Friday, 27 February 2009

We were only pretending

Unfortunately a few kind readers got the wrong end of the stick yesterday and assumed that Wednesday's excitement was a rather heroic rescue. Fortunately not, it was simply an attempt to try and convey some of the realism of the excellent scenario which we dealt with on exercise that night...just goes to show!

By the way. I've discovered what the problem with photos is. Each time a photo is uploaded to Blogger a copy is sent to a folder in Picasa which is also part of the Google stable of free online software (bear with me I'm not very techy). Apparently this has a limit of 1GB of free storage space and once this is exceeded you are no longer able to upload photos to Blogger. It seems as if I now need to pay $20 to upgrade my storage to 10GB. So, problem solved, normal service should be resumed in the next day or so.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

We did enough to save his life

was the conclusion of how we treated last nights severely injured casualty.

We launched at 7pm tasked to conduct a search from Ballard Point to the Grand hotel looking for a man who had apparently fallen down the cliff. The ILB started at the Grand and the ALB at Ballard point, conditions at the base of the cliff were slight so our search was good and close to the shore and in short order the ILB spotted our man. 2 crewmen were put ashore (Matt and Oli) so as to assess his injuries and stabilise him ready for evacuation. It quickly became apparent that his injuries were extensive (large open leg fracture, open arm fracture, spinal injury and extensive abdominal bruising) and his condition deteriorating rapidly.

2 further men were sent ashore form the ALB via the ILB with stretcher, oxygen and large first aid kit. Once a collar was put on he was transferred to the basket stretcher and brought out to the ALB for transfer back to the slipway to meet the ambulance. The transfer went smoothly and he was soon in the wheelhouse having his wounds dressed and immobilised.

Meanwhile, in a dramatic twist, Martin (Coxswain) began to complain of feeling unwell. Within a few short minutes his condition deteriorated to the point where we realised it might be something more than originally thought. Chad and I joined later by Kev attended to him. It quickly became obvious that he was suffering from some sort of non-traumatic chest condition (heart attack) so we treated what we saw (clammy forehead, severe vice like chest-pain, sat in a 'W' position, unresponsive and shallow breathing) by first of all running through an AMPLE assessment then giving GTN spray, an asprin and free-flow oxygen. It would be an exaggeration to say that he recovered but his deterioration was certainly halted. Thank goodness!

Once we returned to the slipway, both casualties were handed over to Dorset Ambulance staff and after re-housing both boats and stowing kit we headed up into the crewroom for a de-brief at the hands of Paul Savage and the new RNLI First Aid trainer - Vicky Tomalin.

Overall their observations were very positive and they were of the conclusion that we had achieved what we set out to life. A good exercise.

having a few photo issues which I will try and rectify later on

Monday, 23 February 2009


Stands for Global Maritime Distress Safety System and is an internationally agreed-upon set of safety procedures, types of equipment, and communication protocols which have been designed to make it easier to communicate with and ultimately rescue vessels in distress at sea.

It is not the most inspiring topic for learning, however, it is an essential part of how rescues are conducted in the modern age and so we must know our stuff. On our crew there are 8 of us who hold a VHF and MF radio certificate and these are now due for re-validation. With this in mind we will be training for 3 evenings over the next two weeks with an instructor from the College in Poole. Wish us luck!

Friday, 20 February 2009

Open Day

I promised Ian and the guys at Swanage Coastguard that I'd give their Open Day a mention. It looks like the weather is going to be better than it was for the official opening ceremony.

Saturday 21st February

North Beach Car Park,
De Moulham Road Swanage.

13:30 to 16:00

Subject to weather and operational commitments

If you'd like to have a look round their sparkly new station then pop along, I know they'll make you very welcome. You may enough be lucky enough to get a cup of Coastguard tea!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

On a roll!

Exciting day at the lifeboat station today! We've been waiting ages for our new rollers and spindles to arrive . . well they finally have!

There are 42 in total, enough to replace all the badly worn steel ones that are in the slipway at the moment.

Allan from RNLI Shoreworks came to station and we installed 7 new rollers into the slipway in the boathouse. The new rollers are made of nylon and with the new spindles are hopefully going to be maintenance free as they require no greasing (good news for me!). Its important that the rollers are the correct height to allow the boat to rock a little bit but not too high so it rocks over to one side and stays there. We did this with an engineers square from the main part of the keelway.

