Thursday, 31 January 2008

All in a days work

Well yesterday turned out interesting. Just as I was getting back from an away Rugby fixture for school, I got a call from the delightful Tamsin Thomas asking if I would do a radio interview with FireFM and give some advice on staying safe near the cliff edge. The interview took place as I was sat in a layby on the way home. The girls were sat in the back and were very well behaved, indeed, Charlotte fell asleep and can be heard faintly snoring in the background! I have to confess, 'till yesterday I had never heard of FireFM........more of a radio 4 listener myself. Anyway, hopefully I made sense and avoided saying anything too stupid. It should be aired this afternoon, I'll try to get an audio copy and post it here tomorrow.

I then got home to find an e-mail from a friend who publishes a Kayaking magazine asking for pictures of flares being fired. Hopefully I have managed to oblige here too?

So, all in all a busy day smoozing with the media! Yeah, dream on Gilmour.........

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Medical and Survival Sub Committee

It seems as though our time spent as guinea pigs for the new style first aid training was time well spent. Last Wednesday Paul Savage travelled to London to make his presentation to the Medical and Survival Sub-Committee of the RNLI. This sub-committee is composed of a number of Trustees of the RNLI Needless to say they are a fairly awesomely important bunch of people, including: Admiral Sir Jock Slater (Former 1st Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff), Admiral the Lord Boyce (Guess what, former 1st Sea Lord! and Chief of Defence Staff) and also Roger Vickers (The Queen's Orthopedic surgeon). Also present were Mike Vlasto, Howard Ramm and David Shepherd from the RNLI.

I was particularly thrilled to hear that Paul used material from the blog as part of his evidence for the success of the course. By all accounts those present were, not by the blog, but by the new course. It seems that it has met with their approval and, subject to them witnessing a course in progress, it will in due course be ratified by them. Wise men...........

As an aside, Paul was seen on telly last week in a rubber suit on the 'One Show' film. He was a bit gutted that the camera angle made it look like he had a developing bald spot...........they say that the camera never lies!

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Right place, wrong boat........

Rather annoyingly I missed both of Sunday's shouts. This was as a result of having chosen not to attend the exercise but to go kayaking instead. The weather was glorious so Mark, Heather and I decided to head out of Swanage bay and towards the Lighthouse at Anvil Point. Once round there we struggled to make much progress due to the strong tide and brisk wind. Coming back across Durlston bay we met both the lifeboats heading out to sea and stopped for a chat with the ILB crew. Never one to miss the chance to show off I took the opportunity to try out my new LOMO drysuit and did a few rolls.

We then returned to Swanage bay and spent an hour or so practising various assisted rescues, self rescues and rolls. Mark took the chance to demonstrate to me exactly how a drysuit is preferable to 'dry' trousers and a cag! I think I know what has just got to the top of his shopping list? I even managed to achieve a mythical 're-entry and roll' which is something I have never tried before. By the time we were ashore and packed up the drama had all unfolded and I'd missed it. Oh well, you can't make them all.

Incidentally, Dave has recently published last years statistics for how many shouts we have all made. My figure was 61% which is not too bad when you consider I'm now working out of town. I think Paul Elleray was the highest with 100%.

Monday, 28 January 2008

A sad day

Well the last 72 hours have been pretty intense for the crew. The weekend heralded an unprecedented 4 shouts, 3 of them involving both boats and 3 of them being cliff jobs. Sadly one has resulted in a fatality after a woman fell from the cliff near the lighthouse. A horribly tragic end to what must have been a superb Sunday stroll.

On top of all this was a fundraising day at Harman's Cross for the RNLI SOS campaign and a 4 mile FunRun for the Swanage Sea Rowing Club and an exercise on Sunday morning. I suspect most of the crew are now feeling a little bit jaded.

To be honest it is all pretty hard to make sense of. We have not had a shout for the last month (not unusual for January) and then suddenly we get not one but 4. And, as is often the way, they continued to follow the recent pattern of being people in trouble on the cliffs.

8pm Saturday night brought a climber stuck about 5 metres up the cliff face at Marmolata buttress. With a bit of a swell running the ILB did a superb job to get Matt ashore then, once he had talked the climber down, to recover them both. Well driven John Deas.

Sunday morning brought an exercise which was followed rapidly by a call to a climber who had fallen from the cliffs and was in the water to the west of the lighthouse. By the time the lifeboats arrived he had been recovered but had pretty nasty head injuries. Coastguard helicopter 'India Juliet' landed it's winchman on the shore and swiftly winched the man and took him to Dorchester hospital.

