Monday, 31 March 2008


No sooner back from Scotland and North Yorkshire than I am away again (the Solent sailing this time with a school expedition). Many thanks to Nick for keeping things going in my absence, excellent work! Becky has agreed to post a few thoughts this week then we are back to normal next week.

The picture by the way is the recently completed boathouse in Whitby harbour. It is a superb building, mounted on stilts and built in the local materials of sandstone, brick and red pantiles. It's been carefully designed to blend into the harbour scene and I think it does this superbly. It looks awesome and will no doubt serve Whitby well for many years to come.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Slow Summer Drivers

This is my absolute pride and joy, my 1971 Volkswagen Type 2 Campervan (dormobile conversion)!  Obviously the paint scheme is different to the way it rolled out the factory, but it's basic state is all original.  She is also a joy to drive and holiday in.

VW Campers are one of those quirky obsessions, where you're either into them enough to go out and buy one - or just a casual adoring admirer (I simply refuse to believe that anyone out there could dislike them, so we'll just pretend that those people don't exist for now!).  Cool, it definitely is, quick, it definitely is not, when responding to a shout - it has actually been overtaken by crew on the way to the boathouse!

...whilst we're on the topic of slow vehicles... this is Johnny G's pride and joy.  Now, I'm no expert in the field of Land rovers - in fact I will freely admit to knowing virtually nothing at all.  But I do know three things, an astonishing number of the crew own them, they are all very different in looks, capabilities and plain noisiness, and they are all passionate about them.  

So chances are, if you see, or hear, a Landy this summer, blasting down the high street - it's more than likely one of the crew!  Don't forget to wave :)

p.s. If it's either of these vehicles you'll have plenty of time!

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Lifeboat dog

This is Paul and his work mate Shiloe - the Border Collie.

It's not uncommon to show up at the boathouse and be greeted by Shiloe's black fluffy nose at the top of the stairs to our crew room - and a friendly one it always is too!

I think that 'Shi' rightly owns the title of Swanage lifeboat dog, due to the number of years he has been actively involved with our crew (though this may be contested by others who believe their dogs are more deserving of the title?).  
Though dogs, obviously, can't be taken on the boats, or be allowed to get in the way of winch activities, they do often provide plenty of fun, and of course company, for those who are left behind during shouts or even just exercises.  They are also big supporters of our lifeboat week activities (the dry land ones), which looks set to be another excellent one this summer!

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Night Bag

During the winter months there is a higher chance of a callout in the dark (due to it being dark most of our 24hrs!), for the Mersey this is no problem since it already has all equipment on board.  However, for the D-class, space is at a premium and certain items simply have to be added as required.
This is where our night bag comes in.  The job of shore crew and anyone else to hand at the boathouse when responding to a shout, is to get the ILB ready to launch as quickly as possible.  When you are likely to be out in the dark, the night bag is packed - this includes two handheld spotlights, two battery packs (these are on permanent mains charge) and two night sights (James Bond style gadgets which work extremely well).  Also in the picture is the handheld radio, which is always put on board anyway but is helpful to grab whilst packing the bag in-case you forget later.   

The night bag is then attached to the clips on the sides of two other storage bags on the boat, seen in this picture.


Sunday, 23 March 2008

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to you all.  May you have a wonderful day, however you choose to spend it.

I have heard from my family in Suffolk that there is thick snow - so presumably John is also enjoying a snowy Easter up in Scotland this week.  We, however are being rained on in Swanage - I believe it's only snowed here once in 12 years!  

Above are a few more pictures of yesterdays rowing fun - note John Deas with the 'all or nothing approach', presumably how he's preparing for the not so distant triathlon!  

God bless you all today.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Rowing, Running & Rescuing

Matt in recovery from his row

It wasn't said aloud, but i expect that all the crew would have bet on a shout at some point today... guess what?  With a hail of pagers bleeping we all took off from the Rowing Club event in the direction of the boathouse packed in Gav's new Landrover.  This is how the following events took place;

At 13:20 Portland Coastguard requested the launch of Swanage's All Weather Lifeboat to go to the assistance of a 33' yacht with 3 POB that had gone aground just to the West of Chapman's Pool. The spring tide was ebbing fast and the yacht was already hard aground. Ten minutes later the lifeboat launched and headed to Chapman's Pool at full speed. Once on scene the lifeboat approached the yacht from deeper water and a towline was passed across. The yacht's crew made the towline fast and the lifeboat gently pulled the yacht's bow round causing it to slide off the rock ledge that it was stuck on. The yacht was then towed out into deeper water and the skipper checked down below for any water ingress. As all was well onboard the yacht's crew were happy to continue on their passage to Weymouth so the lifeboat was stood down to return to station.

