Monday, 28 December 2009

Winter wonderland

Part of the plan with this extended tour of Britain was to get some mountain biking and sea kayaking done. It turns out that the weather gods had other ideas and plans to paddle with some Scottish sea kayaking contacts failed to materialize. The bikes too remain frozen on the roof of the car.

Not ones to be thwarted in plans for having fun we changed plans and had some fun in the snow instead.

Snowman building, sledging and cross-country skiing all made suitable replacements.

Hopes are that the weather tomorrow will be warm enough to allow a safe trip down to Yorkshire to visit the other side of the family.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Boxing Day

As defined by Wikipedia is: The traditional recorded celebration of Boxing Day has long included giving money and other gifts to charitable institutions, the needy and people in service positions. I wonder, then, if the RNLI sees an increase in giving at this time of year?
During today's boxing day stroll the tugs and fishing boats were securely tucked up in Troon fishing dock.

Troon's Trent class lifeboat was safely alongside and, judging by the dusting of frost/snow, has been for some while.
The car park in front of the boathouse also looked fairly treacherous and icy.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Merry Christmas

The weather here in Scotland is truly Christmas like; earth hard as iron, water truly stoney and snow heaped on snow. However, the sky is clear blue, we have a lovely view across the Clyde from Troon towards Arran and it's magnificent mountains. A house filled with children's laughter and happiness, floors littered with paper wrappings...all is good in the world.

So, merry Christmas to all of you who check in here so often, thanks for your comments this year, may you and yours have an excellent Christmas and, while you tuck into your Turkey, spare a thought for those crews and other emergency services around the country who, like Torbay already, will leave their warm homes to help others this cold Christmas day.

Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine, gaudete!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

In defence of the realm

And in February Skid was off the North East coast on a trip onboard HMS Ark Royal. This was a jolly, but one that was intended to foster an greater understanding between the Navy and the RNLI. Needless to say Skid enjoyed every minute of his trip and came home with lots of tall stories and some great photos. Later on in the year we had a number of chances to work with the military, both helping them out with a spot of bother and also conducting rescues jointly with them.

Come June the new boss of the RNLI was announced as Vice Admiral Paul Boissier Royal Navy. He has now taken over from Andrew Freemantle as the Chief Executive (happened at the end of September) of the Institution. I understand that he will be coming to sea with us in the new year on exercise which will be fun. I will let you know all about it when it happens!

Monday, 21 December 2009

Christmas lights tour

No doubt each family has it's own Christmas traditions. One of ours is that, on or around my birthday, we take a drive around the town, after dark, to get a good look at all of the Christmas lights.

We did this last night and some were truly spectacular. The lifeboating link? Well, one of the houses visited belongs to our very own Kev and was the winner of our 'highly commended semi-detached category'.

Our route takes in Corfe Castle, Kingston (too posh for Christmas lights), Worth (Compact Farm gets a mention for best decorated roof), Langton and of course Swanage.

This house, towards the bottom of Langton, is a perennial winner of the 'best decorated detached property' division and this year also came away with the 'Best in Show' award too.

Kev's, and his next door neighbours, were close runners up overall and won the 'best decorated garden building' award for their efforts with the caravan, well done lads!

And finally, the 'best dressed street' went to Hoburn Road with this bungalow being a particular beauty.

Where would we be without traditions hey?

Looking back

It has been a good year and much has happened in a short period of time. This photo of the Mersey launching in early January shows us having 'knocked out' from inside the boathouse. Look closely at the slip and you can see that this was prior to Dave replacing the old rollers with the new plastic ones. About a month later and Dave was fully in the swing of fitting the new ones all the way down the slip. And a huge improvement it has been too.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Office party

Many of our crew are either self employed or work with just one or two others. For this reason many of them are spared the torture that is an office Christmas party. Both Paul and Nick are in this position, though today, as it was their last day at work before Christmas, I decided to treat them to a little piece of the action and delivered them a mini office party (perhaps stretching the truth slightly...being honest it was a mince pie and a bottle of beer). I think that it was appreciated, at least it was by me! In any case, I think they were relieved to have a chance to stop work for a few minutes and chew the fat.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

It's a wrap...

Oops...I completely forgot to mention that while we were at sea playing lifeboatmen last night, there was a whole bunch of crew up in the crewroom doing their own training exercise. I think the idea was to try and remind each other how to dress various types of wound. The reality seems to have involved making Becky look as ridiculous as possible!


