Thursday, 28 February 2008

Busy Wednesday

One way or another yesterday was busy.

Firstly at about 2 in the afternoon Portland Coastguard paged the DLA and asked for the ALB to be launched to a 45 foot yacht with 2 people aboard. It was becalmed about 2 miles South of Anvil Point with a rope round its prop.

The Mersey launched 12 mins later and was soon alongside the yacht. A towline was passed across and after checking that there was no other damage the yacht was towed back to Swanage and was secured to the Lifeboat mooring in Swanage Bay.
Later in the early evening local diver, Robin Plowman, went out to the yacht and cleared the obstruction allowing the vessel to continue her passage today.

Just as the evenings exercise was about to commence at 7, Martin sprung a dramatic multi casualty Medical Exercise on the crew. Paul Savage had provided the casualty scenarios and various friends acted as the casulties. Observing was a Coastguard colleague who is also an ambulance paramedic.

Here Kev deals with a young man who has fallen, was unresponsive and had a suspected spinal injury and significant bruising.....certainly 'Big Sick'.

Gav was dealing with a lady who had some nasty puncture wounds, looked a real mess but was in reality only 'Little Sick'. Gav treated what he could and then stayed with her providing comfort and reassurance. Alltogether, a very well conducted exercise.

Immediately afterwards both boats went to sea on exercise and completed various evolutions in the bay. The ALB took an inexperienced crew out; Jo had a first go at using the Radar under Dave's supervision, Gav navigated, Matt was Mechanic and Tom took on the role of second Cox on deck. A good learning experience for all.

On completion a quick de-brief then down to the Ship for the analysis!

Monday, 25 February 2008

Barmouth Lifeboat

This is Barmouth Lifeboat station. It was re-built on this new site about 4 years ago due to problems with their afloat Mersey drying out at low water making it impossible to launch. It was decided that they would be better able to guarantee being able to launch 24/7 if they had a boat which was carriage launched rather than on a mooring. At the same time it was decided to provide a boathouse to store it in along with room for changing, training and administration. The result is this truly magnificent structure in the most prominent position possible on Barmouth seafront.

I remember watching it being built and marvelling at the foundations which were made largely from what looked like polystyrene; necessary due to it being built on sand dunes.

Inside they have exactly the same classes of lifeboats as us (Mersey and IB1) but also a truly impressive array of launching equipment. First up is this New Holland tractor for launching the ILB and keeping the slip clear of sand.

Then next door in the ALB shed is this magnificent creature.......a Talus tractor. This 'go-anywhere' machine can not only drag a huge lifeboat and carriage over soft sand, it can also drive it into the sea until it is entirely submerged. Awesome!

Needless to say I'm jealous. Those boys in Barmouth must have thought all their Christmases had come at once when all this new kit arrived?

Sunday, 24 February 2008

My idea of heaven on earth......

So thanks to Gavin for holding the fort in my absence. I have to say I had every expectation that he would do a fine job. He didn't let us down. So I'm now back and, in the absence of anything happening on the lifeboating front, here are a few photos from Wales.....

On the quayside in Barmouth I happened upon this incredibly well cared for building. The Barmouth Sailors' Institute. Being a sailor and interested in these sort of things I ventured inside and found a real gem.

It was erected in 1890 by Canon Edward Hughes, then Rector of Barmouth who was known for his endeavours to meet both the spiritual and the social needs of his parishioners. It is apparently a rare surviving example of its kind.

Institutes of this type were once common in coastal communities throughout the British Isles. They were important meeting places for sailors and their families and served both a social and educational need. I assume that they were encouraged as they provided an alternative meeting place to the pub?

In addition to the fine Victorian Reading Room which remains very much as it was when built (but is clearly intended to be used judging by the assortment of recent journals and books), the Institute houses a Billiard Room which is still used today.

If I hadn't had the kids with me I might have lost a day or two in there!

Friday, 22 February 2008

Fit for Duty...

A little while ago I broke my cheek bone in an unfortunate rugby incident. For those of you thinking ouch, that sounds like it hurt, I can confirm that it does, a lot! This meant that I couldn't do too much for a while and a few things had to stop until I was mended. One of these things unfortunately was lifeboat. There is nothing worse than sitting in the crew room watching your mates disappear down the slip without you.

