Sunday 15th July, the one dry day in weeks, which was just as well, as hubby, 2/3 kids and me set off on a 90 mile trip to the coast (yes that's one way mileage) to visit Hayling Island RNLI station for research purposes. Armed with a notebook and camera and a list of questions 10 miles long, I needed lots of information for Sunday's Child. The hero of that novel, Cal Trant, works on a lifeboat.
The D.A.L - deputy lifeboat authority - Graham Raines MBE spent three hours answering all my questions.
Despite what the TV adverts claim - the AA is NOT the 4th emergency service. That's the coastguard. Not many people know that you can call the coastguard as well as police, fire and ambulance by dialling 999. I did -- and not just because it was a question on Pointless a few months back!
The larger lifeboat has a crew of four - see above. They posed very nicely for me having just got back from a training exercise. The smaller boat has a crew of three. They are one huge family, looking out for each other, treating the kids to a pantomine at Christmas and so on.
Being an inshore lifeboat, the boats don't have a ramp to go whizzing down on a launch. They are launched and retrieved by tractor - see above. On a launch the engines are already running before the boat hits the water. It always launches forwards, thus on retrieval has to be reversed onto the trailer. Hard enough on a flat calm as above. Very hard in the dark and a force 8 gale.
All the men are volunteers. They do not get paid for risking their lives going out in storms to rescue people.
The minimum age of a lifeboat crew is 17. The max age is 45. The ave age is 20-30. They have three duty shifts at Hayling Island. Red, white and blue, working one week and then two weeks off. But as no one is full time, and some of them work on the main land, the pager could go off on a week off.
They have rescued a horse, a bull and even a swarm of bees.
The Lifeboat Prayer
Merciful Father, all things in heaven and earth are held within Your loving
care, look with favour upon the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Protect
and bless the crews of all our lifeboats, our lifeguards and all who risk their
own safety to bring help to others.
Guide all who work for the Institution as volunteers, supporters or staff that
they may be faithful to the vision of our founders, so that it may always be
seen as a beacon of hope and light to those who find themselves in peril on
the seas. Through the same Jesus Christ, to whom with You and the Holy
Spirit be honour and glory, now and forever.