Off to Command They Go!

Lifeboats News Release

There is no rest for our dedicated RNLI volunteers here in Portishead. Crew members Paul Weston and Jake Bacon are stepping up their training programme to take on the next level of command to become Helms.

All masked up and ready to go – left to right, Jake Bacon, Paul Weston & crew member Adrian from Flamborough RNLI

RNLI/Helen Lazenby

All masked up and ready to go – left to right, Jake Bacon, Paul Weston & crew member Adrian from Flamborough RNLI
Whilst lockdown was eased in October, Paul and Jake went to stay for the 4 day course at the RNLI Training College in Poole. Becoming a Helm is a big step, it will mean that when they go to sea they will be taking responsibility for the safety of the £200,000 Atlantic 85 class lifeboat, My Lady Anne and her crew.

The Command Course is designed to put the volunteers through their paces and is not for the faint hearted. With high winds and rough sea conditions predicted for the whole week, they braced themselves for a demanding course. The RNLI training team would put them in potential scenarios that they may be faced with whilst out on the water saving lives.

With an 8.00am start each day a hearty breakfast was in order, a few class room sessions were followed by going out to sea.

On their first afternoon Paul said ‘we were going about 15knots in Poole Harbour, heading back just after we had been practicing some command navigation. The wind was a bit gusty but nothing too much to worry about, it was at that point our trainer thought it would be an interesting time to disengage the steering. We suddenly lurched to starboard with a bit of a bang. Initially we thought we had hit something but then saw the engines were steering themselves. We rigged up the emergency tiller which gave us our steering back and then proceeded on back to the College.’

Day two: The weather was ‘blowing a stink and honking down with rain, it was anchoring and veering time’ Paul said. Something the crew may have to do in order to go in close to the shore to pick a casualty up or drop someone off to other waiting emergency services in rough weather conditions.

An anchor is dropped off of the bow and the lifeboat is reversed in towards the shore whilst being held in a secure position, reducing the risk of them being rolled over or lifted and dropped on to the beach by large waves. All volunteers on board completed the challenge in the bad weather and were pleased to get back to shore that day.

Working as a team the crew got through all their scenarios including search and rescue, towing of vessels, plus searching for people who haven’t returned home when they were due back. Equipment failure on board the lifeboat was even thrown in for good measure and finished their few days off with a man overboard (real people were not used for this exercise). They all passed with flying colours and shows that their training courses in Poole and the constant training at their local RNLI lifeboat stations, really does pay off.

Jake said ‘It was a good week. Challenging and stressful at times but the RNLI provide us with the best kit possible to help us when we go out to sea. The pager can go any time and is normal for us to go out in weather that most people would want to stay home in, so from that point of view it was a really valuable week.’

The RNLI volunteers in Portishead have been called out 42 times so far this year, the second busiest year since operations began at their state of the art purpose built lifeboat station near to Portishead Pier. The RNLI adopted the Portishead Lifeboat Trust once the new lifeboat station was declared operational in 2015. The Portishead Lifeboat Trust were based at Sugar Loaf Beach and were saving lives at sea for almost 19 years prior to the adoption in to the RNLI charity. You will see the crew training on Sunday mornings and Tuesday evenings here in Portishead, and may have even seen them on BBC2’s series of Saving Lives At Sea recently?

Although fundraising has been halted this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they continue to respond to the pager 24/7, 365 days a year. If you would like to donate to help them to keep #SavingLivesAtSea you can go to the main RNLI website here https://rnli.org/support-us/give-money/donate

Did you know you can also go and stay at the RNLI College in Poole? Why not go and take a look around and book a tour of the All Weather Lifeboat Centre where they build the new Shannon Class Lifeboat on site. Restrictions are in place at the moment due to the COVID pandemic, but once they are lifted you can get to see the Shannon being built right in front of you. When you stay at the RNLI College, you’ll be alongside crew members from across the UK and Ireland who go to learn the lifesaving skills they rely on to protect our coasts. Every £1 you spend will go towards providing our lifesavers with the equipment, training, and support they need to save lives at sea. https://rnli.org/rnli-college/stay

Thank you to everyone who supports us, we wish you all a very safe and Happy Christmas and let’s hope that 2021 is a better year for everyone.

RNLI notes to editors

Images are ©RNLI Portishead

  1. All masked up and ready to go – left to right, Jake Bacon, Paul Weston & crew member Adrian from Flamborough RNLI
  2. Paul Weston
  3. Jake Bacon
  4. Training on the water in Poole
  5. Training on the water in Poole 2
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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 over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, 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.

A charity registered in England and Wales (209603) and Scotland (SCO37736). Charity number CHY 2678 in the Republic of Ireland

Paul Weston

RNLI/Helen Lazenby

Paul Weston
Jake Bacon

RNLI/Helen Lazenby

Jake Bacon
Training on the water in Poole

Don Williams

Training on the water in Poole
Training on the water in Poole 2

Don Williams

Training on the water in Poole 2

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 over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, 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.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.