Despite the interruption, a great day was had by all involved with the Swanage Sea Rowing Club fundraising event.  
Competition took place in teams of 3, competing on rowing machines.  As you can see, Matt had a great time, as did the enormous crowd of onlookers, even though 10mins on a rower was more than enough!

Windy start

Well, it would seem that all the anticipated visitors to Swanage this Easter weekend have well and truly arrived. As I walked the dog this morning I watched crowds of people hurrying down to the town for morning teashop visits, breakfasts in cafe's and pottering time in the shops.

I also bumped into the lovely Kim and Becky, out with Ben (Gav's dog) - they too were battling with the strong windy gusts which seem to have arrived with the crowds.

It's another day for fundraising with the Swanage Sea Rowing Club. John Deas has got the crew organized to come into town this afternoon for a rowing competition against the fire brigade - winners get a crate of beer... should be a good turn out then!

Pics to follow later........

Friday, 21 March 2008

Over to you

The holidays are upon us and I must head to the North of the country for a few days. The weather looks set to be breezy for the duration so there's plenty of chance of some action. Once again I've enlisted the help of one of the crew as guest blogger. Some say he's as articulate as Shakespeare; others claim his wit is a match for Oscar Wilde's; all I know is he's called Nick. Good luck!

Thursday, 20 March 2008


I've said before that we often never hear the full story behind a shout. Sometimes we do but it can take time.

On the 22 August 2005 we launched at the request of Portland coastguard in response to a MayDay call from a local dive charter boat reporting the loss of a diver at the wreck of Kyarra. The diver was seen to surface some 30 metres from the dive boat holding onto his SMB (surface marker buoy) with his face mask and mouthpiece off. As the dive boat turned towards him the diver disappeared below the surface. Both lifeboats launched and started searching immediately. They were in due course joined by lifeboats from Weymouth and Poole and local charter vessels. Nothing was found. Last summer the unfortunate man's body was found by another diver near the wreck, almost 2 years to the day later.

Finally the inquest has been held and the coroner has recorded a verdict of accidental death. You can find more details here.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Young people

This is Sam, she is just in the process of joining the crew. Like many people in Swanage (me included) isn't a local, she hails from Middlesex and has recently moved into the area. She's clearly made of the right sort of stuff though as she has in the past been an active Scout and considered joining the police force. Presently though she works for her brother helping to clean and manage local holiday properties. She doesn't drive a car so must be one of our greenest crewmembers! I recently made the mistake of asking what her 5 favourite tunes are, she named 4 artists that I have never heard of........I must be getting old?

Talking of young people I have recently been following the journey of young Seb Green from Weymouth. He's reached Yorkshire and is presently holed up about a mile and a half from my Mother and Stepfather's home. It turns out that his dog, Flash, has had an accident so they are having to pause a few days to recuperate. Naturally I've offered my Mother's services for a spot of washing!

Tonight is an exercise and crewmeeting so fresh photos in the morning!

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Unsung heros

For a number of reasons I rarely seem to have included photos of certain crewmembers on these pages. To make up for it here are a couple of faces who rarely seem to feature here but are nevertheless committed and longstanding crewmembers.

Dan here joined the crew nearly 5 years ago. He is a crewmember on the ALB and ILB and is currently training to be a navigator onboard. He's the latest of a long line of Landers to fish our local waters and works (not the word his Dad Jeff would chose to use to describe what he does) with his father onboard his crabber the 'Star of Hennock'. He has a reputation on the crew for his carefully attended facial hair and his immense strength........we live in hope that one day he will succeed in growing a full beard and we will discover something that he can't lift.

Meanwhile James here has been on the crew of both boats since the turn of the millennium. Generally known as Jim he is a quiet kind of guy but excitable when provoked. By day he works as a CAD designer which means he is probably far more intelligent than he actually looks (apparently his IQ is 144 however we've seen little evidence of this). When not on the boat or at work he is most likely to be found hanging out the back of someone else's boat and describes his hobby as standing on boards (wake, snow & surf). He likes offroad driving but has yet to see the light and get himself a proper offroader. His lifeboating claim to fame is that he has been a calender boy on an RNLI calendar………fully clothed mind you!

Monday, 17 March 2008

If you ever

see one of these floating around at sea........don't panic, it's just part of a lifeboat exercise.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Roving fender

As a rule we try not to damage casualty vessels when we come alongside them.

It's not the top priority you understand; we are, after all, there to save lives and folk should understand that when they call for us. However, if at all possible we take a great amount of care to prevent damage. Routinely this means that in addition to the 'D' fendering on the side of the Mersey we also attach a line of extra inflatable fenders. We carry six so we tie five and use the last one as a 'Roving Fender'. On almost every shout I have been on this (and the skilled driving of Martin of course) has been enough to mean both vessel return unscathed.

