Wednesday, 30 July 2008

An advert

Well, lifeboat week is almost upon us. In a very few short days we Will be gearing up for a week of lifeboat centric fun. As ever there are more events than last year. One of the highlights will be the reptiles playing on the Saturday night. Last night they played on the sea front as part of the carnival. Naturally we felt it was important to go and support them and to whet our appetites for lifeboat week.

Quite a gang were present and in a real party mood too.

They played a terrific party set of classic oldies and favourite rock tunes.

As ever there was no shortage of crew willing to strut their stuff on the dance floor!

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Busy bay

Swanage is really busy. I mean 'really' busy. On Sunday when in between the Red Arrows and the carnival procession there were more boats in the bay than I have ever seen before. Dave Corben sent me this photo just as proof. He made the point that it is actually rather unbelievable that we were called out to the dinghy. Surely one of these boats must have noticed that the inflatable was a drift?

Anoyingly I can't get this photo to attach, I'll try again later!

Monday, 28 July 2008


have their uses. We have one which we occasionally depend upon aboard the Mersey. However, they can be a bit of a liability on the beach where they often get blown out to sea. Surprisingly we seldom get shouts to recover these things as there are generally plenty of folk passing by who can recover the thing before we are called.

Yesterday was an exception. Just as we were assembling for the carnival procession our pagers went off and the ILB was launched to recover two young people in an inflatable near te pier. Easy job, quickly done. Well done Gave, Kev and Deasy.

Sunday, 27 July 2008


Just a quick one.

I've just subscribed to Twitter (Look on the side bar to the right). This should allow me to update news automatically and provide more regular news on the fly without having to do complete posts. I'm not sure how it's going to work yet but will try it over the next few weeks.

Feel free to subscribe to it as it would be nice to know that someone was reading it!

Friday, 25 July 2008


Falling overboard is never a nice thing to do.

When you are 6 miles out to sea, sailing two handed and on a Gaff rigged cutter with huge amounts of rope, sail and rigging it's even worse.

The couple we went to assist last night were in just this situation. Anticipating a rising wind the skipper planned ahead and began to rig reefing lines on the booom to take in more sail prior to night-fall. One slightly larger than normal wave, a wet deck and a slip followed. Luckily he was wearing his lifeline so didn't get left behind the rapidly sailing yacht. Luckily his wife was efficient, capable and clear thinking.

She tried to help him onboard, this didn't work. She tied him alongside and sent a 'PanPan'. Soon every vessel in the area was on it's way, rescue 106 and us too. As we arrived on scene we heard the lady talking to rescue 106. There was little they could do with him strapped alongside so they suggested that she could cut him adrift and they could pick him out of the water. She considered this and suggested that as he was OK perhaps it would be best to wait for us!

Once on scene we put two crew onboard to asses the situation. Without further ado Gav and I hoisted the fellow onboard and began to asses his condition. Despite having been in the water for near to 45 minutes he seemed remarkably well. However he did have a head injury so we decided that the best course of action would be to get him onto the lifeboat and lift him off there to be taken to hospital. After a couple of runs in by the Mersey (and a slight collision) it was decided that a transfer was perhaps too risky given the relatively stable condition of the casualty.

We re-assessed the situation and decided to continue to sail the boat towards Poole, dry the casualty, get him warm and continue to monitor his condition. Before long we were enjoying a spanking sail in a lovely boat in superb conditions. Arriving in Poole was interesting as it was Thursday fireworks night and very busy on the marina and harbour. Luckily the lads from Poole lifeboat were in the boathouse so they cleared a bit of space for us and we soon had the boat alongside. An ambulance was waiting the check over the casualty and it seems as though he was fine thankfully.

A cup of coffee followed then home to bed...

(Apologies for the photo, there should be better on the station website)


Two rather complumentary quotes from the MCA...