Its also important that the rollers are level so that the boat isn't forced to side of the keelway. This is done with a small spirit level which gives good enough results.

So that's 7 down 35 to go! The steel rollers weigh about 4o kilos each so that's about 1.5 tons of steel to move :o( we as a station have been asked to fit the next 20 the rest will be fitted by contractors as there's some repair work to be done on the plates that support the rollers. Once that's done they'll all be levelled with a laser (some how!) and measurements taken so I can keep an eye on them and make sure they're not wearing.
I'm looking forward to the first launch, the boat should fly down on her new free spinning rollers.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Divers Down

This morning we've had Apex Divers at station. They were here to carry out the annual inspection on our moorings and also to replace the pickup ropes on the main mooring. The annual inspection isn't quite due but because they had to come and change the ropes it made sense to do the inspection at the same time. I bet the diver would have rather waited until a little later in the year!

There are 4 of them. The diver, standby diver, boat man and the dive master.

The first job was to inspect the main mooring and replace the pickup ropes. The main mooring has 2 anchors that run aprox East/West. These are connected by a heavy ground chain, a riser comes off the centre of the ground chain up to the buoy.

The breasting buoys were checked next. The Western one was moved back into position as it had been washed in to the West by the waves in the latest round of strong Easterly winds. The breasting moorings only have a single anchor and are designed so that we can pull towards the slipway. Unfortunately this means that the Western one is prone to getting washed out of position. The RNLI are looking at making this mooring more like our main mooring to stop this.

And the results? Good news is that the main mooring and Western breasting mooring are fine, the bad news is that the Eastern breasting mooring is badly worn. The anchor is OK as is the buoy but all the chain and shackles will need replacing. I guess we'll be seeing the divers again sooner than expected!

Monday, 16 February 2009

S O S - Scheduled Oil Samples

Well while John's away in Wales doing something or other in a tent he asked me to look after the blog. His exact words were . . . "perhaps you could do a few techy things?"

As it happens we've got a few techy things on this week.

The biggest part of my job is the planned maintenance for the Mersey. This varies in complexity from checking bulbs are working to oil changes on the engines. These days we don't just change the oil annually or every so many hours (as you would in your car). What we do is every 3 months I sample the oil from both engines (see above from the starboard engine) and send it off to Finnings ( The clever scientist people at Finnings then test the oil and carefully analyse the results. They test for water and fuel in the oil, different metals in the oil and the condition of the oil itself. By comparing the results to set standards and to previous results they can detect engine problems before the user notices them. Coolant in the oil for example is a good indicator that a head gasket is leaking, increased metal levels can show that bearings are wearing.

If Finnings recommend that the oil is changed then this is done as soon as possible. Once the engine has run for about 10 hours on the new oil another sample is taken. This then gives the new benchmark for that engine. By doing this we are able to extend the period between oil changes from annually to about 2 yearly. This means less oil and filters to buy and dispose of, good for the environment and good for our pocket too!

For those of you who remember their periodic table, here's a list of what they test for.

I've put our samples in the post, should have the results by the end of the week. Fingers crossed they should be OK.

In the mean time if anyone's got any "Techy" questions please feel free to ask away.


Friday, 13 February 2009


I've just had this short YouTube clip brought to my attention. It shows Tower Lifeboat conducting a 'textbook' rescue of a swimmer in the water. You can't see her face but I got a definite sense that she was somewhat relieved! Well done guys (and girls). I say girls because good friend of Swanage crew, Jen Court, previously one of the trainers at the Lifeboat College, is now one of the full time crew at the station. I wonder is she was involved in this rescue?

Incidentally, Tower and the other Thames lifeboat stations (except Teddington), are unique among RNLI stations in that they have a greater number of full-time crew than normal. This is because they have a far shorter response time (90 seconds) due to the majority of their shouts involving people in the water. Thus their station is fully manned 24 hours a day 7 days a week with one full time crewmember and two volunteers.