The exercise was a cold one last night but this did not prevent us from being very productive. We had a couple of observers along for the trip, one whom we already knew from last month. Pretty frequently we are asked to take people out to sea with us in order to help them become acquainted with what lifeboat crews do in real life. Often they are new staff who have joined the institution and are working in an area where they are required to either talk with authority about what we do, or need to be able to empathise with the job that we do and the conditions that we work in. In Geraldine's case it's undoubtedly a bit of both.

Unfortunately on this occasion I had little chance to chat with Geraldine and John because no sooner had we launched and got started on our exercise than we sighted a flare and went to investigate, (don't worry Gloria...all part of the exercise)!

Coming alongside what appeared to be another lifeboat it quickly became apparent that they had had some sort of dramatic incident and required urgent assistance. I went aboard initially to assess how many casualties there were. As is often the case in these scenarios, there was a man overboard (immediately ties up one boat searching and limits options for casualty evacuation). There was also a seriously injured man who had fallen through a hatch (although it was difficult to access him initially and make a full assessment, the mechanism of injury led me to expect a spinal injury, possibly a break and likely internal injuries). There was the usual 'red-herring' of someone panicking with sea-sickness and a quiet one who appeared shocked. Plenty to keep us busy!

I made the decision to act as the comms person and requested as many first aiders as were available to come and deal with the casualties. Very soon Kev, John, Daz and Nick were onboard and completing their full assessments on the casualties. Not surprisingly the fellow who had fallen began to deteriorate with increasing 'Capillary refill' and reducing breathing rate. Quite rightly Kev and John assessed him as having an internal bleed and flagged him up a priority 1 for immediate evacuation.

In a very short space of time the man-overboard had been found, all casualties dealt with and the stricken vessel taken in tow back to the station. After a quick de-brief and not so quick crew-meeting it was time for a pint in the Red Lion then home to bed.

All good.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

The Wiseleys

So I mentioned that we had our Lifeboat Christmas party last Friday. Needless to say it was a great success. In a large part this was due to the awesome Wiseleys agreeing to come and play for us again.

Sadly lacking Katie Wiseley they were still incredible and filled our small venue with great music which soon had us all dancing with style.

So...thanks John.

and Darrell

and Gary...see you in the summer?

Sunday, 13 December 2009

In the Bleak Midwinter...

Lifeboatmen go paddling. With the end of term at school has come a brief lull in the rain, so today I took advantage of this by paddling my kayak along my favourite stretch of coast with some friends as I often do at this time of year.

After a slightly tentative start paddling round Peveril Point, we got into the lee of the cliffs around Durlston Head and had a lovely, if occasionally lumpy ride on the ebb tide down towards St Aldhelm's Head.

Once there we stopped briefly on a small cobbled beach for a snack before the last stretch over Kimmeridge ledges.

Both Andy and Mark had come prepared with sweet stuff unlike me so I enjoyed their extras.

And that was it, a classic December day, crisp, sunny and memorable...thanks guys.

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

(Words: Christina Rossetti)

Saturday, 12 December 2009

The Rose Bowl

So last night was our Christmas party. I'm afraid the whole experience is still proving a little painful so I will write more in the morning. However, I would like to announce that this year John Deere presented the Rose Bowl (given annually to the crewmember having performed the most memorable act during the year) to Dan. Due to the precise circumstances of the act I can't disclose exactly what he won it for. Nevertheless, congratulations Dan...a richly deserved award!

(Thanks to Sophie Atkinson for the photo)

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Great lives

Over the last few days Dave and I have added a few more potted biographies to the crew website. If you want to have a look at them click here then click on crew then information and choose the rogue you want to find out more about. I've tried to keep it light-hearted but without being too frivolous or indeed offensive! Hopefully I achieved this...added so far are Martin, Rob, Paul Elleray, Skid, Kev and Ant. The rest to follow over the next couple of days.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Sunny spells

It seems like the rain hasn't stopped for months. My daily drive to work involves passing several rivers and each has been beyond the bounds of it's banks for months now. Despite this, Sunday morning heralded a brief moment of sunshine amongst the dark clouds, and both the ILB and one of the rowing club gigs took advantage of it. Needless to say the rain soon returned and it was situation normal. Don't you just love this global warming?

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Super Sunday

Through the winter we are exercising every Wednesday night in the dark so once a month (the first) we go out on a Sunday morning so we can experience being at sea in the daylight. Except, this morning everyone was engaged doing other things elsewhere so there were too few crew present to make it worth launching the ALB.

Still, the ILB went out and Gav, Oli and Sam had a good trip by the looks of it.