Well this week i was given the all clear to return to active service or "fit for duty" by our LMA (Lifeboat Medical Adviser I think?) After a thorough prod and a poke I was off out the door, letter in hand, smile on face!

Seeing as I have the blog this week I thought I'd take this oppurtunity to thank everyone who helped me out during my injury. The doctors and nurses at Poole Hospital,who do an amazing job under often difficult cicustances, friends and family and anyone who popped in offering tea and sympathy. Most of all thanks to my girlfriend Kim for putting up with me and bringing soup. I really am an awful patient!

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Shakespeare brings sophistication to Lifeboat week...

As scary as it sounds Lifeboat week is now rapidly approaching and final details for the event are slowly being finalised.

New for this year is the extension into Sunday night with an open air performance of "A Winters Tale" by The Rain or Shine theatre Company. As the name suggests this event will go on regardless of the usually unpredictable British weather!

Tickets will be going on sale from Easter at a cost of £10 booked before the event or £12 on the door. These will doubtless be the hottest tickets in town so watch this space....

For more information follow the link to:

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

"Jack Cleare" returns to station... with a new bottom!

Our ILB "Jack Cleare" returned to station today after her 18 month refit. She returns to station looking fantastic and it looks like another good job by the fitters at ILC, Cowes. ( Inshore Lifeboat Centre) This was the third refit since the introduction of "Jack Cleare" back in August 2003 .

Most exciting is her new reinforced bottom, designed to prevent the cavitation and loss of speed experienced by some of the older boats. Much of the trial work was undertaken here at Swanage with crews asked to put hours on the boat and test it in varying weather conditions. All new IB1's will now receive this modifcation during their build.

Changing boats is no easy business although we seem to be getting pretty good at it! It requires a small number of willing crew members with not much better do on a Tuesday afternoon, all under Dave's watchful eye!

First of all the boat leaving station needs to be stripped and everything that stays with us is put to one side.

"Jack Cleare" is unveiled on it's trailer. Will it pass the inspection?

Then the whole process is done in reverse and final checks are made.

Finally the fun bit, a quick blast out to sea to prove the engine and electrics. It was nice to get a feel of how she handles and how all the improvements have affected the boat. It's safe to say we were all really impressed with a good job well done.

Monday, 18 February 2008

A new helmsman.....

Well done to Jon Deas who after inspection with the DI last Thursday, starts the week as the newest ILB helmsman.

Ilb helms are required to pass a fairly rigorous examination or"passing out" before they are allowed to take the boat to sea on shouts or exercises. Navigation, seamanship, decision making and local area knowledge are all tested both on the water and back in the boathouse. Being a helmsman brings with it a large amount of responsibility. First and foremost the safety of yourself and the crew, the boat and the ability to effect a rescue even in the harshest conditions.

I'm sure Deasy will do a great job and bring with him the enthusiasm and proffessionalism we all know and love him for!!!

Sunday, 17 February 2008

I must start by saying thanks to John for inviting me to write his blog this week while he takes a well earned break from the rigours of teaching! I feel it would not be right if I did not find something mildly embarassing of John to kick the week off....

This morning saw the crew out of bed bright and early to attend the Sunday exercise with both boats going afloat. I was unable to attend unfortunately, but the Coxwain told me over a cup of tea, it was a useful exercise. With quite a few of the older, more experienced crew away it was a good oppurtunity for some of the newer crew to get their hands wet.

Friday, 15 February 2008


Sadly my Headmaster has told me that I am not allowed to come to school and teach for the next's half term you see, and I now have to wait a week before I can have the pleasure of the little darlings again.

Oh well, I'd better make the most of it I guess and go somewhere fun. The plan is to head up to North Wales to spend a week Mountainbiking in Snowdonia. In my absence Gav has agreed to try and keep you amused, lets hope he does as well as all the other guest bloggers have done, no pressure Gav!

