Tag Archives: rnli

Aldeburgh Lifeboat

Our UK trip had a bit of an RNLI feel to it.  We spent some time at the Bembridge lifeboat station as showed up here and here.  When we got to Aldeburgh, it turned out that they also had a lifeboat station.  It was quite a modern facility and very different to the Bembridge station.  Bembridge has a boathouse with a slipway straight in to the water.  Aldeburgh has a trailer mounted boat with a tractor unit to take it down across the shingle to the water’s edge.

The building has space for the boat on one side and the tractor on the other.  There is also an inshore boat.  The facility seems to be pretty modern with some nice space for the crew to keep their equipment and change when they need to go into service.  It was a lot quieter than the Bembridge station with only the occasional visitor but worth a look if you happen to be on this part of the Suffolk coast.

Inshore Lifeboat Deployment

Bembridge has two RNLI lifeboats.  The launch of the all-weather Tamar boat has got a lot of coverage on the blog but I shouldn’t overlook the inshore boat that is also stationed there.  This boat can deal with lots of issues close to shore which the big boat is ill-suited for.  You might think this is less perilous work than that on the open seas but some of the rescue the inshore boats have carried out have really put the crews in harm’s way, often with them entering the water in rough and rocky shallows in breaking surf to rescue people trapped by changeable conditions.

After the all-weather boat had launched, the crew took the inshore boat out.  It is mounted on a trailer with a tug to move it out.  The tide was out and the reason for the boathouse pier is obvious with the exposed rocky shoreline.  They maneuvered the boat on its trailer in to the water and then got on board and powered it up.  Then it was off for training with the all-weather boat as well as on their own.  Again, the commitment of these crews should not be left unmentioned.  If you can do anything for the RNLI in any way, whether it is a membership or just donating when you see someone collecting on the high street, please do it.

Launching the RNLI Tamar Lifeboat

When the old lifeboat station was in use, it was a lot more constrained.  It was not designed to accommodate many visitors and it certainly wasn’t intended for them to be there during a launch.  The new station at Bembridge has plenty of space for visitors (as long as there aren’t too many of them) and you can stay in place during the launch.  In fact, they want people to witness the launch since fund raising for the RNLI is vital to sustaining the service.

I got there ahead of the crowds and asked the crew where a good spot was to watch the launch from.  The pointed out a corner in the railings behind the boat as the best spot so I stationed myself there and waited for things to get going.  In hindsight, I think they were mistaken.  If I am to go back again for a launch, I will aim to be in location directly astern of the boat as you will understand from the shots.

The launch sequence is pretty quick.  The boat rests on a tilting table to keep it level in the boathouse for maintenance work but to allow it to be repositioned for the slipway when needed.  They pull on a winch line at the back to move the boat slightly at which point it tilts nose down and ready for launch.  The engines are started and both props checked for correct rotation.  If all is good, there is a sound of the ship’s horn and then the restraining line is released and off they go down the slipway.

It depends on how low the tide is as to how long the run down the slipway is and how big of a splash there is when it enters the water, but the water entry is impressive to say the least.  My position meant I had a bit of the side of the boathouse in the shots which I regret but I think you can still see just how big of a splash there is as they enter the water.  One in the water, the mast is erected quickly (it is lowered when in the boathouse) and they are up to speed.

Since this was not an operational launch, they got the boat configured and then did a run past the end of the station to wave to everyone gathered to watch.  With the second launch planned for that evening, I persuaded Nancy and Mum to go along.  I think neither of them was particularly bothered either way, but they accommodated me and were so glad that they did.  The evening launch turned out to be the same boat.  I am not sure what happened with the swap that was planned but clearly plans had changed.  I left the twosome to head into the boathouse and positioned myself along the shore to get some different shots.

The tide was a bit lower so I figured the run down the slipway would be a bit more dramatic.  Unlike the morning launch, this one had been given more publicity so there were plenty of people showing up to watch.  I understand the boathouse was busy but not uncomfortably so.  The new design is clearly working out for visitors.  When you are outside, you don’t get the commentary that is provided inside during demonstrations so I was waiting and hoping to know when the launch would occur.

I could just see the front of the boat through the windows so I knew I would see when it tilted down.  Sure enough, when it started to drop, I knew to be ready (and also warned a few people around me too).  Then we heard the horn blast and out came the boat.  It moves swiftly down the ramp, but it isn’t so fast that you could miss it.  I was actually able to get some wide and tight shots as if slid down.  Then the entry to the water which is what I was really there for.  Again, the crew erected the mast and did a run past the boathouse.  They then headed off for some training and we met up to head to the pub for dinner.  The excitement they had both experienced I fully understood from the morning launch.

If you can, go and watch a launch.  It is something most impressive.  Also, make a donation if you can.  The boat is funded by donations and almost everyone involved is a volunteer.  We saw this all on a sunny, summer’s day.  So often, this is on a stormy winter’s night and they are heading into awful conditions – just because they want to do what is needed by someone they don’t know.  That is something special.

