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Goodbye to the old and in with the new at St Davids RNLI

Lifeboats News Release

St Davids RNLI will today (Friday 21 October) usher in a new chapter in their proud 147-year lifesaving history on an emotional day for crew members past and present.

The current lifeboat crew are delighted to move into their new £10M station at St Justinian’s, which has just been declared fully operational after intensive launch testing. The state-of-the-art building in one of the most remote corners of the Welsh coast took more than two years to construct and will now be the launch base for the station’s £2.7M Tamar class lifeboat and the smaller inshore lifeboat.

But today is also a day of reflection as volunteer lifeboat crew past and present say goodbye to the beloved Tyne class lifeboat Garside as it launches down the old station slipway for the final time. Garside first arrived on station in 1988 and in its 28 years of service has launched 343 times to emergencies at sea. Its crews have saved 79 lives and rescued 35 people.

Today (Friday 21 October) crew from across the lifespan of the lifeboat – some of whom have been crew members for the entirety of its service – will take to the water to watch the final launch and say farewell to the stalwart lifesaving vessel.

It will also be the final time a lifeboat launches from the historic former lifeboat station in St Justinian’s, which has stood since 1912 and seen generations of crews pass down the slipway to save lives at sea.

St Davids RNLI Coxswain Dai John, who recently won a long-service award for his 30 years on the crew, said: ‘Crew members have come and gone, but Garside has been a consistent and reliable presence here for almost three decades.

‘Every member of the crew will have their memories of her, whether it’s their first shout, the endless scrubbing to keep her pristine or a memorable rescue. Naturally we are all sad to see her go.

‘But from today we will be looking forward and the new lifeboat and the new station and facilities mean we will be able to save lives at sea for many more years to come.’

The remote location of the new station posed many challenges for main building contractor BAM Nuttall, both in terms of access for plant and equipment and the unpredictable sea and weather conditions. The seaward part of the works were constructed using a large jack-up barge, whilst the landward foundation works and construction of the boathouse were serviced from the land using a 70m reach tower-crane. Wherever practical, materials were brought in by sea to minimise the effects on the narrow access roads.

As well as the slipway for the Tamar class lifeboat, the new boathouse has additional space to accommodate the smaller D-class inshore lifeboat.  Its facilities include a drying room for kit and better provision for crew training and equipment maintenance.

Paul Eastment, RNLI Divisional Operations Manager, said: ‘This is a proud day for St Davids RNLI. Everyone involved in the project has put in a tremendous amount of hard work to get to where we are today.

‘The former lifeboat station has stood for more than a century and the exposure to the rigors of the sea and the need to house the new 25-knot Tamar class lifeboat meant a new boathouse and slipway was needed.

‘The new facilities will support the operation of the St Davids lifeboats well into the 21st century, contributing to the saving of many more lives and building upon the long and proud record of the brave lifeboat crews who have served this challenging part of the coastline for almost 150 years.’

Local people chipped in to support the new station project and the community arm of the fundraising appeal exceeded all expectations, raising over £214,000 towards the costs of the project. Welsh sporting stars Ian Walsh and Gerald Davies fronted the community appeal and the biggest bequest - a surprise £80,000 donation - was received in memory of the late Captain Bleddyn James by his sister Miss Ella.

Dai John said: ‘We would like to thank the local community, both for their overwhelming support via the fundraising appeal, and their patience and understanding during the period of construction.’

Garside will now enter the RNLI’s relief lifeboat fleet.

St Davids RNLI was founded in 1869. Since then lifeboat crews have launched from the station 967 times, saved 326 lives and rescued 558 people.

Notes to editors:

The attached pictures show:

- St Davids RNLI's Tyne class lifeboat Garside's crew waving goodbye after the boat's final launch this morning. Credit Lyndon Lomax

- Out with the old in with the new: The Tyne class lifeboat Garside leaving (right) alongside the station's state-of-the-art Tamar class lifeboat Norah Wortely. Credit RNLI 

- Garside launching for the final time. Credit Lyndon Lomax

- St Davids RNLI Coxswain Dai John looking out to sea ahead of the final launch of Garside. Credit RNLI

- The St Davids RNLI lifeboat crew outside the old lifeboat station,which has seen lifeboats launch since 1912. Credit Lyndon Lomax

- The Tamar class lifeboat launching from the newly opened £10M lifeboat station. Credity Lyndon Lomax.

For more information, please contact Chris Cousens, RNLI Press Officer (Wales and West) on 07748 265496 or 01745 585162 or by email on [email protected].

Some of Garside’s most notable launches:
• 1989: Bronze Medal, Coxswain Dai Chant:
The fishing vessel Stephanie Jane was drifting towards the South Bishop Lighthouse with engine failure when she put out a distress call. In winds gusting to over 70 knots and very heavy seas the lifeboat Garside was able to reach the casualty in about 20 minutes. The lifeboat was hit by a very large sea which put her onto her side whilst on passage to the casualty. On arriving a towline was successfully passed at the first attempt despite a 40ft swell. The long tow to Milford Haven took more than eight hours to complete. Conditions were again too severe to allow rehousing at St Davids until the next day.
• 1999: RNLI Thanks on Vellum – Coxswain Malcolm Gray; RNLI Letter of Thanks – Honorary Secretary Jeffrey Davies:
In the early hours of Christmas Eve the 1,500 tonne tanker Blackfriars broke its anchor cable in St Brides Bay and was washed onto Musselwick Sands. The lifeboat Garside launched into darkness and a south-westrely gale, standing-by whilst three of the crew were airlifted to safety. With the captain and three others still aboard the coaster the arrival of a salvage tug was awaited. When it became clear that no tugs were available to assist, the lifeboat – operating in shallow water and darkness – passed a towline to the tanker to attempt to stop the ship being pushed further up the beach and onto rocks. After several hours holding the tankers position the tow was transferred and the tanker pulled free. Whilst St Davids lifeboat held her in deep water, the Angle lifeboat arrived and checked for pollution. The tanker’s engines were restarted and a tug arrived to assist the Blackfriars into Milford Haven later that morning.
• 2008: RNLI Thanks on Vellum – Coxswain David John; RNLI Framed Letter of Thanks – Second Coxswain Clive Hayes:
The St Davids lifeboat Garside launched at 11.30pm on 6 March to the trawler Western Belle which had suffered complete power failure 12 miles west of the Smalls Lighthouse – some 27 miles from station. The wind was blowing south-westerly at gale force and the sea was very rough. It took over two-and-a-half hours to reach the casualty which was taken in tow to Milford Haven. The tow parted on two occasions and it was 14 hours after launching that the lifeboat returned to station.

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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