Being on my own with the girls this weekend I was late down and arrived just as they got back in and were in the process of washing down their kit.

Somehow Gav (helmsman) got left with washing the boat off...clearly he has failed to educate the youth fully!

Meanwhile, Deasy and Daz were busy taking part in a local duathlon over in Rempstone forest.

I nipped over there on the way to get our Christmas tree and caught some of the action, needless to say it was a hot, sweaty and muddy activity though it seemed to be being enjoyed by all who took part. Well done lads!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

RNLI online advent calendar

Trying to summon up the energy to get in the Christmas spirit and spotted this online, not sure how it works but looks cool...Merry Christmas everyone!!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

November rain

So there was me thinking that the rain might have disappeared with November. Fat chance, today, down our way has been as wet as ever, perhaps even more so.

Suffering with a cold I decided to stay ashore and do some training in the boathouse with some of our newer crewmembers.

After both boats had gone their seperate ways it was time to head up to the crewroom to begin the exercise.

The ALB put a float into the water at the start of their exercise and then relayed it's position to us for us to work out an estimated position for them to return to in 1 hour in order to search and then hopefully find the 'casualty'.

We spent about an hour running through some simple chartwork then Rob and I worked through a rapid response search pattern with the lads and came up with our Estimated position. To be honest we are both into this sort of thing and enjoyed the process a great deal. Ultimately we came up with two possible positions, one using the factual information that we had...the other adding our own local knowledge to this. Funnily enough our own 'local knowledge' position was much closer to the actual position in which it was found.

In any case, we were all satisfied that our worked example would have stood a very high chance of finding the casualty (though perhaps the incredibly severe rain might have hindered us), so job done.

And when your fears subside
And shadows still remain, ohhh yeahhh
I know that you can love me
When there's no one left to blame
So never mind the darkness
We still can find a way
'Cause nothin' lasts forever
Even cold November rain

(November Rain - Guns N'Roses)

Sunday, 29 November 2009


is the other name by which Jackstays are known. Whichever you prefer, Jackstay or Jackline, both terms actually refer to any line rigged securely between two points and used as a support. Indeed, the names can correctly be used to refer to: the line from which a refuelling hose is suspended when RASing, the centre line used to support an awning rigged over a hot deck, a line rigged between ship and shore along which a breeches bout could be hauled, and a line rigged to a spar on a square-rigged ship to which the head of a sail is attached.

Importantly, given their use in situations where support is required, they should always be rigged with a minimum safety factor of four, i.e. the load supported by the Jackstay, including its own weight, should not be more than one-quarter the breaking strain of the wire or rope used.

(with thanks to 'The Oxford companion to Ships and the Sea' - perhaps the most beguiling book of all time)

Saturday, 28 November 2009


Look closely at the photo and you will notice that both Becky and Steve are clipped onto the boat. Becky is attached using her harness line to the jackstay which runs along the starboard (and of course port) side of the wheelhouse of the boat. Meanwhile Steve is clipped to a similar jackstay which runs down the centre line of the foredeck. Using these it is possible to circumnavigate the entire deck in safety and while clipped on. In the sort of weather we have been having recently it has not been uncommon for crew to be clipped on while out of the wheelhouse.

For those of you interested in the pointless details of life, you might notice that Becky is wearing a pair of black boots...not a fashion statement, but simply the only pair of steel toe-capped wellington boots in the world which are small enough to fit her (and this particular brand don't make them in yellow). Dainty hey?!

Friday, 27 November 2009

Wasting police time

It is beginning to seem from news reports that our search on Tuesday night was both futile and a waste of time. One of my colleagues at school yesterday asked me if I wasn't really cross and angry at having given up a nights sleep to search for people who weren't there in the first place. be honest no, and I think everyone in the crew feels pretty much the same.

The bottom line is, we were called out by Coastguard in good faith. For as long as they have a glimmer of a suspicion that there is someone out there waiting for help we are happy to go. Indeed, we want to go.

And now? Well, at least we know that we didn't break off the search and leave someone out there praying to be rescued. All's well that ends well I say...

Thursday, 26 November 2009


To be honest, conditions for visual searching on Tuesday night were pretty poor. I've read various reports of how extreme the weather was online, some seemed realistic...others a bit over the top. Either way, chances of finding what you are looking for is drastically reduced. Luckily it is beginning to seem like there were no further people in the water and that a more complex and confusing story is beginning to unravel. I for one am just pleased that we didn't leave anyone out there unfound.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Sleepless night

So, following on from a late night at the AGM, we were woken by our pagers at about 1.20am this morning and shortly afterwards launched the ALB to join a search under way in the Poole bay area looking for a group of people, believed to be Eastern European, who were thought to have jumped off the back of the Barfleur (cross-channel ferry) wearing wetsuits and hoping to swim ashore to a better life. One of the party was found alive on a local beach and is now recovering in hospital...the others, sadly, we didn't find. At this stage it is unclear whether they in fact chose not to jump and got ashore by other means, or whether they are still out there. We re-housed at about 5.30am and washed the boat down and re-fuelled. It is likely that the search will continue today.

