

Perhaps not surprisingly we retired afterwards for a swift half in 'The Ship', once more they kindly provided chips and sausages...........they too are raising their game. We like it.

An Admiral West

Gosh, well, I now feel a little bit of a fraud. I suppose on reflection yesterday's post now just looks like a vain attempt to garner some praise. It wasn't (though it was all very nice). It's just, I felt that I'd said I'd only do one year so that's what I thought I should do. Of course, it was with a rather heavy heart as I have really do enjoy doing this. I also felt that there is still a lot left to say. So............considering your reaction, what the heck, I'll carry on. Let me know if you are disappointed that I haven't stuck to my word.

In the meantime, how about anyone who has enjoyed the blog for the last year puts a quid or two on the Justgiving page? Don't feel you have to and please don't be put off by me mentioning it, but it would be a nice way to celebrate the end of the year. Cheers.

I'll put something up later on about our final day of the 1st Aid course and the de-brief with Howard Ramm.

(Thanks to Steven Bell of the Guardian for the cartoon)

Thursday, 6 December 2007

How time flies..........

A year ago, when I started this blog, I decided I would do it for a year and then leave it. A snapshot in time. A record of one year in our station's life if you like. I wanted to show what lifeboating was like behind the scenes. Not just the Gale force winds, heroic struggles and bearded old hands. But also the training, the fun, the sadness and the rest. I hope I've achieved this?

The first post was on the 6th December 2006. Since then I have posted 320 times and there have been 48,005 visitors. The busiest day was Monday the 11th of June when there were 833 page loads and the busiest month was June when there were 6,975 visitors.

So here it is, our snapshot. I hope you have enjoyed it.


And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I'll say it clear,
I'll state my case, of which Im certain.

I've lived a life thats full.
I've traveled each and ev'ry highway;
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Regrets, I've had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it my way.

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,
No, oh no not me,
I did it my way.

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows -
And did it my way!

(Frank Sinatra - My Way)

All a matter of style

There is a well regarded theory in the world of education that people learn in different ways. Indeed there are 3 commonly accepted 'Learning Styles'; These are known as VAK or Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic. Visual is to do with seeing and reading, Auditory is to do with listening and speaking and Kinesthetic is to do with touching and doing.

Each person will have the ability to learn in every way but will also have a 'preferred' learning style. I can't remember exactly what proportion of an 'average' population prefers each style, however it is my theory that Lifeboat crews, almost by definition, are Kinesthetic learners. They are 'hands on' kind of people; they prefer doing, active learning and moving about. They are most likely to be heard saying things like: How does that grab you? I have a grasp of the basics. It certainly feels right. I can relate to that.

I got thinking about this on the way to work this morning (dull, I know!) Our 1st Aid course does cater for all learning styles but there is a huge emphasis on Kinesthetic learning. Indeed, out of a total of about 20 hours learning, there has only been about 5 hours spent learning in a Visual or Auditory way. The remainder has been Kinesthetic, or doing. And I wonder how much Paul and the other staff at the RNLI Training College have done this as a deliberate pedagogy? In designing a course for school there is always an expectation that you will provide VAK learning opportunities in direct proportion to the proportion of Visual Auditory and Kinesthetic learners you have. So if you have 20% of your students who are Kinesthetic learners, then 20% of the course should be designed to cater for Kinesthetic learners. I have a suspicion though that this has not been a conscious thought process that Paul has gone through, but rather he has just done the obvious thing. I doubt that the research has been done on Lifeboat crews but I'm pretty confident of what the outcome would be.........when was the last time you ever saw a lifeboatman read a set of instructions?!

I suspect that this is why we are getting so much from this course. None of us are getting bored because, unlike previous courses, we are having our unique learning preferences catered for. Consequently we are enjoying ourselves and learning quickly. I believe the boffins call it 'Personalised Learning'.

And of course this is fundamental to what makes us lifeboat crews successful as 1st Aiders. Kinesthetic leaners can be best described as 'Touchy Feely' and that is precisely what is needed to be a good 1st Aider.

If you're interested in finding out what kind of learner you are try this test. Or if you can't be bothered, ask yourself this question.........when something breaks, do you get out the instruction book, call a friend to talk about it or take it apart?

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Full on

Yesterday was a full on day. Goodness knows what has happened but we have suddenly got really busy. Not content with having our time filled with our excellent first aid course we also had two shouts. That makes 4 in the last 5 days! Not your average December week.The day kicked off just after 1000 when Portland requested that the ALB launch to recover a local fishing boat which had become attached to the seabed by a line around his propellor. He was located somewhere near Durlston head and, in deteriorating weather conditions he was freed and towed into the town slipway. In typically pragmatic 'fisherman' style he shot away a fleet of pots as he was under tow! Less than an hour after it all started 'Bingo Lifeline' was back in the boathouse, refuelled and ready for further service.Then at 1900, half of the crew gathered for the evenings instalment of our first aid course. It was a very practical evening. The incredible Paul 'Sáuvage' had designed an evening of multiple casualty scenarios. We took it in turns to respond in teams of six, while three at a time played the casualties and three at a time critiqued the responders actions. And it went very well indeed. With some very tricky casualties to deal with our fine training kicked in and we got the job done. Jo here had a nasty abdominal wound combined with a subtle but significantly large amount of bruising on her chest. Chad meanwhile had a nasty leg wound and was bleeding heavily.Meanwhile John had two very nasty arm wounds and had a 'life threatening' bleed. Paul and Skid skillfully dealt with this. First with direct pressure, then a tourniquet and finally with a pressure bandage. They were able to release the tourniquet after no more than 8 minutes. Superb!Wing-Co played the concerned friend with a nasty gash on the head. Not a particularly worrying injury in itself but in the context of the scenario one more thing to factor into the 'Triage' equation. He was also a pain in the proverbial!

But what amazed me about the evening wasn't our response, rather it was the high quality of the course and it's delivery. Paul delivered 3 large, complex scenarios to a group of twelve trainees and kept every one of them busy at all times. Of course the responders had to be on their toes, but the casualties also had to think carefully and work hard to play their particular injury or illness convincingly. They were also expected to respond appropriately to the treatment given.........surprisingly tricky. And then those critiquing had to carefully note all aspects of the treatment and then accurately and honestly provide feedback after the event. Awesome.Then, to round off a busy day we retired to 'The Ship' at about 2200 for a quick pint before bed. At least that's what we thought. Half a pint later we were all running out of the door in response to a page from Portland Coastguard. We launched both boats into fresh conditions to attend a climber stuck at the bottom of Guillemot cliffs near Dancing Ledge. As it turned out conditions were too rough for the ILB and she was sent back while still in Durlston bay. As the ALB arrived on scene the Coastguard cliff rescue team arrived also. It was agreed that the sea conditions were too rough for a seaward extraction except as a last resort and that a cliff rescue would be attempted. Half an hour later this was complete and the rather relieved casualty was back at the top and we were on our way home. I've no idea what time we re-housed 'Bingo Lifeline' but I got to bed at 0100.

A full on day.........