Both boats were washing down from the previous shout when the VHF call came to return to the scene where a female had been seen to fall into the water from the cliff. Again both boats proceeded at full throttle to Cattle Troughs, the faster D Class Lifeboat arriving first. A Police Officer at the top of the cliff indicated that the ILB should search back eastwards, so the ILB searched slowly eastwards while the ALB proceeded slowly from the lighthouse westwards. The casualty was spotted from the ALB and Crewman John Deas landed onto the rocks from the ILB shortly afterwards. Coastguard Helicopter 'India Juliet' again arrived at the scene and lowered its winchman and a stretcher to the casualties position. Three further crew from the Lifeboat were put ashore to help move the badly injured casualty, who was then airlifted to hospital. Both boats were again released and returned to station at 1510hrs. Our thoughts are with the casualties and their families and friends.

Incidentally, the climber from the previous shout who had entered the water to help recover the fallen climber had become hypothermic at the top of the cliff and was also recovered by helicopter to hospital.

Sadly the lady did not survive.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

All at once.......

This guy's a climber. We rescued him. And another...........and another. Busy weekend.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

'Sir, is it true you're a lifeguard'..............

is a question I get asked a lot. It's hard to believe,but, amongst the school going fraternity, there is a lot of confusion about exactly who does what when it comes to saving lives in or on water. Even in a school full of well educated young blighters with a lifeboatman on the staff, there is still a palpable air of confusion about the difference between a Coastguard, lifeboat-crewmember and a pool attendant.

What got me thinking about this was an e-mail I got today (via Dave T) from Michael Vlasto. Now, I'm not exactly sure what Mr Vlasto does in the RNLI, but I have my suspicions that he is a good deal further up the food chain that I am. Indeed, I couldn't help noticing that he has a short biography on the RNLI website and I don't. Suspicions confirmed. Anyway, said e-mail brought our attention to the fact that the MCA are in the throws of an imminent strike. It also raised a concern that the public (and the press) had got a bit confused about the whole thing, added 2 and 2 and got 5 and come to the conclusion that this meant that the lifeboats were going to strike. Not surprisingly HQ are worried that this (incorrect) notion might damage our reputation and fundraising efforts. Hence they also issued a press release. Oddly I didn't get copy of this but this website were kind enough to publish it verbatim.

Naturally Mr Vlasto was also worried about the possibility of idiots like myself spouting off to the media about the potential strike. He took pains to point out that we should refrain from talking to the media and refer them to our Divisional Media Relations Manager:

"The MCA have advised us that they are developing contingency plans to ensure that the vital communications chain to alert our lifeboat crews will be safeguarded; liaison at the highest level is ongoing in this respect. Clearly comment on the implications of strike action is a headquarters responsibility and therefore any request for comment on MCA strike action is to be referred to your DMRM, HQ PR Office or the Duty Press Officer in Poole until further notice."

And I don't blame him. Indeed, I'm mightily glad that we have people like Michael to foresee these problems and forewarn us. The RNLI does have a tremendous and well deserved reputation which it does (and rightly so) protect very carefully. Long may this continue.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008


A wise man once told me that, 'assumption is the mother of all cock ups', yesterday a number of people assumed that the Dolphin washed up on Bournemouth beach was the same one rescued in Swanage on Sunday. It now seems that this was probably not the case. Ian sent me this message yesterday evening:

"When I spoke with my boss last night who also attended the incident at Bournemouth, having seen our photo's he felt it was a different dolphin as the one they had, had a "chunk" out of the fin and was also quite heavily diseased."

I'll sing myself to sleep
A song from the darkest hour
Secrets I can't keep
Inside of the day
Swing from high to deep
Extremes of sweet and sour
Hope that God exists
I hope I pray

Drawn by the undertow
My life is out of control
I believe this wave will bear my weight
So let it flow

Oh sit down
Sit down next to me
Sit down, down, down, down, down
In sympathy

(James - Sit down)

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Not looking too good

Sadly, I have heard through various channels today, that Sundays Dolphin has probably not survived. Poole Coastguard teams were called yesterday to reports of a Common Dolphin which had washed up dead on bournemouth beach near Durley Chine. It has not been confirmed yet as being the same animal, however this seems likely.

It would seem prudent to post here the advice from the 'British Divers Marine Life Rescue' website:

The British Divers Marine Life Rescue advises that people who come across stranded animals stay away and call for expert help. "They are not Flipper. They have very powerful tails and sharp teeth and if distressed should not be approached in any circumstances".

