Friday, 5 January 2007


Traditionally, lifeboat crews have been summoned by firing two 'Maroons'. In reality, modern crews have for some time actually been summoned using pagers. However, the maroons have still been fired each time the lifeboat launches to let those in distress know that help is on the way and to alert families and employers to the fact that the lifeboat is away.

Last summer this all changed. Following a number of incidents where Maroons nearly caused accidents, the RNLI took the difficult decision to advise staions not to fire maroons as a matter of course, but rather to judge each situation on an individual basis. Naturally this caused a fairly heated debate to develop both in the press and on stations. Indeed some stations became quite headstrong about it.

Our view in Swanage is always to look to the future. We are here to save lives, not to endanger them and so, despite missing the firing of maroons, were quite happy to comply with the institutions request.

Of course, we do rather pride ourselves on being ahead of the game and so, Dave, our mechanic, set up a replacement for people who still wanted to be alerted each time the lifeboat launched. It works like this:

"Over the summer we have heard how sad people are that maroons are no longer fired every time the lifeboats launch. As a direct result of this we are offering you a new service. You will be able to subscribe to a text message alert system that will send you a message within minutes of the Swanage Lifeboats launching. Messages will be charged at 25p each, 10p of which will be donated to the RNLI.

To subscribe to this exciting new service simply text the following:
RNLI-SWANAGE START to 60300 on your mobile phone. You will receive a confirmation message to say that you have successfully subscribed."


Bertie.. said...

I suppose time moves on, and 'health and safety' has creeped into it probably.

It's a shame though - when I used to work on Weymouth Beach it was great to hear the maroons go off, then watch and wait to see how quickly the boat came out of the harbour.

It was always a reminder that the boat was off to a shout, rather than coming out on a training session - a subtle reminder of the great work done by you guys.

Rockhopper said...

Apparently, there's more explosive in a maroon than a NATO hand grenade....

lifeboatjohn said...

Bertie, you are quite right, it is a health and safety issue, as Rockhopper says, these things do indeed have the same amount of explosive as a NATO grenade! Pretty scary hey?

The bottom line is, we and the public loved them, but you can't afford to risk harming someone just because you like the tradition (and that is pretty much all it was........oh and good pr too).

We do still fire them, though only when the shout is to someone in the bay and we consider it may encourage them to hear that we are on our way.

If we ever meet up I will tell you our 'horror story' about them!

Cailean Macleod said...

I can remember siting in school and hearing the maroons going off. My mind then drifted off to what was happening out to sea rather than on the class at the time.

lifeboatjohn said...

While in my current position I would be sliding down the slip as the maroons were fired with my mind possibly drifting back to the chaos which I had left behind in my classroom at school!