Thursday, 30 April 2009

Guilding the lilly

The RNLI is supported across the country by various Guilds who work incredibly hard to help raise the millions of pounds needed to keep the Lifeboats afloat and the crews trained. Sometimes these are known as Ladies Guilds, but ours was re-named a number of years ago to reflect the hard work which many of the men put in (and also to avoid any accusations of sexism).

Our Guild host a number of events through the year to raise funds. One of the most eagerly awaited is the annual plant sale. This is to be held this Saturday in the Catholic Hall in Rempstone Road. There is also Brick-a-Brac on sale along with refreshments. This is always a good event so do come along (come early as securing the best plants is a surprisingly competitive activity)!

Belated congratulations also to Gloria marsh who has been elected President of the Guild. Gloria is Martins Mother-in-Law, Mother to Katrina, Grandmother to Matt, Gav and Chad and Widowed wife of Vic Marsh, a former Coxswain of the J. Reginald Corah. So you can see that she is supremely well qualified to take on this roll (as if she wasn't busy enough already as a District Councillor and School Governor)!

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

21 not out

Last night's exercise was a good one. Plenty of crew turned out, perhaps it was just curiosity and wanting to meet Adrian Carey our new inspector. Anyway, it was good to see almost everyone there. It was a busy night too. The ILB had it's inspection then went to sea for a further exercise. The ALB had it's exercise and was put through the whole fire, flood and pestilence routine. Meanwhile back in the boathouse Steve was busy giving a masterclass on various aspects of navigation and chartwork. Good busy stuff.

Afterwards Adrian introduced himself to those who hadn't been afloat, gave a short de-brief and then suggested that we all retire to the Ship for a chance to reflect upon the evening's activities.

Of course he also wanted us to turn up in the pub so that we could have a chance to present Jon Deare, our Head Launcher and Winchman, with his badge for 20 years of service to the RNLI. In actual fact he has now done 21 years service and we hope that he will make it at least to 25 if not a little further. As a bit of background, Jon is at the moment our oldest serving crewmember and as such commands a great deal of respect amongst all of the crew. A man of relatively few words he is able to keep the crew in order whilst the boat is away with little more than an arch of an eyebrow or a couple of well chosen words. He also presents on an annual basis the crew 'Rosebowl'. This was purchased in memory of his father with the un-drunk remains of his estate and is presented to the crewmember who has that year made the greatest single contribution (this could be an act of selflessness, bravery, comedy or idiocy). Jon, thanks for all you's great to have you around.

So that was it. A good evening with much achieved. The inspection continues today with Dave being subjected to scrutiny ashore in the boathouse. Good luck!

Monday, 27 April 2009

Busy week

This week promises to be a busy one for the crew and Dave in particular. On Tuesday evening our inspector will be with us and will put us through our paces on shore and at sea. Prior to that he, and his team, will be having a good look round the station to make sure that everything is as it should be. No doubt everything will be in order but still, Dave will be working extra hard to put a polish and shine on all things.

ILB helm this week is Gav, DLA is Neil. The next planned launch will be on Tuesday at 7pm with the inspector on board.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

One of life's little inconveniences

So, this morning I was helping some farming friends out transporting something in the region of fifty chickens from their farm to a farmer's market. Just as I was pulling out of their drive our pagers went off. So I quickly called them and let them know that they could find said chickens in the car down at the boat-park and to help themselves. I meanwhile jumped on the boat and headed out to sea.

Little more than 15 minutes later we came alongside the casualty, a newly purchased commercial fishing vessel, which had issued a Mayday due to engine failure and the strong tidal conditions off St Aldhelm's head. Both of the crew members onboard were OK so we decided to leave them where they were and place a crewmember of ours aboard to assist with rigging the tow and steering. Steve gallantly volunteered to do the heroics and quickly got things rigged on the heavily rolling vessel.

As the tow progressed towards Swanage, Dave, today's navigator, called Portland Coastguard and requested an updated weather forecast. As suspected this was promising a Force 4 South-Easterly wind which would have left the casualty rather exposed on our mooring. Consequently, Martin made the sensible decision to continue the tow up to Poole where we could guarantee the security of the casualty vessel.

Once at the Town Quay in Poole the vessel was rapidly secured alongside with the assistance of the local Coastguards. We then returned home (minus Paul E who elected to remain in Poole so that he could join his partner for some light shopping).