Their fully detailed advice poster can be seen and downloaded here.

Sunday, 20 January 2008


Not every day do you get to see a Dolphin close up. When you are stood on the quayside at low water this is actually something you would rather not see. Sadly today a beautiful common dolphin was washed into Swanage bay entangled in some fishing rope. It was in a significant amount of distress.The quick thinking Mike Cemm from the sailing club got into the water in a drysuit, untangled the creature and guided it out into deeper water.After a distressing amount of time floundering on it's side looking distinctly unwell, it gathered it's strength and headed out into deeper water.Swanage Coastguard attended the incident and this is what they had to say about it:

Yet another unusual incident today, a report of a dolphin in distress by the stone quay had part of the team head off to see what was going on. On arrival a large crowd was gathering around this common dolphin which was in some distress due to being caught up in some rope. It is not the role of the Coastguard to rescue dolphins as there are specialist marine mammal units that do this, however we do have to protect the area and with a large crowd gathering, a concern someone was going to fall from the quay or interfere with the dolphin. The wheels of motion were in place with the RSPCA and members of the Durlston Marine Watch being consulted on the best way forward, when a member of the public in a wet suit started to assist the dolphin out into deeper water having removed the rope. For a short while it appeared the dolphin was going to beach itself again however it slowly headed out to deeper water and was last seen heading off towards Old Harry.I rather hope it is still OK.

Friday, 18 January 2008


Being as close as we are to the RNLI HQ in Poole, it is not unusual for us to get requests to help with various filming projects and things that are going on. The latest request was for us to help with filming a piece for BBC 1's 'The One Show'. A number of our crew were filmed at the Sea Survival Centre yesterday with presenter Neil Oliver. They and he took part in a mock Sea Survival Training exercise in the environmental pool. Our wonderfully photogenic Coxswain, Martin, also took part in filming on Wednesday for the show. Ah, the cult of celebrity!

For your interest the show is scheduled to be broadcast on Monday 21 January at 7pm on BBC 1 (schedule information correct at time of writing but probably likely to change!)

One love
One blood
One life
You got to do what you should
One life
With each other
One life
But we're not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other


(U2 - One)

Mountain rescue

The 'Today Programme' this morning covered a story about the 'Mountain Rescue' teams of Cumbria. Apparently they have witnessed a massive increase in the number of calls on their services over the last couple of years (Up by almost 100% this year).

The report centred on both the difficulty this has presented for the teams in terms of recruiting and retaining members, and also on the increasing trend for people to call them when they are merely inconvenienced (there was a story of a couple late for a dinner party calling for a helicopter!)

The chap being interviewed made the comment that team members' employers had begun to say that enough was enough and insist that they took time spent on rescues as annual leave. Naturally this then created problems with members who found it increasingly difficult to balance work life, rescue work and family commitments. Thankfully this is not something that I have heard of in the lifeboat service but it did get me thinking just how much we rely on the generosity and understanding of our employers, co-workers and families to do what we do.

So to you, our unsung and unrecognised supporters, a big thanks for all you do.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Training partner

A couple of weeks ago John Deas decided that he too would like to train for and take part in the Swanage triathlon. So I have a training partner. And believe me John makes a good training partner. You see, he's ever so slightly competitive and so he is always going to make you go that little bit further and try that little bit harder.

So on Tuesday we went to the pool and churned out 1500m which is a good addition to the training so far. We hope to do this each Tuesday and perhaps also get a bike ride in together every now and then.

Of course the funniest thing is that John understood that we were going to do the Sprint distance triathlon (400m swim, 15 mile cycle and 4 mile run). Imagine his horror then on discovering last night that in fact we're going to do the full Olympic distance (1500m, 40km and 10km). Luckily John is not the sort of person to back out of anything.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Once in your career

It's funny sometimes how life can pass you by when you take your eye off the ball. Although at home all day yesterday with a poorly daughter, and aware of the grim weather, I failed to notice the news that Torbay and Salcombe Lifeboats were at sea conducting a truly impressive rescue in gale force 8 winds and 5m seas.

Called at 7.30 on Sunday evening the rescue was carried out by Torbay lifeboat in the dark. Overall 30 or 40 attempts to come alongside were made before all of the 8 crewmembers were recovered. In the words of the Spencer Gammond from the RNLI, the lifeboat crews operated "at the very limit" to evacuate the ship. I'm damn sure they did. Well done lads.