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Acronyms, TLAs, ETLAs & STLAs

An Acronym is a new word or pronounceable (and hence memorable) name coined from the first or first few letters or parts of a phrase. Therefor RADAR is an Acronym (because it's pronouncable) and MMSI is not (because it's not pronouncable). As mentioned last week, we use a lot of Acronyms in the RNLI, we also use a lot of TLAs (Three letter abreviations), ETLAs (Extended Three Letter Abreviations) and STLAs (Shortened Three Letter Abreviations)..........Whatever you call 'em, here are a few more courtesy of Dave:

ALB = All-weather Lifeboat
ILB = Inshore Lifeboat
COACS = Call Out and Communications System, this brings together our paging system with a few other elements like PMRs and mobiles.
DI = Divisional Inspector
DDI = Deputy Divisional Inspector
TDI = Training Divisional Inspector
DE = Divisional Engineer
DDE = Deputy Divisional Engineer
EPIRB = Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon
SART = Search and Rescue Transponder
GPS - Global Positioning System
DGPS = Differential Global Positioning System, this is a type of GPS which compares your receivers' position with a receiver at a known (fixed) point on land and hence removes a level of variable errors.

So there you have it!

Wednesday, 13 February 2008


Charles here is one of our DLAs. He is a fine example of just what a DLA should be. Amongst the crew he commands a large amount of authority. This is backed up by being professional and hugely experienced in the ways of the sea. Being a retired naval officer with several sea-going commands under his belt he brings a great deal to the party. Glad to have you with us Charles.......

Monday, 11 February 2008

The youth of today..........

Plucky Weymouth teenager Seb Green is about to walk around the coast of Britain. The 18-year-old will spend nearly a year walking 5,821 miles (9,367km) with his border collie dog, Flash. He's going to do this to 'give something back' after his foolish actions 3 years ago when he and a friend took a boat for a joyride in Portland harbour but became trapped in mud in the Fleet and had to be rescued by coastguards, two helicopters and a couple of lifeboats. Part of Seb's mission will involve raising awareness of sea safety for the RNLI and giving talks to youngsters.

Seb admitted: "It was a very stupid thing to do. At the time I felt extremely guilty but as time has moved on the sense of guilt has faded because I am now planning to repay the community for the money I wasted and repay some of the money it cost to rescue me."

You can find out more here.

(Photo: Martin Singer)

Saturday, 9 February 2008


Now I've long held the view that it's best not to spring suprises on older people. In my experience they tend not to like them too much and they can, in extreme cases, have life limiting consequences.Despite this, Martin's family last night arranged a suprise party for him in the Ship. And what an awesome do it was. The place was full to the gunnels with seemingly everyone I know in Swanage, there was superb food and of course a group of men fiddling in the corner. Being an athletic bunch the crew (and the rowing club) rose to the challenge of a spot of extreme dancing. As usual, the casualty rate was high but the spectacle was extraodinary to watch.And Martin, the centre of attention looked pleased as punch. And, when you consider this fine photo on his birthday cake, the years have actually been pretty kind to him! Here's to the next 50 mate!

Friday, 8 February 2008


Being as it's the first day of the rest of Martin's life I thought I'd post another nostalgic picture for him today.

I was asked earlier on this week what the 'Three Letter Abreviation' DLA meant. It got me thinking that perhaps it was time that I did a post about the various TLAs and Acronyms which we use. So, to whet your appetite here are a few:

LOM = Lifeboats Operations Manager (known to all as GOD), in our case Neil Hardy, the man who is the ultimate authority for the operations side of station life.

DLA = Deputy Launching Authority, we have 4, they deputise for the LOM and take it in turns, week and week about to be the person who takes the Coastguards' call and gives authority for the crew to be paged.

DSC = Digital Selective Calling, a clever addition to the VHF radio system which allows the caller to 'dial' the MMSI number for the vessel he is hailing and get patched straight through.

MMSI = Maritime Mobile Service Identity, a number unique to each vessel which is registered which can be used to call a vessel direct using DSC VHF.

RADAR = Radio Detection and Ranging, equipment we use in fog and at night to spot targets and land which might be best avoided. Can also be used for navigational purposes.

VHF = Very High Frequency, radio equipment used for line of sight communications.

HF = High Frequency, radio equipment used for long range communications.

PMR = Private Mobile Radio, used by us for communicating with the boathouse and can also be patched into the mobile phone network (to let the family know when you'll be home!)

I can't think of any more of the top of my head but if anyone else can please get in touch and I'll add them.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

50 not out...........

