RNLI and Lymington Lifeboat New Forest by Mark and Hugh

With courage nothing is impossible

Mark and Hugh pay tribute to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, featuring Lymington Lifeboat

Mark and Hugh signoff 600x400

Ed Note: First we're sticking with decorations until Candelmas so Mark and Hugh stay in Christmas mode for at least this week. Second did you see Lymington Lifeboat featured on Saving Lives at Sea last week? There are some amazing clips from this series if you follow this link https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0920fvl/clips. Also if you don't yet receive our weekly local onlin newsletter do sign up below. Then please read on!


With courage, nothing is impossible

This motto which is that of a major UK charity is something that all boaters ought to memorise. This is the motto of the organisation that will respond to your plea for help when you are at your wit’s end; you have run out of ideas and there is nothing more you can do. This is the motto of the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institute). They never close, you could be in danger at three in the morning in the middle of the Solent with water lapping at the floorboards from a mystery leak; they will answer your call.

It’s a fact that the majority of boaters choose not to venture out when the weather is dangerous. The crews of the RNLI do precisely the opposite. When you’re brushing your teeth before bedtime and you hear the rain lashing angrily at the bathroom window with the wind howling through the trees, think for a moment. There could be RNLI crews leaving the safety of their harbour and motoring out into the teeth of a hateful storm in the inky black night. It’s a sobering thought.

Education and training, the cornerstones of safety

There are unfortunates in this world of ours and some of us were simply born unlucky. One poor fella wanted to sail from London to Southampton. He was to navigate using an AA map. There is a distinct difference between a map and a chart. On a map there is all the detail you need of the land but none concerning the sea; for a chart the exact opposite applies. Using a map to navigate at sea is like trying to use a yacht on the M1. It just doesn’t work. Apparently, the poor man asked a local for basic navigation advice. He was advised to go to the end of the Thames and turn right and then after passing the mouth of the River Medway simply to keep the land on his right. The result of this advice was that for the next week he sailed around the Isle of Sheppey.

When much younger your writer also suffered because of ignorance.

Having decided to build a glass fibre sea kayak the first big trip was to be to the Isle of Wight. The first day ended at dusk on an unnamed beach to the east of Cowes where camp was established for the night. The following day paddling to Calshot was relatively easy but it felt as if progress up Southampton Water was rather slow. When close to the pier at the Hamble tankage facility the reason became apparent as the water was roaring past the pier timbers. With a little bit of education this novice paddler would have left Cowes a little later and enjoyed an easier trip.

It was more through luck than judgement that the RNLI didn’t become involved in these two scenarios. Ask any honest boater, Ellen MacArthur for example. She once said that it didn’t matter how much preparation you did, things still failed and that it’s how you respond to those failures that matters. Boats can be complex and sometimes when they fail help really is needed. The RNLI will always be there for you. Try to imagine for a moment that you and your family are in real peril, just think about this for a moment. The people who will jump out of bed, both the shore party and the crew, will all be volunteers. These volunteers will make their way to you in the dark, in a horrible sea, to save you and your family. How impressive is that?

Learning about tides and weather is easy and the RNLI puts a great deal of effort into training beginners of all ages. Hundreds of people die from drowning every year, half of them children. The RNLI educates and informs children of the dangers that open water can present. I used to work in an industry where safety is paramount and in my experience education and training are very important. When we take to the roads, we will have passed a test but when we take to the sea no such test is required. If you do find yourself leaning towards the nautical side of things why not get in touch with this wonderful organisation. Learn a little from previous incidents and don’t become a statistic yourself.

Hello Darling

Whilst visiting friends in the North East my wife and I took the time to visit the Grace Darling museum which is run by the RNLI. Behind glass doors were various curios, hairbrushes, letters, photographs, that kind of thing. Like a moth to a flame, I was drawn to the last exhibit which was the one nearest the exit; as always, they save the best until last. It was the very boat that she and her father had rowed out to the wreck of the SS Forfarshire. I slid away from my wife and our friends and once beside the sturdy twenty-one-foot boat, reached out to where I could just touch the transom. Just for a moment my fingers touched history.

The rules of salvage

The RNLI will never impose a salvage fee when a vessel is towed by a lifeboat, this rule is in place so that people in danger will never hesitate to call. The RNLI is all about saving lives. Once there was a call made to them in order to recover an unmanned fishing boat. The call was refused on the basis that there were no lives at risk. The RNLI came in for a lot of criticism for this but they responded as follows. "We are not a salvage firm and our charity's aim is to provide immediate assistance for people in trouble at sea and lives are at risk.” You really can’t quarrel with such plain logic.

The sheer power of the wind

Let me give you an example. We that sail, harness the power of the wind to travel, potentially to any seaborne location. However, the wind can be brutal. When I lived aboard my yacht a while back, I was trying to sleep through a particularly nasty storm when I heard a sharp crack followed by a frantic flapping. Wearily I dressed and peered outside. It was the big catamaran about four boats back. The cleat securing the genoa had failed. In the few moments it took me to reach the winch in order to wind the sail back in the trailing edge had been shredded. The owner was looking at a repair bill of around a thousand quid and all for the sake of a poorly secured line.

There is an account from the Lymington RNLI in 2019 which covers a similar incident. ‘Yacht with shredded sails and nervous crew at end of river, assistance given with vote of thanks received for reassuring professionalism.’

Words alone cannot convey the terror that a violent wind can generate. Those who sail will know well of the terrific forces that are generated and the unrelenting and soul-sapping shrieking of the wind. When I sailed in a storm, I always considered the wind as a malevolent force intent on taking for itself anything which wasn’t secure. On a summer’s day in a gentle breeze the wind is a friend as it both powers the yacht and cools us. In a November storm it is the enemy and the account above is brief but revealing. It would appear that an inexperienced crew were caught out by strong winds. An experienced crew would have recognised the signs of worsening weather and acted in advance. But such experience is gained, not granted; we all have to start somewhere. The RNLI do not judge, they save lives. In this case it would appear that the novice sailors received care and not criticism. Surely this will benefit all in that the young sailors will likely join the RNLI and also that they will learn from their frightening experience. They will surely be a better the next time they leave harbour.

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RNLI cartoon


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More tales and cartoons for Lymington and the New Forest from Mark and Hugh

If you'd like to read previous articles on diverse subjects written by Mark and illustrated by Hugh's cartoons here they are, click the links embedded in the titles:

Merry Christmas 2020
What our cars say about us

The litter pickers of the New Forest

A roof over your New Forest head

Richard St Barbe Baker

Our star, our sun, our salt!
To Lymington or Cuba
The Auld Mug

Seeds of success

Moonlit meeting with cetaceans 

Trees and what they tell us
Cartography and trig pillars

Pony drifts and pannage in the New Forest
A journey from the New Forest via Lymington
The brilliance - and persistence - of Marconi

Equality in the skies
Bees pollinators par excellence 
Cordless home entertainment

The joy of sheds

When the Isle of Wight was just Wight
Bucklers Hard

Salisbury Cathedral 
Pond Life in our Forests 
Bombs Away 
Baileys Hard 
Rufus Stone and Sir Walter Tyrrell
Graffiti through the ages
Freedom of the roads
Heath fires
Lymington Lido
Watch the birdie
Unstoppable momentum of nature
Socially distanced socialising
Calshot Spit, a curse for mariners...



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