Andy Jenkin, Watch Manager at Portland Coastguard said

"The man's wife deserves a great deal of praise for the calm way in
which she dealt with the emergency on their beautifully maintained
boat. They are clearly an experienced, competent couple and
throughout this rather frightening experience they maintained a
dialogue between the two of them on what they would do next. Harness
lines, radio, lifejackets, her competency using the radio, and the
calm way information was relayed. We couldn't ask for more from an
albeit surprised customer of the United Kingdom's search and rescue

"Our grateful thanks are also due to the Swanage RNLI lifeboat crew
for the extremely professional and sympathetic way they handled this
very unusual incident."

Thursday, 24 July 2008


It was exercise night last night and visitors were everywhere. Now that the school holidays have begun our every movement will be watched eagerly by expectant crowds such as these.

We also had a group of staff from HQ in Poole over for a visit. Andy White (oe of our old inspectors now running the 'Train One Save Many' campaign) had brought them over so that they could get a flavour of what goes on during a training night and how we approach training up new crewmembers.

Martin took the Mersey to sea with half of them aboard and let them get their hands on the various controls.

Meanwhile back in the boathouse I did a little bit of shore based training with the other half (knots, throwing a heaving line, a bit of chartwork and a Q&A session). I have to say that I really enjoy this sort of visit. Most of us here on the coast understand that without the support of everyone at HQ we would be unable to do our job. I think that for them it is a great chance to dispel some myths and clear up any misconceptions (one lady was astonished to see the large stack of letters we have recently got from people we have rescued).

Needless to say, once the boat was on the slip, washed down and in the boathouse it was of to the ship for a quick half...

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Spreading the word

Is something which we as lifeboat crew feel pretty passionate about. We strongly believe that what we do is vital work and worthy of being brought to as many people's attention as possible. Therefore it is no surprise that there is no shortage of volunteers from the crew when we are asked to give talks and presentations to people.

Yesterday Becky, Deasy and I went over to Lady St Mary's school in Wareham to talk to their Key Stage 1 and 2 children about our work and also to deliver the standard SeaSafety message. Not surprisingly we had a pretty enthusiastic and captive audience.

Of course, I'm pretty used to this sort of thing so it holds no fears for me. However, Becky and Deasy both found it a bit more intimidating. I think they were also both surprised by how hard you have to try to lower the level of your language when speaking to such a young audience (John struggles not to talk like a design engineer)!

Anyway, a great visit and thanks to Ginna (Miss Presland), the staff and pupils of Lady St Mary's for being so welcoming and their hospitality.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Pushing the boat out

There seems to have been a spate of thoughtless (and criminal) individuals pushing dinghies and other craft off beaches and hard stands out into the sea. Most of these are recovered by passing individuals and returned to their proper places. The ILB has just been launched to recover one such dinghy drifting near 1/2nm NOrth East of the lifeboat station. They recovered it and returned it to the beach in front of the angling club. I wonder if the individuals who did this care about the inconvenience they cause others? Perhaps in the light of other news stories this week about making offenders face their victims I shouldn't suggest it...doesn't seem to have done Jacqui Smith any good!

Monday, 14 July 2008

Similarly different

Lifeboats have characters all of their own; No two boats are the same. Dave, Chad, Matt and I found this out on Wednesday and Thursday when we took Amble's Mersey (Four Boys, 12-19, ex. Sennen Cove) from Poole to Falmouth for her refit.

For a start she only had East Coast charts in her chart plotter so we had to stop in Swanage and get our portfolio to upload. It turned out that their chart plotter had a significantly slower processor than ours and what should have been a quick job took ages.

It wasn't the only slow thing either, the boat was far slower than ours, perhaps as much as 2.5 knots slower (something like 15%). Over a long passage this becomes more and more noticeable. We concluded that having spent so long in Amble this pace of life had become customary!

One thing that wasn't different was the obligatory lifeboatman teddies provided by well meaning ladies (I have to say though, there's were much more smartly dressed than ours). There is something oddly reassuring about having these fellows along on a trip. I wonder if anyone out there could provide a more smartly dressed one for us?

