Reporter Chrissie Redford joined RNLI volunteers in Skegness on a trip towards Hunstanton ahead of their recrutiment campaign, and discovered the new £2million Shannon class all-weather lifeboat really does cut through the sea like butter – until its switched off. After recovering from feeling a bit queasy when the lifeboat rocked in choppy sea, the second part of our feature charts the crew’s journey back to Skegness....
Standing on the deck with waves crashing high above the lifeboat was an experience that soon made me forget about feeling sea sick.
Living a moment that I’d only ever seen on television sailing programmes, made me wonder why I had waited so long to go outside.
But, there was more training to be done by the crew and it was time to go back inside.
The lifeboat began moving again as I hung on to the rails making my way to the warmth and safety of my seat.
Training in navigation and mechanics had resumed, and volunteer Adam Homes was back on the radar.
It wasn’t long before I was asked if I wanted to go outside again (as a precaution to prevent any more emergency seasick stops).
This time, even I was invited to climb up and take the helm.
“Aim for that white spot on the horizon - that’s Skegness,” I was told.
The strength of the current kept pulling me off course and, as I kept turning the wheel to correct it, I wondered if the lifeboat had been zig-zagging across the navigator’s screen.
A message to the helm and the Coxwain, Richard Watson took over the control from inside the lifeboat and I was on my way back inside.
“Working as a team is part of what the training is all about,” said crewman Ned Kelly.
“When you are out on a shout and it’s dark or conditions are so bad you can’t see anything, you rely on the crew on the radar and the navigators to find your way.”
A message from the inshore lifeboat, also out on training, told us they had gear trouble and needed towing in.
The lifeboat drew up alongside it to protect it from the wind as the crew prepared to tow it ashore. Once close enough to the beach, the inshore lifeboat was released, and its crew rowed ashore.
The all-weather lifeboat was reversed while the inshore boat was recovered - leaving time for a cup of tea.
Ned said: “No training is the same - today we met up with the Hunstanton crew and had to tow the inshore boat in. But that’s what it’s like with what we do. We have to be prepared for the unexpected.”
My final challenge was exactly that. I wasn’t quite prepared for what was being explained to me as I was advised to strap myself into my chair for the landing - travelling at 20 knots (nearly 25mph) - towards the beach.
We landed with a thud, leaning to one side before we were loaded to be towed back to the lifeboat station.
Outside the station, I was evacuated down a ladder and immediately spotted the young volunteer, ready to rinse the big boat down having swept out the station while we were away.
Michelle Collins, who had been on the stranded inshore lifeboat, was also ready with a hose and I wondered how she managed to fit all this in along with her busy role as a PCSO. She said: “I just got involved a couple of years ago and love it. It’s addictive.”
There was an hour’s work still to be done when the lifeboats returned to the station. Before the crew can head off for a Sunday afternoon with their families, both boats are cleaned, fuelled and left ready for action - because the next time they are launched it could involve saving someone’s life.
Back in the Lifeboat Station, having unloaded my lifejacket and peeled off the dry suit, it was time to relax and have another cup of tea,
Coxwain Richard Watson seemed happy at the debrief with how the morning had gone. “The inshore lifeboat was recovered, and all went well,” he said. “People are all OK?” he added, looking my way for confirmation.
Fully recovered, I thanked the crew for allowing me to join the trip and for looking after me.
It was an experience that may just become a fond memory for me - for the volunteer crew this was just another day in their endless preparations to be the best, and ready for the next shout.
More volunteers are needed like them - could it be you?
* A recruitment day is being held on Sunday, April 15 from 10.30am for volunteer crew.
It will be open to all who are interested in becoming shore crew, fundraising volunteers, and sea-going crew.
The minimum age for crew is 17 and the upper age limit is 55 for the inshore, and 65 for the all-weather lifeboat.