Thankfully the lifeboat was undamaged and nobody from either crew or the Ice Prince was injured. In itself a miracle given the no-existent margin for error and safety in a rescue such as this.

The Ice prince has subsequently sunk but remains a danger to shipping.

(Photo: from Torbay station website)

Monday, 14 January 2008

New Building

Ian Brown, Station Officer of Swanage Coastguard team, has begun writing a blog about their latest project. I have previously mentioned their fight to get planning permission for a new building to house their kit and provide space to maintain it while at the same time providing space for training too. Well, Ian has decided to chronicle the build with a blog. Early indications are that this will be well informed and interesting so if you want to get a flavour of what they are up to look here.

Sunday, 13 January 2008


You know Chad? Loyal friend, all round bonne viveur, generous host, adoring boyfriend (not of mine!), dependable and capable lifeboat man. Well, he's off to Iraq yet again. Not, this time, as a soldier but as a civilian contractor. You see in real life he rebuilds tanks for a living and has been asked to go to Iraq as part of a forward repair party.

Anyway, Godspeed Chad. You'll be in our prayers..........hasten back.

Friday, 11 January 2008

9 to 5

So when we aren't speeding about in lifeboats, training or on a shout. What do we all do? Well, we're a pretty varied bunch really. If I can remember rightly we have: 2 chippies, 4 RNLI full time employees, teacher, gardener, Jewsons manager, software development manager, shellfish fisherman, charter boat skipper, estate agent, youth minister, local government worker, pa to a patent agent, electrician, 2 tank re-builders, chef, aerial fitter, CAD designer, mechanic and an outdoor instructor. We also have Paul 'B' and none of us have any idea what he does.

So there you go!

On the same boat
With a lot of your friends
Waitin' for the day
Your ship'll come in
And the tides gonna turn
An its all gonna roll you away

Workin' 9 to 5
What a way to make a livin
Barely gettin' by
Its all takin'
And no givin'
They just use your mind
And you never get the credit
It's enough to drive you
Crazy if you let it

(Dolly Parton)

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Roger Rother

Good news.........

I heard on Sunday that Martin had spoken with Roger and that he intends to come to Swanage with the J.Reginald Corah once more in August for our Lifeboat week. We are of course absolutely delighted as Roger is a true friend of ours and he would have been sorely missed had he not made it. By all accounts he is in good form and has an interesting proposition from a museum in Holland who wish to help him look after the Rother. I will try and get full details and get more information.

Of course I'd quite forgotten that I'd had this conversation with Martin until I idly browsed YouTube this evening and came across this recently posted clip including the J.Reginald Corah .

Best wishes Roger!

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Fit for purpose

This looks like a medieval instrument of torture. It's not. It is in fact a rather cleverly designed machine which allows some one's ability to pull a piece of rope to be tested.Why would you want to test this? Well, it is deemed, by the powers that be in the RNLI, to be a representative task that a lifeboat crewmember could be expected to perform while serving on a lifeboat. And so, it has been included in the newly introduced fitness test which all crewmembers must now pass.

Tonight we gathered at the station to take this test for the first time. The idea behind it is, I think (and I'm sure I'll be corrected if I'm wrong), simply to make sure that crewmembers have a basic level of physical fitness to allow them to proceed to sea in a lifeboat and perform any tasks which might be expected of them. Makes sense. It has also allowed the RNLI to do away with a compulsory retirement age. Now, once a crewmember has reached a certain age, they take this test every year and can remain on the crew beyond the previous age limit of 55 (provided they pass). This is excellent for the RNLI because it means that they can retain their most experienced crew beyond what was previously an essentially arbitrary retirement age. What sensible and pragmatic thinking!So, for my sins, I had to undertake the test. To be honest it was all a bit of a laugh. The final exercise was the rope pulling thing and naturally we all became a bit competitive with this. Of course I couldn't possibly be so indiscreet as to say who got the best time. So, I simply want to say......well done you plucky losers!

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

New recruit #1

Along for the ride on Sunday we also had Darren who is one of our newest recruits. He has been hanging around the station 'showing an interest' for the last 6 months or so and was promoted to shore helper at the last crew-meeting. This also means that he is now insured and so can be taken to sea once or twice to whet his appetite and give him a flavour of what we do. Judging by the grins he enjoyed himself and wants more. Good news too because he works locally as a butcher and is fit and healthy......just what we need. In due course, provided he turns up, completes his training, avoids annoying too many people and makes enough cups of tea, then I'm sure he will be elevated to the dizzy heights of 'probationary' crewmember. Good luck!