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Where should I begin?

Blimey it's been busy! So busy in fact that I've not had time to sit down at the computer to check my e-mails, let alone post any updates here. Since finishing school last Friday I spent Saturday and Sunday riding the 'South Downs Way' with MarkR. Monday and Tuesday were spent guiding my father-in-law around some of the local sights. On Wednesday and Thursday DaveT, Chad, Matt and I took Amble's Mersey from Poole to Falmouth to be re-fitted. Friday I spent at home doing gardening jobs until my pager went off at about 4pm. I then spent the next 7 hours at sea on the Mersey dealing with an unusual situation where a yacht and it's keel had almost but not quite parted company.

As we proceeded at full speed towards the yachts position 16 miles SSE of Anvil point help was being rendered (coincidentally) by HMS Mersey. By the time we arrived the influx of water had been stemmed and an injured crewman removed to HMS Mersey. We used the sea boat from HMS Mersey to transfer me across to the yacht so that the situation could be assessed. After consultation with the skipper and the Royal Naval crewman who was onboard (who turned out to be on the crew of the Portsmouth lifeboat) it was decided to remove all the crew except myself and the skipper using the seaboat and then take the yacht in tow and then head in the direction which seemed least likely to make the keel fall off! Ultimately this resulted in us towing her in the direction of the Isle of Wight.

Normally in this sort of situation we would hand the vessel over to the next lifeboat along the coast (in this case it would have been Yarmouth) however, the Coxwain wisely decided against doing this as it would have meant a second transfer of the 7 crew from the un-necessary risk.

After a pretty lengthy tow we finally arrived in Lymington where we headed straight for the boat hoist in Berthons and had the yacht lifted out of the water. Upon inspection the yacht had clearly suffered a catastrophic failure of the GRP laminate around the hull and it was hard to ascertain exactly what was keeling the keel attached.

After a quick bite of fish and chips we headed straight back to Swanage and were re-housed at about 11.45pm. As a final flourish the starboard morse control on the Upper Steering Position failed just as Martin was putting her on the slip. Poor old DaveT then had to spend the next hour fixing this.

A long day...

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

ILB introductory course

One of the first courses any new crew member will take part in is the Introductory course for ILB crew at Poole. It lasts a week and covers all of the basics such as how to perform each of the expected tasks, how to handle the boat and how to keep yourself safe.Nick went on his course last week and one of the first things he found himself doing as swimming in the 'environmental pool' along with a capsized lifeboat.

One of the great things about a residential course as a crewmember is that it allows a first glimpse at the wider RNLI family. Suddenly you realise that Swanage is not the centre of the RNLI world and how we do things so not the only way!

Part of the capsize drill involves swimming under the capsized boat. Often this can be a challenging ordeal for new crew.

The skill in handling a lifeboat underway is not so much how to drive the thing through waves at high speed, rather, it is how to drive it safely at slow speed while close to other vessels. This is taught well.

New crew also learn how to tow other vessels. Often these are appreciably larger than the vessel doing the towing.

Of course the time spent in the bar is not time forms an essential part of the bonding experience and caters for different leaning styles.

It's also fun to see so many lifeboats out on the water at any one time.

So Nick, you've passed and are surely wiser and perhaps more importantly, more useful to us as a result. Well done!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Ballard Point

Lies directly to the north of our Lifeboat station. At about 7.40 last night a rambler fell a small distance onto the rocks there and fell unconscious. The Coastguard rescue team were sent to locate him and this they did with the assistance of the Swanage Sea Rowing Club gig which was over there a the time. It was decided that a lifeboat would be of assistance so we were paged and arrived on-scene pretty quickly. First Aid was rendered and the patient prepared for a Helicopter lift. Once aboard the helicopter he was taken directly to Dorchester A&E where he had a brain scan and was declared fine.

Crew on the ILB in this occasion were Kev, Dan and Oli. It was reported in the Bournemouth Echo this morning.