Our meeting this week was very different as we were delighted to be invited to take a look around the new Swanage Lifeboat Station.
This state-of-the-art facility was only completed earlier in 2017 and houses not only the brand new Shannon class all-weather lifeboat but also the inshore lifeboat (ILB).
Our host was none other than Lifeboat Operations Manager Neil Hardy, a veteran of some 30 years experience with the RNLI. Neil gave us a detailed account of the background to the current facility, some of the challenges encountered in getting to where they are today and he explained how both boats are used and how they often work together, in conjunction with the Coastguard Service more often than not. We were also shown the crew room, where up to 30 crew members (not all on duty at once) deploy the equipment and protective clothing that they use every time they go out to sea as well as some of the technology used to enable the service to respond as quickly as it does.
The main boathouse is where the current all-weather boat is housed and the highlight of the tour, of course, was being able to go on board, where Neil explained the operation of the boat itself and the myriad of computer wizardry that has been installed on it. Every crew member on board during a call out has a dedicated role to perform, and their on board stations are set up specifically to enable them to do so.
The visit was a fascinating eye-opener into the hard work and dedication of the people, almost entirely volunteers, who ensure that the service continues to run. For those interested, you must be over 17 years old to apply to join the crew. The maximum age for the inshore boat is 50 and for the all-weather boat it is 65. Swanage alone has had over 70 call outs in 2017 and the RNLI itself can only carry on thanks to the dedication of those volunteers, be they crew members, on shore boathouse staff or workers in the shop in the High Street. More details about the RNLI, what it does and how you can get involved or donate to them can be found here.
President Ro sincerely thanked Neil for giving us such an interesting insight into the business of saving lives at sea.