Martin is our Coxswain. I think you'll agree he's a cheerful looking chap?

We couldn't ask for a finer one. He keeps us safe, makes the right decisions time after time, gets the task done and does a marvellous job of welding us into a team of happy and contented lifeboatfolk. And all this whilst looking such a picture of contentment!

And, for him, today is something of a milestone. Despite having the appearance of a man half his age, he is celebrating his fiftieth birthday as we speak. So, despite being a sprightly and cheery fellow he is now officially an old man..........the Gandalf of our little lifeboating world.

A man of simple pleasures, Martin is happiest with a cup of coffee in hand. It somehow seems to mellow him.

A pint also has the effect of brightening his already cheery disposition.

They say it's your birthday
It's my birthday too, yeah
They say it's your birthday
We're gonna have a good time
I'm glad it's your birthday
Happy birthday to you

Come on
Come on

Yes we're going to a party party
Yes we're going to a party party
Yes we're going to a party party

I would like you to dance (Birthday)
Take a cha-cha-cha-chance (Birthday)
I would like you to dance (Birthday)
Dance yeah

Come on

I would like you to dance (Birthday)
Take a cha-cha-cha-chance (Birthday)
I would like you to dance (Birthday)
Oh dance! Dance

They say it's your birthday
Well it's my birthday too, yeah
They say it's your birthday
We're gonna have a good time
I'm glad it's your birthday
Happy birthday to you


Wednesday, 6 February 2008

15 Years service

Gordon here is 70! He's been one of the DLAs in Swanage for very nearly 15 years. He began his work as a DLA on April Fool's day 1993 and has tirelessly served the RNLI and the crew here in Swanage. Now the job of the DLA can be pretty thankless. In effect during a shout they are the highest authority at the station. So once they have given their permission for the boat to launch they are left trying to manage the crew that remain, a job not unlike trying to herd thin air. Despite this Gordon has always exercised a light touch and done a marvellous job.

I have no doubt we will continue to see lots of Gordon. But in the meantime, thank you from all the crew and have a happy retirement!

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

You've changed

Charles Bowley, a reader of this blog, mailed this week to say that he had a few photos of the day the Robert Charles Brown arrived on station. The pictures are superb and I will use some more this week. However, this one really caught my eye. This was the crew at the time. How things change! Only three remain as crew now (Martin, Robert and Jon Dear). Of the rest, some remain but in other roles (Dave Corben - DLA) while the rest are enjoying a gentle retirement. They all have significantly less hair and what there is is a more distinguished colour.

Of those who remain; Martin has now lost the slug-like appendage which was hanging on his upper lip in those days and Robert has now passed puberty and become a man!

Memory, all alone in the moonlight
I can dream of the old days
Life was beautiful then
I remember the time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again

(Babara Streisand)

Monday, 4 February 2008

There but for the grace..........

It would have been hard to have missed the stories in the press last week of vessels aground at various locations around the British Coastline. Sadly one of these vessels was one of our own, the Severn class Portrush Lifeboat. It looks likely that she will end up a total write off having suffered significant hull damage after several days worth of pounding at the mercy of the pretty ferocious weather.

And that is the problem with lifeboating. You go out there at the very moment when everyone else is running for cover. Often you are required to get close in to the cliffs, rocks or reefs. Taking risks to save the lives of others. By the law of averages this doesn't always have a happy outcome. Luckily on this occasion no one was badly injured and no lives were lost. The crew will be struggling to come to terms with this difficult loss. My thoughts are with them.

Friday, 1 February 2008


Last Saturday was the RNLI SOS day at Harman's Cross. It was a small affair but well set up and well attended. Rob was there holding fort with an old 'D' class lifeboat (interestingly the firstone ever to be produced in orange rather than grey fabric).The guild ladies were out in force with there mobile shop selling all the usual goodies.And of course the great and the good, our Lifeboat Operations Manager Neil Hardy and Chairman Robin Tiller (and there better halves).My two girls enjoyed the whole thing. Sadly I don't think it was the attraction of the lifeboats but rather the combined pleasure of seeing Sarah and Becky.Ultimately these things are about raising funds but also raising awareness of what we do. So £1200ish was a welcome addition to the coffers and the event certainly helped raise awareness. A good show.