2017 Launches West Mersea Lifeboat

Published on April 10th, 2017 | by West Mersea RNLI

With Courage, Nothing is Impossible.

Lifeboats News Release by Leafy Dumas, Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer.
April 2017

With Courage, Nothing is Impossible.

At the risk of getting geeky, here are some facts and figures about our boat, the station and the RNLI as a whole.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is the charity that saves lives at sea. It was founded in 1824 by Sir William Hillary and it has saved 141,500 lives since then. Inspiring lifeboat crews for nearly 200 years, Sir William Hillary’s motto, “With courage, nothing is impossible” still stands strong today. These good words came to the fore as we launched on a shout into the force 9 gale of Storm Doris last month.

The RNLI provides a 24-hour search and rescue service around the coast of the British Isles. That means we are on call day and night, always at the ready to stop what we are doing, launch the boat and come to the rescue. Call 999 if you see someone in trouble on the water, ask for the coastguard, and we’ll be there.

Our Lifeboat Station at West Mersea is one of 237 stations dotted around the coast of Britain and Ireland. We usually receive somewhere in the region of 50–70 calls for help a year which makes us one of the busier stations in the RNLI network.

We cover a long and meandering section of coastline between our flank stations Clacton to our north and Burnham to our south. Our patch includes the whole of the Rivers Blackwater and Colne and all their adjoining creeks and islands.

Our boat is an inshore lifeboat called Just George. She’s one of the fastest in the RNLI fleet and is pretty amazing. Technically called a B class Atlantic 85, she is a rigid inflatable lifeboat (a RIB) with seats for 4 crewmembers. With two great big 115hp 4-stroke engines and a top speed of 35 knots we can race to Maldon in about 15 minutes. She is kept on a trailer in the shed at West Mersea, and launched and recovered by a submersible tractor – a wonderful thing that I will tell you about another day.

The boat is fitted with allsorts of useful stuff to help us with communication and navigation. We also carry a good deal of extra equipment in readiness for anything we might face. I shall list some of it here, but you can also come and visit on summer weekends and see for yourself.

Incase we capsize, the boat has a clever manually operated righting mechanism. This means that if catastrophe strikes, all is not lost; we can pull a cord that blows up a balloon under the boat causing her to flip back over. Luckily we have not yet had to do this in anger (it would take some seriously bad weather to turn the boat upside-down) but we do get to capsize on the crew training course at the RNLI headquarters in Poole, albeit slowly and carefully in controlled conditions in the training pool.

The engines are inversion-proofed, cleverly turning themselves off if they turn upside-down. We can then restart them again after the boat has been righted.

We have intercom onboard. This is brilliant! With earpieces and microphones fitted in our helmets we plug ourselves in to the boat and can actually hear vital commands and information above the noisy whoosh of wind and waves in the desperate and adrenalin-filled dash to the scene of an incident.

As well as the fitted VHF radio we also carry a handheld one.

For finding our way we have traditional paper charts (sandwiched in plastic pouches in an attempt to keep them dry) and we also have electronic charts, GPS, radar and VHF direction finding equipment – all extremely helpful for finding a casualty, for navigating shallow creeks –especially in fog or in darkness, and for giving us absolutely no excuse for getting lost or stuck.

The medical equipment stowed aboard includes oxygen and full resuscitation kit, a stretcher, survival bags and an ambulance pouch (really a body bag but we’re not supposed to call it that). We also carry night vision equipment, flares, a searchlight, a basic toolkit, a pump, spare lifejackets, a paddle, various tow ropes, lines and knives, bottles of water, mars bars (very important), pencils and paper (special non-soggy paper that doesn’t fall apart in the sea)… infact all manner of kit to help us be prepared for any eventuality. I’m bound to have forgotten something crucial though… come and see for yourself, the station will be open to visitors at weekends from Easter.

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