By about 12.30 we were back in the boathouse and ready for further duties. Textbook stuff.

And of the course the chicken was collected and delivered to the market where it all sold I hope.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Get out of jail free card

In the centre of each crewmember's windscreen is a small sticker showing an RNLI flag and the words: Lifeboat Crew. We all like our window stickers. They are a badge of honour for many of us and a symbol of what we are and what we value. However, and I get asked this about once a month, they are categorically not any kind of 'Get out of Jail Free' card or indeed a licence to speed when on a shout/park wherever one wants to/drive on the pavement/leave a shop without paying!

And that is the point of this post. I just wanted to broadcast the answer widely as I get asked it so often. We are not entitled to do anything while in our cars on the way to a shout other than follow the highway code to the letter of the law. That's not to say that we all get it right all of the time, we don' has been known for the adrenaline to get the better of someones judgement. However, the management of our station take a very dim view of any transgressions. We are of course very visible and easy to spot (yep, you got it, the window stickers do have a function) and you can guarantee that if one of our crew has done something daft, Neil (LOM), will know about it before the boat returns. And, as people who know him will testify, he's not afraid to let people know what's on his mind in these situations!

Of course, the time is approaching when our small town will be so clogged with holiday makers and day trippers that going anywhere quickly by car becomes out of the question. At these times our crew will arrive at the boathouse by bike, scooter, running, lift-sharing, sail boat, kayak and powerboat. I keep hoping that one day I will get a crew sticker for my shout-bike...

Thursday, 23 April 2009

BBC South

Tony Husband of the BBC has been having fun in the Environmental Pool at the College. Watch it here...

Current economic climate

It would seem that all of us have hard decisions to make at the moment when it comes to investing and spending our money. I read this article about Cowes Inshore Lifeboat with interest as it made me realise that despite the RNLI's reputation as being a well healed charity, we too have been hit hard by the Global Financial Meltdown. Plans still need to be made, money still needs to be spent, however, it is comforting to be reminded of the amount of care that those in the 'Ivory Tower' take over the funds so generously donated by you all. Long may this last...

(Photo Credit: RNLI Media Library)

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

I can see clearly now!

OK, so I've had Rob on the 'phone to re-brief me regarding future lifeboats at Swanage. It turns out that I was part right and part wrong in what I said a few days ago regarding FCB2. I'm afraid I had been guilty of making a few assumptions and, in the words of a former Commanding Officer of mine, 'Assumption is the mother of all cock-ups'!

So what is the genuine inside story? We'll, in this Lifeboat exclusive I can confirm today that, everything being equal, Mersey class lifeboats will all be replaced by FCB2. This includes us so FCB2 it will be. However, FCB2 is NOT designed to go on a slipway and it is NOT intended to change this. So, we will get FCB2 but as yet it has not been decided how we will operate it. Options, and this is pure, dangerous speculation on my part include lying to a mooring, being alongside a jetty, having a pen or being on a carriage in a re-designed boathouse. How exciting!

Watch this space for developments as they occur. I will make sure that in future I get at least some of my facts straight...(no comment needed Dave)!

(Photo: thanks to the RNLI image library)


Nothing stays the same for ever and nothing is permanent. As Lucretius said, dripping water hollows out a stone. And so small changes drip into our lives at the boathouse. Last month (or was it longer ago than that?) we saw the arrival of new Oxygen and Entonox bottles. Yesterday we were finally allowed to put our new Pyros onto the boat.

I'm not exactly sure why they have been replaced, they do the same jobs but are made by a new company rather than Pains Wessex of old. Anyway, they are operated in a different way to the old ones so before they could be put onto the boat a majority of the crew had to be trained to use them. Now that this is complete Dave has exchanged them with the old ones (which will go back to depot and go back into stock until they are out of date).

(Turn and face the strain)
Don't want to be a richer ma
(Turn and face the strain)
Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can't trace time
(Changes - David Bowie)

Tuesday, 21 April 2009


are in order for Chad and his Mrs - the lovely Jane. On the 20th of March Jane gave birth to their first child called Cameron Lee. Apparently he weighed 6 pound 4 which seems like a good healthy weight! Anyway, by all accounts little Cameron is fit and well and Chad is trying hard to convince himself that life isn't going to change much! Sorry for the delay and congratulations to you all.