RNLI Boathouse at Bembridge

I have hinted in a previous post that some lifeboat posts were coming, and this is the first.  We visited Bembridge, on the Isle of Wight, as part of our trip.  Bembridge has had a lifeboat station since the 1800s.  For those not from the UK, the rescue at sea system in the UK might come as a bit of a surprise.  The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is a charity that provides rescue at sea.  It is not a government run program and is entirely based on charitable donations.  Hard for most visitors to understand but it runs very well.  Aside from the engineer that maintains the boat, all of the crews are volunteers.  They have other jobs and come to crew the boat when summoned.

We have had family in Bembridge for generations, so I have been going there all of my life.  For most of that time, the lifeboat was kept in a boathouse at the end of a pier at Lane End from where it would be launched down a slipway.  I shot a launch from the old boathouse many years ago and that appeared in this post I wrote a while after that.  That pier and boathouse had reached the end of its life so was demolished and a new pier built to accommodate the next generation of boat.  I had been to look at this boathouse as I wrote about here but had not been in the house and not seen a launch.

I looked on the website for the station when I woke up one morning during our stay and was surprised to discover that they were planning on launching not once, but twice that day.  The first launch was not that far off so I jumped out of bed and got ready to head down.

The boathouse was already open when I got there.  The crew explained that they were planning on switching boats out and that they were launching their boat to take it to Cowes where they would pick up a spare (or relief) boat and bring it back.  They would then do another launch that evening.  They were ready to go but a school party was coming to witness the launch, so they were waiting for them.  As soon as they arrived (late), everything was ready to go.

These are the shots from looking around the boathouse prior to the launch.  The launch itself will follow in another post!

Precursor to the Lifeboat Posts

There are going to be some lifeboat posts coming up in the coming weeks.  We ended up seeing quite a bit of the RNLI’s work while we were there.  I shall have more detailed posts but these shots are just a warm up act for the posts to come.  I do like the RNLI and they certainly entertained me on this trip!

Lane End

C59F0945.jpgWhen we first started planning the trip to the UK, I decided to try and schedule a shoot with the lifeboat crew in Bembridge on the Isle of Wight. The boat house is at Lane End in Bembridge. I had shot a launch there from the shore a few years ago and wanted to plan something a little more involved. I talked with the RNLI team there about getting something together and it looked like it might work out. Unfortunately, a number of issues cropped up shortly before the visit and the whole thing was scrubbed.

C59F0926.jpgWhile this was disappointing, it did free up some time during the visit to do other things. Even so, I did take a walk from our hotel down to Lane End one early evening. The lifeboat is kept in a boathouse at the end of a pier. This allows it to launch clear of the rocky ledges in the area. The boat house is a relatively new building. The old pier and house were demolished and replaced when they upgraded the lifeboat.

C59F0923.jpgThe new pier is a cool structure and the whole thing fits well with what was there already. I got there after the house had closed to visitors for the day but I did walk out on the pier and look through the windows at the boat. It was a lovely evening to be out at the water and certainly made me feel pretty relaxed on my vacation. A couple of days later, I was able to get some aerial shots of the boathouse when we flew by too which was pretty cool.


Lifeboat Launch

wpid12353-QB5Y0259.jpgAs a kid growing up by the sea in the UK, I had a fascination with lifeboats which remains to this day. For those of you not from the UK, the sea rescue service in the UK might come as a bit of a surprise. It is a charitable organization, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) formed in 1824 which has continued to this day to provide rescue services around the coast of the UK and The Republic of Ireland. The government has no role in its operations and it is entirely funded by donations. Various members of my family have been involved in fund raising and serving in the crews and I remain a member of the institution despite having left the UK over ten years ago.

wpid12355-QB5Y0260.jpgThe Isle of Wight, where I grew up, had two offshore lifeboats. Cowes, the town in which I lived for many years, is home to the Inshore Lifeboat Centre for the RNLI where they build the boats while Bembridge and Yarmouth both have boats. Yarmouth’s boat is permanently afloat in the harbor while Bembridge’s boat is housed in a boathouse at the end of a pier with a slipway direct into the water.

wpid12347-QB5Y0230.jpgA few years ago we were in Bembridge for a family wedding. We took a trip down to Lane End where the lifeboat is based and we timed it well since they have a practice launch once a week. I wasn’t going to miss this.

wpid12360-QB5Y0268.jpgI actually nearly blew the shot. We were on the shore waiting for the boat to come down the slip. I figured I should get as many shots as possible since I wasn’t going to get a second chance. As it happens, the boat goes down the slipway a bit more slowly than I had anticipated. I started firing as soon as I saw it. On the body I had in those days, the buffer wasn’t huge and I managed to fill it up. However, I did still get some shots as it entered the water.

wpid12358-QB5Y0263.jpgSince that trip, the old boathouse and pier have been replaced with a new facility. I have a shot of it taken from the air. However, if we go back sometime soon, I would really like to set up something with the crew to get shots of the new boat launching from the new ramp. Ideally, I would like to shoot from a boat out at the end of the ramp. I would aim to have a second body mounted on the boathouse with Pocketwizards mounted on both to get simultaneous shots from two angles with both the side on splash and the overhead view of the boat entering the water. I have relatives who know members of the crew. Whether we can make anything happen I don’t know but it would be cool to do!