An independent charity providing a vital year round lifesaving service, rescuing those in need around the Duddon coastline
In a tragic boating accident, a local boy was drowned just a few hundred yards from the beach. A public meeting was called to gauge support for the establishment of an independent lifeboat station, and within days, a committee had been formed to plan fundraising, develop a constitution and investigate the types of equipment available. In those days the choice of boats was limited and it was decided to purchase an Avon S650 Inflatable Sports Boat powered by a 40 HP outboard motor. Volunteers built the launch trailer and an old Nuffield two-wheel drive agricultural tractor, which was purchased locally, towed it. The total Package including waterproofs, compass, anchor and safety equipment cost around £1600, all of which was raised within the local community. This equipment was stored in a shed at a local caravan site whilst negotiations for a suitable permanent site for a boathouse were ongoing with the local council.
A drop in the performance of the boat, followed by an examination by the manufacturers, Avon, showed that the tubes had stretched, and so they were replaced under warranty. The ongoing negotiations with the local council over a site for the boathouse were successful and plans were submitted and passed. Keeping the old tractor in reasonable order was a major task that took up a lot of the volunteers' time. A combination of age and the salt laden environment had inevitably taken its toll.
The organisation was awarded a Matched Funding Grant by The Tourist Board, towards replacement of the tractor and construction of the boathouse. A 10-year-old David Brown tractor was bought and the boathouse was built entirely by volunteers. Due to lack of funds there were no toilet facilities or electricity (just a portable generator), but there was now an operations room from which rescues could be coordinated.
The previous 3 years had included a number of rescues in heavy seas and it had become apparent that once again the tubes on the Avon (sports) boat were again suffering from stretching and we started looking for a replacement boat. An overdraft was agreed with the bank (with a number of crewmembers personally signing as guarantors) and a more robust Gordon inflatable was purchased. This was slightly larger than the Avon , but, more importantly, it had an aluminium floor and runners instead of wood, which promised a more durable craft. Later that year Granada T.V. were making a programme in the village which involved some scenes being filmed at sea, and for that they needed a lifeboat on scene, which we were willing to provide. The money we were paid for this service not only paid off the overdraft, but also enabled the organisation to invest some money and plan for the future. Over the next few years we had some particularly hard rescues sustaining damage to the boat on two occasions, and on one the lifeboat capsized (all three crew members managed to get ashore safe and well). This prompted the need for Self Righting gear which we had designed by manufacturers of the boat, and the maintenance volunteers built and fitted the frame. Again it was realised that we were asking too much of the Gordon Boat and it was decided that for operational reasons and crew safety, that a larger, rigid hulled inflatable craft with more power and speed should be sought.
Delivery was taken of a Flatacraft 7 metre boat with a 140HP outboard motor. Once again the maintenance crew designed and built the launch trailer, and modified an old 4-wheel drive loading shovel to act as a launch vehicle since the old David Brown was no longer capable of safely launching the larger lifeboat. Now that we had larger equipment the boathouse had become too small and so, once again with a predominantly volunteer workforce, we extended the boathouse lengthways and upwards, putting a crew room, galley, and look out/operations center upstairs, and, at last, a toilet and washbasin down stairs. Although improving the capabilities of the organisation the larger boat had 3 drawbacks:
- Stern launching had always been hazardous. When launching into heavy surf the boat takes on a lot of water (once turned into the sea and underway the boat self drains within a minute). However, with a larger boat, more water is taken on board and so the launch vehicle has to go much deeper into the water to allow the boat to float off the trailer.
- When operating in shallow water the larger, heavier engine sustains more damage to the propeller when it hits the seabed.
- The outboard engines needed to replaced every 3 seasons (this had always been the case). However, with the cost of the larger engine being around £8000 this was obviously a greater strain on the organisation's finances. In addition, fuel costs (Petrol and 2-stroke oil) were a greater burden.
By this time we had to decide if we should purchase a new outboard motor and have the boat overhauled by the manufacturer (this would mean going 'Off Station'), or replace the entire craft once again. After much deliberation, it was decided that the best option would be a new craft. Ideally, this would have an inboard diesel engine and jet drive propulsion, and be launched from a bow-launching trailer. The cost of this (even with another overdraft) was too prohibitive so the final spec. was a hull similar to the existing Flatarcraft, but with an inboard diesel engine. Delivery was finally taken of a 7 metre Osprey Viper fitted with a 236HP OMC inboard diesel engine. A replacement launch vehicle was also purchased which feature 4-wheel drive and a lot more ground clearance to cope with the need to launch in deeper water.
After 12 years of hard use we were once again in a situation where we needed to either go off station and completely overhaul both boat and launch vehicle or look for an alternative. The decision was made to go off station, and after an immense effort by the volunteer members, both boat and launch vehicle were completely refurbished. This included the fitting of a new Steyer 236HP diesel engine and complete rewire on the boat, a full refurbishment of the hull and replacement of the sponsons. The launch vehicle was also overhauled including: new axles, clutch and full rewire, among numerous other smaller tasks. A bow launch trailer was the next priority item, the design of this was complete and funding had to be raised to enable us to build it.
This year saw us starting to the build of the Bow Launch Trailer. The design is based on that used by the Coastguards but slightly modified to suit our particular needs. See the Photos page for our progress to date on the build. The Christmas period saw some unexpected maintenance work on the Launch vehicle with the collapse of a rear axle bearing and a damaged PTO pump drive. However this provided the ideal opportunity to fit a hydraulic hitch which we need for the new trailer when it's finished.
Work continues on the build of the Bow Launch Trailer which we hope to have completed before summer. Crew training is again one of the organisations priorities as we try to develop our newer/younger up to Coxswain status. We are also looking into extending the Boathouse to provide us with a dedicated workshop and a separate drying room and improving the ramp which allows us access to the beach.
Worked continued on the build of our self designed Bow Launch Trailer, unfortunately weather and other commitments from our entirely volunteer crew prevented completion. Crew training continued as we develop our newer/younger members up to Coxswain status. We also started looking into extending the Boathouse to provide us with a dedicated workshop, a separate drying room and improving the ramp, which allows us access to the beach. As always funding restricted our plans with the Boathouse and ramp not getting started. On July 18th we suffered a major failure of the Steyer diesel engine. Due to the nature of the failure and problems resolving it with our supplier and the main agent it was apparent that this was not going to be quickly resolved, and we were forced to look for a replacement engine. The quickest and most cost effective solution was to change from the Steyer diesel unit to a Mercruiser petrol engine. This was fitted and run in as quickly as possible, and upto date has proven extremely reliable and is also outperforming the Steyer unit. The end of the year saw the retirement of our long serving treasurer and the all the members would like to express our thanks for her commitment and work throughout her period in office.
This year saw the completion of the build of the new trailer and trials begin, and plans of the drying room were drawn up. A second Muir Hill launch vehicle was purchased and renovated, allowing us to retire the old one.
The Bow Launch trailer was successfully brought into service at the start of the year, and work has begun on the construction of the drying room.
After a number of years of planning the drying room extension was finally finished, allowing us better maintain our safety equipment. Another big event saw the purchase of a new rescue boat; an ex-RNLI Atlantic 75 class; this being being an massive upgrade from the previous rescue boat, with it being designed specifically for rescue work. Finally this year also saw the purchase of a second Muir Hill tractor, with the intention of galvanising and outfitting it next year in such way to better resist the harsh conditions of working in salt water.