Exmoor Belle reports for duty
Minehead’s RNLI lifeboat station has taken delivery of a brand-new rescue craft – thanks to the generosity of the local community.
A replacement D class lifeboat was delivered to the station last week with crew members pictured putting it through its paces on Sunday morning.
The boat was constructed at the RNLI’s own inshore lifeboat centre at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight.
Two years ago the Minehead station was given the opportunity by the RNLI of helping to offset the £52,000 it cost to build and equip.
Minehead RNLI chairman Bryan Stoner said the station’s fund-raising group had turned immediately to the local community in view of its long and impressive history of supporting the station’s work.
“And I am delighted to say yet again local people came up trumps,” he said.
“Donations soon began flowing in while a number of individuals and organisations arranged specific money-raising events.
“In the event all the money was raised within six months, a really fantastic achievement. In fact we had to close the appeal with money still coming in because our target had been exceeded.”
The new boat will be known as Exmoor Belle – the winning name chosen after a competition among pupils at Minehead Middle School.
Appropriately enough the successful entry was submitted by Lilia Guscott, whose father, James, and grandfather, Steve, are both former members of the Minehead crew. She will be officially naming the boat at a ceremony at the station on the afternoon of March 21.
The Exmoor Belle replaces another D class which had given 10 years' active service at the station and been launched hundreds of times on service and on exercise.
D class lifeboats have been saving lives at Minehead for 50 years, the first going on station only a few years after the RNLI had introduced the class to its fleet as a direct response to the changing nature of emergency calls and the huge increase in leisure and pleasure boating around the coasts of the UK and Ireland.
It was designed to be rugged, manoeuvrable, quick to launch (the volunteer Minehead crew reckon to be at sea within seven or eight minutes of being alerted) and capable of operating in surf, in very shallow water and among rocks and has now become the workhorse of the RNLI fleet.
Exmoor Belle is the latest development of that original design but is considerably more sophisticated in terms of equipment than the first, fairly rudimentary version.
It is 5.5 metres long with a 2.2 metre beam. Powered by a 50 hp outboard engine it is capable of 25 knots and is equipped for day and night work with an endurance at sea of three hours at full speed. It normally carries a crew of three and can accommodate up to five casualties.
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.