Friday, 30 May 2008

All quiet

around here for a week I'm afraid. Nothing much has been going on in the lifeboating world and I've been away (I forgot to sort out a guest blogger). Any ideas where I was?

Whilst I was away The Telegraph ran an RNLI piece which included photos of the Steedens and our boat, it also had a quote from the blog which was a pleasant surprise. Kayak blogger Wenley was kind enough to give it a mention too......good man!

Friday, 23 May 2008

Dancing ledge

During the exercise on Wednesday we used the ILB to put some of the crew ashore at Dancing Ledge. This feature of our coast was carved out of the cliff by quarrying and is the largest of quarries along our patch. It is a great place for the ILB to practise landing and can in fact be landed upon due to its gently shelving slope.

It's also a generally fun place to be. There is a small swimming pool which was blasted from the rock ledge. At high tide it fills with fresh sea water and then warms during the day. Tom and Jo enjoyed a soak.

Chad found this small cave. It seemed to bring out his 'Hobbit' like qualities!

There's still a good deal of evidence of quarry work. Look at this photo and you can see where the rock has been shaped to give a smooth ride to the wheels of the carts carrying stone.

There are also lots of these square holes on the ledge. They were cut so that the wooden posts from which the whims (hoists or winders) were constructed could be fixed to the rock surface.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

I completely forgot

to congratulate Matt on successfully passing his assesment as an emergency mechanic on the Mersey last time the inspector was with us.

He reminded me last night and looked genuinely hurt!

No offence intended Matt and here's a big up!!

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

What goes around comes around

Well that time of year is approaching again..........Lifeboat week! Yesterday Dave sent out a 25 page planning document to each of us. It contained details of each event, who is responsible for it, what has been booked, what needs doing etc etc.

Each year lifeboat week seems to grow and grow. This year there are some superb additions to the events lined up. These include a Shakespearian evening, Bingo and an open evening at the Boathouse. Of course all of the old favourites like raft racing, darts, sailing and gig racing, build a boat, stalls, cream teas, BBQ music bar and loads more are still there too. There really will be something for everyone so if you're at a loose end from the 10th to the 17th of August come to Swanage for some fun!

If you think you might be able to help please get in touch by e-mailing me or contacting the boathouse.

It's exercise night tonight and both boats will be going to sea, launching at 1900.

Nick here is off on holiday. He departed this morning to visit his brother in law in the USA. Safe trip Nick.

'Cause I'm leavin', on a jet plane,
Don't know when I'll be back again.

(John Denver)

Monday, 19 May 2008

I've no idea really

what this is all about but on Sunday we were asked to launch both boats so that we could take a photographer from the Telegraph newspaper to sea for some photos. He wanted to be taken out in the ILB so that he could get some photos of the ALB in action. It was actually a fairly blustery day so I should imagine he began to wonder whether he had done the right thing at times. Anyway, if you can bear to have a sly glance at the Telegraph this week you might spot a photo of our boys..............I just hope it will be worth the stigma of being caught furtively reading the Telegraph.

"I was delayed, I was way-laid
An emergency stop
I smelt the last ten seconds of life
I crashed down on the crossbar
And the pain was enough to make
A shy, bald, buddhist reflect
And plan a mass murder
Who said lied I'd to her?"
(The Smiths)

Friday, 16 May 2008

Lifeboat economy

One of the great things about the lifeboat crew is that it provides an informal economic network. Most of the crew have a skill or knowledge which they are only too happy to share with others on the crew. Recent examples of this are many:

Paul here came and chopped a tree down for us a couple of weekends ago (and I have to say I would have paid money to watch as it was fantastic). In return his bike is currently stored in my shed and he's using my bike maintenance facilities.

A couple of weeks ago Tom phoned for some late night legal advice from Liz my wife, in return we get an occasional supply of pot bait and crabs.

Last night Dave helped me to fix my outboard, in return he gained a wakeboarding tower for his Raider, I also managed to negotiate his help with re-wiring my boat.

Last year Gavin came and re-newed a bit of my staircase. His payment was a land rover bumper and winch!

Of course, given my profession there is a limit to the practical help I can give, however, it is surprising the number of conversations I have had over the years to re-assure and advise the parents on the crew about the educational needs of their offspring.

Luckily we all take the attitude that it is a case of 'what goes around comes around'.

Long may it last!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008


are tiny (about 5mm diameter) plastic pellets. They're the raw materials of plastic production. They melt these down to make all kinds of things and are how plastics are transported in the pre-production stage due to them taking up little space but also being easy to handle.

Sadly they are also a major contributor to marine pollution and are particularly harmful to wildlife (they are ingested and block up the stomach, reducing the space for digestion resulting in starvation). They also have the ability to attract 'micro-pollutants which can then enter the food chain after ingestion by marine life. The main trouble with Nurdles is that they are almost impossible to clear from beaches or the sea. It has been estimated that they constitute somewhere in the region of 98% of all pollution on our beaches. Not surprisingly they take a very long time to bio-degrade.