There are of course occasions where this kind of nicety is so far down the list of priorities as to be irrelevant!

Thursday, 13 March 2008

She's a model

We returned slightly early from Sunday's exercise as we were due visitors. The husband of the elderly lady shown here built this superb model of the J.Reginald Corah in 1973 and I presume it has been in the family home ever since. For whatever reason she has now decided to donate it to us and as you can imagine, we are absolutely delighted. To be honest it is nothing short of a work of art, as far as I can spot it is perfect in every detail. I am looking forward to seeing Roger's face when he sees it.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Emergency steering

So one of the seamanship evolutions we practised on Sunday morning was rigging and using the emergency steering. The Mersey's primary steering system is a hydraulic system which is robust, reliable but ultimately not infallible. A situation could be imagine where a hose splits or a pump fails and this would leave us with no steering. Now in a boat with two engines and two props this is not a major problem provided the steering fails when the rudders are in the centre. However, if they fail with 30 degrees of starboard rudder on it would be handy to be able to bring them back to midships.

For just this situation our steering system is designed so that the hydraulics can be disengaged allowing the rudders to move freely, we then carry two block and tackles which can be rigged onto a lever on the top of the rudder stock to enable the rudders to be moved (because the rudders are semi-balanced and small they are light enough to be moved even at full speed). The system only takes a few minutes to rig but needs two crewmembers to operate who must stand in pretty exposed positions on the rear deck.

Once rigged the system can be used to steer the vessel both at slow speed and high speed but the preferred option is generally to centre both rudders and then steer on the engines. Nevertheless, we often rig it and practise using it as it is good for developing teamwork and highlights the need for good, clear and timely communications.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Sunny Sunday morning

In complete contrast to today's weather, yesterday mornings exercise was a very pleasant affair with a gentle swell, little breeze and clear skies.

With an experienced crew of Martin, myself, Steve, Skid, Gav, Dan, James and Matt onboard we ran straight through the whole sequence of seamanship manoeuvres (anchoring, man-overboard, emergency steering, drogue, coming alongside and salvage pump)at the same time as getting Gav and Steve to spend some time helming and Dan and Skid some time navigating.

All went well and a very profitable 2 hours were spent reassuring ourselves that our kit functions well and we know our stuff.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Silly season

I was woken this morning to a news report on Radio 2 talking about Dexter the dog and his fall. The Telegraph newspaper also has a piece in it this morning including a comment from Becky. Sadly this carried a photo of the dog and not the lovely Becky. I'll make up for that omission here.

Thanks to Andy who also spotted these mentions online in the Mirror and the Echo(now get back to work Andy).

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

The revolting MCA

For the first time in their history the 700 staff of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) are going on strike.

Their grievance centres around the fact that their pay rates are significantly behind those of the other rescue services (consider the fact that the person who handles your MAYDAY call earns something similar to the person who flips your burgers).

Indeed the situation is so bad that Watch Assistants recently needed a 'special' pay rise just to bring them up to the level of the national minimum wage! Now I don't often swear but that is simply bloody outrageous. These are skilled men and women who have the experience and skills required to ensure the safety of shipping in British waters and who save lives through their professionalism in co-ordinating search and rescue operations. I'm damn sure they earn their money, how about we actually give it to them too?

So tomorrow they walk out. And I fully support that. We in the lifeboat service will carry on with business as usual. So too will all of the volunteer Coastguards around the coast. I'm not entirely sure how the extraordinarily high level of service which the MCA employees normally provide will be covered but it won't be easily done. Lets pray for calm weather.

Comrades. I salute you.......

Monday, 3 March 2008


On the whole I try not to mention casualties by name so as not to embarass them. On this occasion it probably doesn't matter if I do. Shortly after 1 this afternoon the ILB was asked to launch by Portland to retrieve a dog (Dexter)which had fallen down the cliff near Old Harry. As is so often the case he was basically fine. In fact, so fine that he got up and swam out to the ILB! If only people bounced as well. Kev, Oli and Ant were back on the slip shortly after they handed Dexter over to his relieved owners at Middle Beach in Studland.


Something seems to be a-miss at the BT exchange in Swanage. Sadly this means that my broadband connection is no longer as connected as it should be. Normal service will resume at BT's leisure.

Ah ah
Something ain't right
I'm gonna get myself
I'm gonna get myself
I'm gonna get myself connected
I ain't gonna go blind
For the light which is reflected
I see thru you

(Stereo MC's)