Thursday, 12 February 2009


Each Wednesday night during the winter we are running shore based training at the boathouse for anyone who wants to brush up on things. These sessions are being run by the Coxswain, Second Coxswains and ILB Helmsmen. Topics to be covered are as follows:

Martin: ALB deckwork, fenders, towing, anchor
Rob: Your role/Station management/RNLI personnel, CoBT, Launch & Recovery
Dave: ALB layout & machinery, alarms, fire drill
John: Keeping a lookout, lights/shapes/sounds
Steve: Position and North, This is a chart, how deep is it.
Kev, Tom, Gav, Deasy still to be confirmed

So far the sessions are being well attended. Last night Sam, Ty, Darren, Becky and Andy turned out to spend an hour learning about keeping a lookout and lights, shapes and sound signals. Being completely honest, the subject matter is not the most inspiring, however, it is fundamental to keeping us safe at sea so we do need to make the effort to learn this stuff.

Luckily we are well supported in our endeavours by the RNLI who produce excellent online learning resources which we can all access at home. Hopefully now those 5 crew from last night have been online and have practised what we learnt using the 'Operations Training Online' (or OTO) resource from the RNLI.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009


So the next question was; What are Breasting lines?

Well, breasting lines are ropes which we use to help us re-house the lifeboat when the wind and waves are from such a direction that the lifeboat is difficult to hold in position. I'm hoping that this little diagram makes this clear. In this example the wind direction is from the East and along with some waves from the same direction could make re-housing tricky. To help we have two buoys permanently laid, one to the East and one to the West. These are called 'Breasting Buoys'. By attaching a rope to the Easterly one of these we can prevent the bow of the lifeboat being pushed off to the West as the Coxswain manoeuvres to locate the keel in the keel-way on the slipway. This is done by keeping just the right amount of tension on the breasting line. Of course, that's the really tricky part...knowing what constitutes just the right amount of tension! Ultimately, this knowledge can only be gained with experience.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009


I was recently asked what a drogue is. I'm pretty sure that I've mentioned this device before but here goes! (and this is pretty much lifted from Wikipedia!):

'A drogue is a device to slow a boat down in a storm so that it does not speed excessively down the slope of a wave and crash into the next one. By slowing the vessel in heavy weather, the drogue can make it easier to control. A drogue is usually constructed to provide substantial resistance when dragged through the water, and is trailed behind the vessel on a long line'.

In our case, the drogue is towed behind the lifeboat in conditions where we are heading with the sea (not straight into it). It does two things for us, firstly it makes the boat more controllable from a steering perspective, secondly it prevents the boat from surfing on the wave face and so makes for a more controlled passage. Ours has enough line attached that the distance it is from the stern of the boat can be varied according to the wave pattern (the longer the wave length the longer the main line). It also has a tripping line so that it can be tripped when not needed and also to assist with recovery.

In all honesty I have never witnessed ours being used in anger, however, I can certainly imagine a time when it might be needed.

incidentally, it is a very similar looking device to a sea anchor, however, a sea anchor has a distinctly different purpose. That is, to hold the boats bow head to sea in an almost stationary position.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Harry roughers

Last night was an exercise night. It was surprisingly rough in the bay and once we arrived in the boathouse it became apparent that we wouldn't be going to sea. This is why:

Although it wasn't a massive sea it was breaking over the end of the slip in such a way that recovery would have been awkward and could perhaps have resulted in damage to the boat.

Alternatively we could have launched and then left the boat on the mooring. However, by doing this we would have had to use the ILB to recover the crew ashore. The ILB slipway wasn't a lot better than the ALB one and again, launch and recovery would have been risky.

It was no better in between the two town jetties.

Of course, if it had been a shout we would have launched no worries, however, on exercise we do try to limit the damage to man and machine by making prudent and careful decisions. Well done Martin!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Snowed under

So it's snowed.

For once Swanage got some too which certainly made for fun. Most Swanage schools were still open but my place of work was shut for the day yesterday...shame!

Of course, I began the day with good intentions of getting up to date with marking and planning but that lasted all of 10 minutes before I got tempted out for a snowball fight.

Lifeboat wise all was normal. The boatpark was snowy and thus travel to the boathouse was dicey in a car...however, between us we have a higher than average number of 4x4s so realistically our response to a call on our services will have been unaffected.

Skid...full of excitement has headed North to Newcastle to join HMS Ark Royal. Last I heard he was still alongside and that they had been delayed sailing. I guess by now he is steaming down the north sea and enjoying the spectacle of flying from the deck of a carrier. Enjoy every moment mate.