Friday, 16 March 2007

Lifeboat news

A lot to write about at the moment regarding our lifeboat service, particularly in relation to Cornwall. Last Monday the RNLI celebrated the centenary of its largest ever rescue. Back in 1907 the White Star liner Suevic ran aground on rocks off Cornwall's Lizard in bad weather. Four lifeboats set out from the Lizard peninsula and rescued all 456 souls from the ship, including some 70 babies. One has to bear in mind that the lifeboats were rowing boats and that the rescue was effected in rough seas and darkness. Other folk helped by wading into the cold rough seas to assist the rescued to get ashore. There are always myths about Cornish wreckers shining lights to entice ships on to the rocks but this 16 hour long rescue is far more representative of what our local seafarers were about. It is such a shame that we seem to be so excited by today's celebrity culture yet these 'celebrities' are nobodies compared with the fishermen that were manning the oars of the Lizard lifeboats, truly giants in my opinion.

Fast forward 100 years to the announcement this week of a really wacky fund raising stunt to raise money for the lifeboat service. Roger Ryman, head brewer at St Austell Brewery, was pondering on a way to mark his 40th birthday. Now Roger is involved with the Charlestown Rowing Club just down the road from St Austell and mused that it might be fun to rustle up a crew to circumnavigate the county in a Cornish gig. Somehow he managed to get enough volunteers for the venture which is to take place in May (I don't know how much ale had been quaffed prior to them coming aboard so to speak).

They will row east from Charlestown to Plymouth and then go up the Tamar to Calstock. This is where things get really interesting. At Calstock they will haul the gig out of the water put it on its trailer and then manually haul it overland to Bude from where they will continue the circumnavigation! There is a website here that goes into detail about it all. The whole escapade will take a week and naturally the evening stopovers will be in St Austell Brewery pubs. It's amazing isn't it how these madcap ideas seem to be linked to alcohol consumption! I look forward to seeing them in May certainly for part of the overland push.

More lifeboat news with a local connection. The RNLI have just concluded a deal with DML at Plymouth for nine Tamar-class boats, the order being worth £12.6 million. This is fabulous news. Apparently they will have a range of 250 miles and a top speed of 25 knots - something of a contrast to those rowing boats they used on the Lizard a century ago.

1 comment:

brian in the tamar valley said...

An absolutely superb programme on Westcountry ITV tonight that reconstructed the lifeboat rescue of the people on the Suevec. Just half an hour but one of those regional gems that we deserve to see more of.