Friday, 17 April 2009


Is the project name for the replacement lifeboat for the Mersey class. It stands for 'Fast Carriage Boat 2' (the Mersey class was the first fast carriage launched boat in the fleet). Although the Mersey is no longer what could be considered a fast boat (16 knots), when it was introduced it roughly doubled the speed of the classes of lifeboats that it replaced. FCB2 will be almost as great an increase with a top speed of 25 knots. Once it has entered service and replaced all of the existing Merseys, every All Weather Lifeboat in the RNLI fleet will have a 25 knot capability.

And why is this important? Well, obviously it means that we can respond more quickly and get to casualties faster for any given distance. It might also reduce costs. It could do this because with faster boats it could be argued that fewer boats are required to maintain the current response times.

Of course here in Swanage we have been following the FCB2 project with a great deal of interest. Rob, our second Coxswain has been heavily involved in the trials programme and has been keeping us up to date with developments. However, the project has not been entirely straightforward. Some years ago a hull was designed and a prototype built. Rob was the Trials Officer then and took part in the testing of this hull. During the trials in 2008 it became apparent that the performance of the experimental FCB2 boat’s original hull design in rough seas did not meet the operational requirements for an RNLI lifeboat, especially when travelling up-sea in steep waves. The very difficult decision was taken to delay the project and introduction of the boats and redevelop the hull. (As a crewmember this was a very comforting decision. It sends a clear message that as far as the RNLI is concerned, they would not equipe with anything other that the best possible tool for the job).

So the design of the hull was put out to tender and 7 designs were received, one in-house and 6 from other companies. Six scale models were then built and tested by Seaspeed Marine Consulting Ltd both in open water and at QinetiQ’s Ocean Basin and Ship Tank at Haslar, Gosport (3 days of time in the Basin were generously donated by QinetiQ). The outcome of this testing was revealed yesterday. It was announced that the in-house had performed best in the widest possible range of conditions. This is no surprise as a I seem to remember that a similar thing happened with the design of the Atlantic 85. Many of the other designs could do something better than the in-house design, however, what the RNLI requires is an all-rounder...something which is good in all conditions is preferable to something which is brilliant in some conditions but poor in others.

So, what's next? The plan now is to further optimise the hull form to improve performance with fuel economy being an important factor. The hull will then be moulded and fitted out before completing sea trials scheduled for mid 2011.

You can read more about the trials here and there is also some video footage:

(Photo/video: RNLI, with thanks)

Thursday, 16 April 2009


...are a pretty hot topic of conversation at the moment. The MCA has announced that they are withdrawing the white illuminating parachute flares previously used for search and rescue by their officers on patrol. This will mean that the only pyrotechnic routinely carried by Coastguard Officers are orange smoke generators for marking potential landing sites for rescue helicopters. This will then leave the MCA in the odd position of no longer being a significant user of pyrotechnics, but still being the organisation which is turned to by recreational sea-goers to dispose of their old ones.

Understandably, the MCA is no longer happy to act as the receiver of out of date flares (and they have never been under any statutory obligation to do so) due to the risk of handling them, the logistical difficulties and also the cost. Indeed, their hand is being forced as they have historically used the MOD to actually effect the destruction of these flares and the MOD, which has become more commercially minded itself, is reluctant to continue providing this service.

So Peter Cardy, the Chief Exec of the MCA, has opened up the debate and asked the question, ‘do recreational sea-goers need flares at all’? And it’s a tricky question to answer. Most rescues are initiated electronically (VHF, Mobile, EPIRB etc) and not by flares. However, flares more commonly play their part in the later stages of a rescue when they act as an aid to identifying the exact location of a casualty. Could this perhaps be done using other means? Perhaps Lasers or Strobes?

And what about us as Lifeboat crew? As ever, there has been some confusion about our position in the press. However, we continue to carry and use a pretty wide variety of pyrotechnics. Orange smokes for marking locations, white parachute flares for illumination, red flares for distress, white flares for attracting attention, rocket lines for firing lines across gaps and of course our personal issue ‘day and night’ flares carried on our Lifejackets. The only area where there has recently been a change in what we use has been the use of Maroons which we now seldom fire.