Oh, by the way. The Triathlon training is going well so far. I completed 1200m in the pool tonight which is a first. The only slight downside is I also discovered that triathletes seem to complete the bike and run part of the race wearing something that closely resembles a pair of underpants! I'm shocked.......

Monday, 7 January 2008

Salvage pump

As part of yesterday's exercise Martin wanted Nick and Oli to spend the time dealing with a scenario based around a search for a water-logged boat. The starting point was getting the 'x-boat' rigged, into the water then using the salvage pump to fill it with water. Although this was only meant to be setting up the exercise it proved to be a significant task in itself!First Oli tried to untangle the hose.Then Nick tried to prime it with water.Then Oli tried to get the pump to start. Then he tried again with the fuel turned on!Then they sprayed water into the dinghy until it was quite full.'Dead fred' didn't look too happy......never does.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

A nice bit of Vera Lynn

This morning we exercised both boats. We launched at 9.30am and went round to the west to put the boats through their paces near Anvil point. It was a great exercise and I took loads of photos which I'll post over the next few days.

To get you started here's a shot of the ILB 'veering in' near the lighthouse. This procedure involves anchoring the boat, then using the engine in reverse to drive the boat backwards as the anchor line is released. This gives a great deal of control and is particularly useful when the boat is near cliffs........something we do lots of.

Does anybody here remember Vera Lynn?
Remember how she said that
We would meet again
Some sunny day?
Vera! Vera!
What has become of you?
Does anybody else in here
Feel the way I do?

(Pink Floyd - Vera)

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Adventurous living

Being an adventurous sort of a person, I have ambitions to wear more rubber this year. I also plan to wear more lycra. Being the season for making oneself daft promises I've decided to take part in the Swanage Triathlon in August. Now I'm a competent runner and we can all cycle (can't we?) However, I swim like a brick! Should be fun.

On a related note. I'll be doing this to raise money for the lifeboats. Watch this space for further details. Also, I have a shortage of the necessary equipment. So if you have any spare Triathlon kit lying around (or would like to sponsor kit!) that you are willing to donate to the cause it would be gratefully accepted. I'm large (6ft, 34inch waist) and specifically need: a triathlon wetsuit, goggles, a triathlon race suit, size 11 cycling shoes, bike helmet and tri-bars for a racing bike. Worth a try!

We are exercising tomorrow so be sure to visit for the first sight of the Robert Charles Brown at sea in 2008.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

In the Bleak Midwinter

At 0505 this morning the Met office were forecasting a typically grim wintry day in the channel:

Thames Dover Wight Portland Plymouth:
East or southeast 6 or 7, occasionally gale 8, decreasing 4 or 5 later. Moderate or rough, occasionally very rough in Plymouth. occasional rain or sleet. Moderate or good, occasionally poor.

As I looked up from my breakfast I noticed this fellow crossing the bay heading out into what is bound to be rougher weather. Stood on my decking the temperature was 0 degrees but felt like minus 5 in the 20 odd Mile per hour winds.

I hope he has a fair passage.

The pilot he looked out ahead
The hands on the cane and the heavin' of the lead
And the old man roared to wake the dead
Come and get your oats me son

Oh, now we see the lizzard light
Soon, me boys, we'll heave in sight
We'll soon be abreast of the Isle of Wight
Come and get your oats me son

(Whup Jamboree - Traditional Shanty)

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

And a happy New Year!

So, the New Year has arrived without a hitch (or shout even). Last night was a quiet one for me, no over-indulgence thankfully so this morning arrived bright and cheery. We had visitors coming for the day which was fun. All the way from Denmark as it happened with two young boys. Short of something to do for a couple of hours we took a stroll down to the boathouse. I think it's fair to say we now have a couple of dedicated Danish supporters of the RNLI!Morton and Espen loved being in the ILB and trying on a couple of Gecko helmets. Indeed it was tricky to prise them away from it.They each had a go at driving the Mersey.You could see the steely glint in their eyes as they imagined taking part in some huge heroic lifesaving effort!Before we left all four of the kids jumped into the 'rescue dinghy' for a play......good old-fashioned fun.

Perhaps not surprisingly as we walked home Espen declared that he wished to be a Lifeboatman when he grows up. Do we allow Vikings to serve as crew?

Happy New Year everyone. Here's hoping it's a good one.