Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Shoreham RNLI: Rescues at Sea

Hello and welcome to my blog. It's lovely to see you again.

It's great down here at the moment. We've got calm, warm sunny days; the daffodils are showing off and the trees are dressing up in blossom. What an ideal time to cycle down and see us. Just remember that Shoreham Beach ends at the Harbour entrance so, unless you're related to the Big G, you'll have to go back the way you came. Personally I would like to change that, but that's a whole new blog and a whole load of letters to the Beach News. Oh hang it, come here, I'll whisper, "how about a broadwalk from the shops down to the Old Fort so the beach can be accessible to all?"  Whilst the dust settles on that, I'll move onto the second feature on Shoreham RNLI.

Just to re-cap, Dave Cassan's been a volunteer with the organisation for over 17 years and spent 15 of those as lifeboat crew. He's now the station Spokesman and here he talks about some of their rescues.
Dave Cassan

"The ships officers know about the call roughly 2 minutes in advance of the rest of the crew. Then our pagers go off and we all come charging down here. By that time the Coxswain knows what the shout is, so when the crews arrive things either heat up or calm down. So it could be "calm down - tow job," because a guy's gone out in his fishing boat the previous night, gone to start his engine in the morning and the battery's dead, or it could be "launch both boats."

Launch both boats normally makes your heart drop because it quite often means that there is somebody in the water missing.  Around here, that will quite often be a diver who has got separated from the rest of his group. Now a diver's head is all that shows above water and it's the size of a football. So all you need is a wave slightly bigger than that and you can't see him. So if you've got a diver missing at sea we will tend to get more crew on board; the more eyes on deck, the more chance we have of seeing him.

Fires at sea are particularly nasty and you do wonder what you'll find when you get there. The problem is that everyone tries to get away from what's on fire. The only place they've got is the briny and you can get alot of people leaping off board if they haven't got a life raft.

We do have fire fighting equipment and we are trained and experienced in fire fighting, but we don't have some of the equipment that the fire officers have. There was a situation about 4 years ago where a cruise liner, the Calypso, caught fire in the Channel. Seven lifeboats responded to that and one of the things that was happening was the transfer of fire teams and medics by helicopter to the liner but also onto one of the lifeboats so they could supervise the fire fighting.

While we were fighting the fire, (the first one), underneath the West Pier, we had 2 fire officers on our lifeboat with thermal imagining equipment. They knew where the firemen were fighting the fire and were looking for hot spots underneath them. So they would direct us, "That piece of metal is far too hot. Cool it down. There's something happening on the other side."

In all honesty the worse shout you can actually come across is when you hear there's a fire at sea and there are children involved. The crews all tend to have children and grand-children so they share alot of empathy for people when a child is involved.

There are times when it's a horrible night and you're curled up in bed and you know what's going to happen. There are times when you've had a sharp intake of breath when you've launched and you've said to yourself, "this is going to be painful. I'm going to be hurting for the next three days after this one." But there have never been any occasions when we've refused to go out and I can't recall an incident where we've abandoned a vessel that could have been saved.

The partners, wives and families do get worried about their men and before the boathouse was re-built they used to gather there in dribs and drabs waiting for their return. It happens less now."

Next week, they'll be a brief intermission when I talk about something other than the RNLI, but after that I'll be returning with a feature on what makes the lifeboats, "the finest vessels in the world."

Thanks for popping by and see you next week.


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