More news later.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The Vicar of Dibley...

came to visit us tonight. No really, it was our AGM once more and our guest presenter was the new Head of the Lifeboat College, the one and only Geraldine Grainger. Understandably the pull of a major celebrity was tough to resist and the turn out (for a windy and wintry November evening) was impressive.

As it turned out, Geraldine wasn't actually the Geraldine Grainger. Still, she was a pleasant change from the usual old sea dogs wittering on and brought a certain amount of glamour to the whole evening. So thank you Geraldine for being so kind as to grace our AGM, and I apologise for any hint of disappointment you might have sensed from the audience (and for being so dull as to write a whole tedious blog post about what must seem to you like a very poor old joke)!

So there you go...another year in the bag. There were a whole host of awards for long service and good behaviour: David Haines (LMA), Russ Johnson (DLA), Gary Williams (Ex crew), John Dear (for something like a million years service as winchman), Diana for a mention for her Gold Badge and of course all the others who I forget.

Still, despite the company of the rich and famous and the lure of an awards ceremony, it was a relatively impromptu talk by Gav about his and Deasy's recent exploits with the RNLI Flood Response Team in Cockermouth which grabbed the attention and admiration of the assembled crowd. Well done Gav, fine words and fine deeds...

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Safe home

Welcome home Gav and Deasy, a quick two days away but lots achieved. From a brief chat with Deasy it sounds as if they have had a memorable experience and achieved a great deal of good work...well done both of you and good to have you back safe and sound. I look forward to getting some photos and stories in due course.

I'm just back form a quick paddle in a blown out Swanage bay. The wind is dead offshore so the waves are clean but the gusts pretty unpleasant in the kayak...I quickly decided that discretion was the better part of valour and came home! Not so brave as the surfers who are still lined up there patiently waiting the perfect break.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Spare a thought...

For Deasy and Gav who are up in Cumbria at the moment with the RNLI flood rescue team. The Bournemouth Echo has picked up on the story here. Our thoughts and prayers are with them, as they are with the family of Bill barker, the police officer who sadly lost his life during the flood.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Wet 'n' windy

The weather here is still wild...wet, windy and poor visibility, so I should imagine that this evening's exercise will be another pretty damp affair. Last weeks was characterised by moments when the rain was so thick it obliterated the picture on the radar (no matter how we tuned it)! Roll on summer...

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Winter weather

So it's been a windy old weekend, not the first of late either. I've just found this bit of video on my camera from a few weekends ago, somehow cameras always flatten off waves but notice Steve clip his harness an idea of how lumpy it was:

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Mighty Power Rangers

Dave, Tom and Neil have recently returned from the Divisional conference (held annually for key station personnel). At it they were told about the RNLI's environmental policy and how they want to make a 5% electricity saving across the whole of the Institution. Being as our own electricity bill runs in to the thousands each year, this should represent a worthwhile and significant saving. Typically, rather than seeing this as a call to turn off the odd light, Dave saw it as a chance to audit our power usage and develop some sophisticated timers and switches so that we can continued to do everything we need to but make at least a 5% saving and, knowing Dave, twice that.

So Dave's first move was this simple timer which when the button is pressed turns on the heater in the crew room for a set period of time.

Then, in a flash of inspiration he has designed this very clever box of tricks which, if pressed after a shout or exercise, will turn on the drying cupboard heaters for 6 hours...just long enough to dry our sodden drysuits and oilskins.

Alone this should be enough to save the required 5% but Dave is naturally not satisfied with this and now has the hot water boiler and station PC in his sights!

Well done Dave!

Saturday, 24 October 2009

There and back

So there was a quick shout this afternoon to head over to the other side of the bay to check on a kayak which had been reported to be in difficulty. As is quite often the case, it turned out that the boat wasn't actually in difficulty but had apparently been practising self-rescue techniques!

Still, it was a pleasant afternoon so most of us were perfectly happy to spend an hour on the slipway watching things happen and catching up on each others news.

Of course Sam was pleased to have got another shout under her belt so all was not wasted.