Posted by: lifeboatlady | 31/07/2011

Speakers’ Corner at Burnham, but where’s the boat?

Every year Judith Duncan, the RNLI East Regional Education Manager, runs a Speakers’ Corner event for all her team of volunteer presenters, to bring them up to date with new education equipment, posters and leaflets, and to hear about new lifeboats on station, and new or updated boathouses and stations.  Over the years we have been to many different lifeboat stations in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, and our most recent was at Burnham-on-Crouch.

The Station Manager and crew made us very welcome in their splendid modern station, which is bang in the middle of the yacht marina.  On the ground floor is the drying room for kit and equipment where every crew member has a space for his/her suits, helmet, lifejacket and boots, and usually a crate containing assorted gloves, socks and whatever they choose to wear under their dry suits.  Also on this floor is a shower room, lavatories and storage.  On the first floor is the control room cum recreation room and kitchen.   But no boat?   Ah, you’ll have to wait to hear about that.

Judith told us all about the new “All Aboard” teachers’ pack, and showed us copies of the “All Aboard” book which is packed with competitions and quizzes for children, and tells them about the RNLI and its services in a fun way.   We also saw the many different colouring sheets which can be downloaded from the RNLI special website for young people,, where there are even more things to do.

Judith was followed by Andrew Ashton, the RNLI’s Divisional Inspector for the East Division; that is to say the man who is in charge of all operations at lifeboat stations throughout the division.  And those of us who think Judith’s region is ridiculously large to manage, stretching as it does from the Thames to the Wash, taking in the six East Anglian counties, chunks of north London, and parts of the midlands including Leicester and Coventry; well Andrew’s division stretches from the Wash to the Solent, although of course just the lifeboat stations on the coast.  Andrew told us all about developments of new boats, particularly where our East stations were having new ones, and improvements being made to station buildings, usually to house the newer, bigger boats.   We heard how Hunstanton was having an Atlantic 85 needing bigger accommodation;  Wells was having a soft track vehicle which would go over sand, and with a high placed engine, to launch their boat;  Happisburgh were having to move south to temporary facilities because of the cliff dropping through erosion;  Lowestoft had to have a new pontoon as the other one sank!!;  Aldeburgh had a Bob Cat to level off the shingle beach;  at Walton substantial pier repairs were necessary to maintain access to the boat;  Southend was having rebuilt shore facilities for one of the inshore boats and the hovercraft.  He also told us about Burnham, but as I said above, more of that later.  Andrew also told us about the increasing moves to film rescues, both so there is a factual record of rescues and because of the opportunity to use such films for fund-raising and increased awareness.   He said the Atlantic 85s had a fixed camera, and the Tamars had a zoom camera controlled from the wheelhouse.

RNLI Divisional Inspectors are required to be either Royal Navy or Merchant Navy senior officers, so Lifeboat Gent had a great time over lunch reminiscing with Andrew in the usual way, “did you ever know old so-and-so of the such-and-such line”.

After lunch, we were pleased to meet Stuart Thompson, Deputy Divisional Lifeguard Manager for the East.   Stuart told us about the beaches around the East Anglian coast where there are RNLI lifeguards during the summer season, and updated us on the number and type of rescues they had carried out.

And after all that, we had the real fun bit of the day when we walked a considerable way along the L-shaped pontoon in the Marina until we reached………………. the floating boathouses!   Yes, Burnham had two boats, a D class and an Atlantic 75 and both were housed in what can best be described as floating garages, complete with up-and-over doors.   But not garages or up-and-over doors that might be seen in a domestic setting; real hi-tech boathouses, with the doors  electrically operated from a control panel, which not only lifted the door but dropped the boat into the water ready to go, and, on return to the boathouse, lifted the boat almost out of the water and shut the door.

Since our visit, Burnham were told they were to have a new Atlantic 85 boat to replace their 75, and that has meant a bigger boathouse.  The RNLI station branch launched an appeal to pay for it, and almost £125,000 has been raised of the £130,000 required.   Congratulations to all Burnham fund-raisers.


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