The new year as been heralded in by a period of very strong winds and it is at times like this that the thoughts of all those living and working along our coast go out to those who may be struggling with the perilous conditions out at sea. My own thoughts and that of many more in Skegness have been drawn towards the brave crew of the RNLI Lifeboat crew who may at any time of night or day be called upon to put there own lives at risk in order to go out and rescue anyone anywhere in need of their help.
There has been a lifeboat operated in Skegness since 1825. The first lifeboat station was established in 1825 by the Lincolnshire Coast Shipwreck Association to guard the Lincolnshire coast around the north east corner of The Wash, fringed by dangerous sandbanks. The Association amalgamated with the RNLI in 1864. Since the station became operational, there have been five boathouses at Skegness, the current one being completed in June 1990. It was the first new lifeboat house to be built for the Mersey class lifeboat and it also houses a D class inshore lifeboat and a shop. The long stretch of beach between the boathouse and the sea can be up to 400m, depending on the state of the tide. During a call out, one or both lifeboats are pulled along the sand by tractor to the water’s edge before launching. During the summer months, this area is filled with holidaymakers, so the crew run along the sides of the boat moving people out.
The early lifeboats were drawn by a team of eight horses hired from a local farm. It must have been an amazing sight watching the lifeboat being pulled along the beach so as to get the lifeboat closest to the stricken vessel to allow for a swift launch, remember in those days the boats were powered only by the oars off the crew members and these men must have been strong as they fought against strong tides and winds in high seas in order to get out to the stricken vessels.
In complete contrast to today’s lifeboat the 'Lincolnshire Poacher' as it is named is a Mersey class all weather lifeboat powered by twin 285hp Caterpillar 3208T turbo-charged diesels and is capable of a speed of 17 knots. It has a crew of six and can carry a X Boat inflatable which it can deploy at sea. Its survivor compartment can carry 43 people, but more than 21 prevents self-righting should the boat capsize.
The Lifeboat house also holds a D Type class inflatable lifeboat. Fast, light and with very shallow draught, it can respond rapidly and work in very shallow and confined Waters. It is an ideal lifeboat for rescues close to shore in fair-to-moderate conditions in both daylight and darkness. It has a single outboard engine and can be launched from special trolleys or even manually.
The crew members of the lifeboat are all volunteers who are prepared to leave there place of employment at any time when called upon. Many of these men have family links to previous lifeboat crews and there are families in Skegness who can traces their descendants right back to the earliest days of the Skegness Lifeboat.
I can remember a time not long ago when once a distress signal was received at the lifeboat house maroon rockets would be fired, one maroon for the inflatable and two maroons for the out shore lifeboat to be launched. If you were lucky enough to be in Skegness at the time you would see men running from there place of work or cycling or driving their vehicle down Tower Esplanade as fast as was safe enough, all converging on the lifeboat house ready for the launch. With today’s technology it is no longer necessary to use the maroons which at times could cause hazards but I do miss hearing the maroons going off has it somehow involved residents in the launch and allowed us to in our thoughts wish the men safe passage.
This coming year will involve many launches especially during the summer months when they could be called out 2-3 times a day to deal with thoughtless visitors who don’ t take heed of warnings about the dangers of using inflatable’s on the sea or to search for lost children. The lifeboat crew do a fantastic job and have saved scores of lives, if you visit the lifeboat house you can see a roll of honour to the lifeboat men and the job they do.
The Lifeboat house is generally open daily from 10.30am-4pm. From the clock tower walk towards the beach and the station is on the left. There is also a shop which is open from Easter to Christmas the Station can be reached on the web at www.skegnesslifeboat.org.uk
Skegness is very proud of its lifeboat and supports in many ways through donations and special activities. Each year the Lifeboat station hosts a special open day with stalls and special launch displays and mock rescues at sea. Details of this day can be got from the Lifeboat Station.