June proved expectations of very busy summer are correct

June proved busy for RNLI Torbay 

June proved busy for RNLI Torbay - Credit: RNLI Torbay 

Severn class lifeboat 'Duke of Kent', from the RNLI relief fleet, is still with us.

Torbay Lifeboat 'Alec and Christina Dykes’ is still on the Isle of Wight for engine repairs – our crew took her to Cowes on April 15 and her return date is as yet unknown.

June is proving that our expectations of a very busy summer are correct.

At the time of writing, the ILB has clocked up seven shouts and one assembly only and the ALB another three shouts.

This makes a total of 57 shouts for the year - 19 for the all-weather lifeboat (ALB) and 38 for the inshore lifeboat (ILB).

Torbay lifeboat fundraisers logo around RNLI flag

RNLI Torbay - Credit: RNLI Torbay 

How to launch a lifeboat

You might expect that the launch of the lifeboat is triggered by a call from the coastguard followed by the crew pagers being activated.

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That is partly true but there is more to it than that. Checks are needed to make sure that the right boat is launched with the best crew for the shout and that the coxswain has the best possible brief on what the shout is about.

Following a call to the coastguard from a member of the public, the coastguard will search for the nearest station to the location of the incident.

As the coastguard is no longer locally based, some local knowledge is required before the request to launch is confirmed.

The coastguard will page the Torbay Launch Authority (LA), which consists of a team of six people, including the lifeboat operations manager, operating on a rota basis so there is always one of the team available to respond.

The LA will then ring the coastguard and have a brief, about two minutes, discussion on the location and nature of the incident and relevance to launch a Torbay lifeboat.

The LA will then contact the duty coxswain to discuss the potential job and at the same time will page the crew.

The Torbay station operates a 24-hour crew so all the crew members will receive the pager call.

They are able to respond, yes or no, to the pager call depending on circumstances.

By this time the coxswain and LA will have agreed which boat or maybe both boats will launch.

As the crew start arriving, the coxswain and/or ILB helmsman will pick their crew.

If it looks like a long or difficult shout, a more experienced team may be needed.

If less onerous, it maybe an opportunity to give newer crew members more experience.

All the crew have received a very high standard of casualty care training so there is always medical experience on board.

An emergency doctor is available on the crew if it is expected to be needed.

The ILB has a crew of two plus the helmsman and the ALB a crew of five plus the coxswain.

To ensure that the boats are always able to respond to an incident with a full crew, the station aims to operate with a trained crew base of between 25 and 30 people.

While the crew are kitting up, the tractor driver will be manoeuvring the ILB to the waters edge and/or the mechanic or deputy mechanic will be preparing the ALB.

As the ALB is connected to shore power on her pontoon she is kept partially ‘warmed up’ and ready to go.

Once the boat, or boats, leave their berth control of the shout passes from the LA to the coxswain who will contact the coastguard for a situation update.

The coastguard may have more information or changes from the original call.

All this looks like a long-winded process but bear in mind that the aim is to be launched within eight to ten minutes of the initial phone call!

It is easy to forget that there is a much larger team than just the six people you will see on the ALB when she leaves the harbour, and, apart from the full-time coxswain and mechanic, the rest of the team are all volunteers.

The RNLI life-saving service is funded by donations and fundraising and as always, TLF volunteers have been out and about around the Bay recently, carrying out our  fundraising in the fresh air.

We can be found every Friday evening from 5pm to 8pm at the Paignton Harbour craft market, with our stall selling RNLI souvenirs and generally chatting to people about what we do. 

Coming up on July 13, you will find us all day at the Old Fish Quay Market, Brixham, with various stalls to browse and make a purchase.

With our TLF fundraising programme still fluid due to Covid restrictions, the best place to find out about what we are up to is to visit our Torbay station website or TLF Facebook.

If you would like to help support Torbay's lifeboats and their volunteer crews, here are some ways you can: 

  • become a member of the RNLI – go to RNLI.org
  • donate to Torbay Lifeboat fundraisers (TLF). Use our Just Giving page at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/rnli-tlf21 - gift aid it if you are able to. 
  • become a fundraiser by joining TLF and/or volunteering to help at events. Do something extraordinary and give your time and skills to us. Every hour that’s volunteered will help save lives. Fundraising events are held around the bay throughout the year. To find out more go to our Facebook page @TLFTorbay. 
  • follow us on social media - spread the word, like, share or retweet our posts. 

For more information on all RNLI Torbay activities go to www.torbaylifeboat.co.uk .You will find a wealth of useful information from the history of Torbay Lifeboat to current shouts and fundraising activities.

You can also contact me, the RNLI Torbay community engagement ambassador on 07836 375 203.

David Phillips, RNLI Torbay community engagement ambassador

David Phillips, RNLI Torbay community engagement ambassador - Credit: RNLI Torbay