These particular ones are presently on the beach at Kimmeridge and are suspected to have come from the Napoli when she shed containers further west in the channel. The effects of any disaster at sea can reverberate for many years............

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Idiot proof

I was recently asked whether I ever dropped my camera. Well, the truth is yes, I've dropped it many times. However, thankfully the camera I use on the boat most of time is one of these, a Pentax Optio W20.

Now reviews have not always been kind about this camera, however, when you are using it in harsh conditions and want something you don't have to take much care of then this is the camera for you. Indeed, it is so good that the RNLI provides one to every lifeboat in the fleet. A good recommendation!

I'm sure someone will correct me on this but to my knowledge we've never broken one either (which is pretty much a first)!

Monday, 12 May 2008

In the words of.......

Bruce Lack, watch manager at Portland Coastguard: "Drink and stupidity played major parts in this incident with two young people in serious danger of losing their lives."

At about 3.30 on Sunday morning the crew were paged by Portland Coastguard and tasked to search for two young people who were thought to be in the water somewhere near Studland. In an apparently intoxicated state they had 'borrowed' a dinghy and taken to the sea with no means or propulsion or communication. People ashore could hear their cries but weren't sure exactly where they were.

Both boats launched rapidly and searched the area thoroughly. The ALB heard shouts and found the two casualties clinging to No.6 channel buoy. Their dinghy had overturned and they had been in the water for several hours. The ALB recovered them and then requested that an ambulance meet them at the Studland Ferry slipway on Sandbanks. While transporting the casualties to Sandbanks their condition deteriorated to the point where one of the casualties was losing consciousness. The two casualties were passed onto the ambulance and taken to Poole hospital where they were given the all clear and subsequently discharged into Police custody. They were later bailed.

I guess the moral of the story is................well, what do you think?

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Out of the blue..........

came three shouts in one evening:

At about 7 o'clock we were paged by Portland to launch both boats to search for a young person who was missing on the cliffs near Anvil Point lighthouse. The Police and Coastguard were concerned that she was going to harm herself. Martin was otherwise engaged with his Grandson 'Jack' so Dave took the boat as Cox. Now these kind of searches generally come to nothing, however, we had a spate of them a year ago which all had fairly grisly conclusions so they are certainly not something we take lightly. Consequently I think most of us onboard were praying that we would have a futile half hours search then 'Rome Tango Bravo' (return to base) having found the 'victim' safe and sound. And that's how it worked out, the coastguards picked the young person up and calmed the situation. Phew!

In the course of the service the ILB completed two rapid inshore searches.

The ALB crew were extra vigilant and searching every crack and crevice.

Skid of course managed to attract every bit of spray which came over the bow.

Meanwhile Jo just looked plain scary for some reason?!

The next shout came sometime later at about 8.30pm (most of us had just got home). This time it was to a RIB which had suffered engine failure near Kimmeridge. Now this is a fairly quiet patch of coastline so naturally the Coastguard wanted them retrieved before nightfall. The ALB proceeded at best speed and once on scene towed the boat a short distance into the slipway in Kimmeridge.

And then..........just as the boat was finished being re-fueled, washed and put away for the night the pagers went off again at about 11.20pm! This time it was a local boat known to us who was having engine trouble. Luckily, just we were assembling another local boat (I think it was Tom) arrived and towed him home so we were stood down.

And so to bed......

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Role reversal

Martin is our Cox. He steers our ship and guides our crew. It turns out this runs in the family. Not only was his father-in-law the Cox of Swanage Lifeboat. But his wife, Karina, is the very capable Cox of his Gig Crew (Swanage Sea Rowing Club - Super Veterans).

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Lost in translation

In good old Bank Holiday fashion we were paged just before lunch today. The casualty was a French yacht at anchor in Swanage bay who had put out a Pan-Pan call. Unfortunately, though the Coastguard could talk to them, there was a problem with interpretation so no one was quite sure what the problem was! We decided to send the ILB and they were soon alongside and attending to what turned out to be a mechanical problem not really warranting a Pan-Pan.

The family and I had been just about to go on a trip out on the bikes so we cycled down to the boathouse instead. It is Eve's turn to have Brandy the bear to stay for the weekend so he got to join in our adventures!

The ILB was soon away with Steve, Gav and John Deas onboard.

Not the furthest shout we've ever conducted.......

Meanwhile back at the boathouse there was bit of a carnival feel in the air, lots of chatting, laughing and smiling.

Thursday, 1 May 2008


Thanks to Dave Corben for this smashing photo of our launch yesterday. Those of you with sharp eyesight will notice that the slender fella on the starboard quarter is wearing a drysuit rather than the normal ALB foulweather gear. In fact it's not one of our crew but is Tom Mansell, one of our divisional inspection staff. It is normal that when the inspecting staff are on the station they accompany the crew on any shouts that occur. This allows them to get a more realistic insight into how we operate as a crew than by merely coming on exercise with us. Incidentally since Howard's promotion into the 'ivory tower' Tom has been promoted into Howie's old job (at least I think it was a promotion). Well done Sir!