So, if you’d like to add to the debate, feel free to comment here and I’ll pass the comments on to Peter Cardy.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Serious Fun

A year ago I was contacted to ask if I would help with filming a short piece about safe kayaking. This was for a series of short DVDs that the RNLI were filming for a new campaign called 'Serious Fun'. The wonderful Becky from Headquarters got in touch recently to let me know that the campaign has now gone live and that many of the films have footage of our station, our crew and indeed others in Swanage (see if you can spot them).

Here are a few details about the campaign:

The campaign is titled Serious Fun because we want everyone to go out on the water and enjoy their chosen watersports to the maximum, but we also want individuals to take their fun seriously by raising skill levels and staying safe. The campaign aims to engage with a wide range of sea users.

According to our rescue statistics, around half of all RNLI lifeboat launches tend to be to watersports related rescues, i.e., dinghys, yachts, motorboats, windsurfers, sea angling, dive boats, personal watercraft, kayaks, canoes, and kitesurfers. Each of these watersports groups needs to be addressed in a way that's relevant to them so we have produced a DVD as part of the Serious Fun campaign. Featuring 11 short films - each is dedicated to a different watersport and aimed at all levels of skill and experience - the DVD is full of practical tips from experts and action footage, this is also a film about the RNLI and how to support the charity.

We hope this campaign, with the help of the DVD, will prevent more accidents at sea, and save lives - that's what the RNLI is all about. We also hope that it will remind watersports users that they might one day need the RNLI, so we need their support too.

To find out more about Serious fun and to request your copy please visit

Unfortunately it doesn't seem possible to view each DVD online but it is free to order from the RNLI and is sponsored by Helly Hansen so I presume that ordering one doesn't cost the RNLLI anything.

Sunday, 12 April 2009


It seems like we have got away with it today. It has mostly been a nice, sunny and warm day but with little wind so plenty of folk have been tempted onto the water. Thankfully though they all managed to stay safe in our patch.

And what do the crew do when the weather is like this and there is no lifeboating to do? Well, we go afloat in some way (while monitoring our VHFs for trouble brewing). Becky, Gav, Kim, myself and the kids went kayaking. My wife, Liz, went swimming in the sea for the first time this year (1 mile wearing a wetsuit). Meanwhile, Dave and our newest recruit, JFL (I'll tell you another time!) were out in Dave's raider with their other halves cruising the bay. We all met up on the water for a chat before heading for some refreshments.

A good day.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Typical 'Bank Holiday' job

Well, the bank holiday is progressing with the usual mixture of 'run-of-the-mill' shouts. All trivial nonsense really, AA jobs if you like. Except they're not. For those people whom we help these sort of shouts make a huge difference. Put yourself in the position of the parents of the two girls who the ILB rescued today. You're there on the beach having a nice family day out. The kids go out for a paddle their dinghy. The next thing you you know they are being blown rapidly out to sea and you are unable to help. What next? Well, might I be so bold as to suggest that the arrival of the lifeboat may have come as something of a relief to the distraught parents?!

So, job done...two scared young people brought ashore and tow parents mightily's what we are here for.

What's next I wonder?

Incidentally, well done to Becky for getting on the shout today. As far as I am aware this was her first shout after a long lay-off due to injury. Good to have you back Haddock!

So what happens?

When you're at the end of a long journey, safely executed and you loose all of your power? If on a yacht there's no problem...hoist the sails and continue your journey. Except, you're 10 miles out to sea, in a reasonably busy shipping route and it's dark so once your power is exhausted you can show no Navigation lights.

The sensible thing to do of course is to call the Coastguard and make them aware of your position. They can then decide whether to; leave you out there and take the chance of you being struck by another vessel or ask for a lifeboat to launch to tow you into a safe anchorage.

This is exactly what happened last night to a group of well organised yachtsmen (and women) at the end of a passage from La Coruna in Northern Spain delivering a 42ft yacht to its' owner. We were called at about 9.55 and asked to proceed to a position about 10 miles south of St Aldhelm's head. Once on scene it was obvious that the crew knew what they were doing and so we left them to attach the tow to their own vessel which they did. Making about 7 1/2 knots we towed them back towards Swanage where they could await an engineer to fix their problem this morning.

What was clear was that they had had no company other than their own for the best part of a week as they were extremely chirpy and chatty. De-mob happy almost!

Anyway, sorry for the it writers block (and a skiing holiday). Happy Easter to you all.