The RNLI formally welcomes new Atlantic 85 lifeboat, Julie Poolie (B-926)
The RNLI’s mission to save lives at sea took another step forward recently when crew and volunteers from Tower Lifeboat Station hosted a ceremony to formally accept one of the RNLI’s state of the art inshore lifeboats into service.
Last week Tower Lifeboat Station played host to a rare visitor - an Atlantic 85 rigid inflatable lifeboat. Atlantic 85 lifeboats are a mainstay of the RNLI’s coastal fleet and, although an Atlantic 85 is used at Gravesend RNLI on the lower reaches of the Thames, is not normally used by the RNLI’s River Thames lifeboat stations at Tower RNLI, Chiswick and Teddington RNLI.
B-926, Julie Poolie, herself is more usually found as part the Royal National Lifeboat Institution's relief fleet. This fleet is located at strategic points around the United Kingdom and Ireland and is kept in a constant state of operational readiness to provide cover at any of our 238 stations whenever a station’s regular lifeboat needs servicing or upgrading.
Lifeboat B-926, Julie Poolie, is named in recognition of the generous donation made by Robert Breckman, who fully funded it in honour of his late wife, Julie Alexander. Julie was a top British model and actress of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Julie and Robert were married in 1979 and Julie passed away in 2003.
More often than not, when a lifeboat is delivered to the RNLI, its naming takes place shortly after the new boat arrives on station. However, for Julie Poolie, this wasn’t destined to be the case. This lifeboat was, in fact, delivered into the RNLI’s relief fleet at the Inshore Lifeboat Centre at Cowes in September 2021 and went into service soon after, performing her first relief duty at Kinsale in Ireland. However, the COVID-19 pandemic meant that her naming and dedication ceremony was delayed by over 6 months.
Given its location, London’s Tower Lifeboat Station rarely hosts events such as naming and dedication ceremonies and relief lifeboats such as Julie Poolie are seldom, if ever, welcomed to the RNLI outside of the ILC. However, this unique occasion took place due to the wishes of Robert and his family and to better meet his needs.
Consequently, on Thursday 31 March 2022, and in front of invited guests, family and friends, Julie Poolie was officially welcomed into the RNLI at Tower Lifeboat Station. Janet Cooper OBE, Deputy Chair of the RNLI, welcomed the guests on behalf of the RNLI and Tower Lifeboat Station and opened the proceedings.
The audience then heard from Robert, who spoke of his happiness at seeing the lifeboat named in honour of his late wife and at the knowledge that it would ‘be joining the RNLI fleet and helping the RNLI’s crews keep the waters around the UK and Ireland safe’.
As proceedings continued Julie Poolie was accepted into the fleet, on behalf of the RNLI, by Janet Cooper OBE, who thanked Robert and his family for their support and their gift. Then, to the delight of Robert and his family, Janet revealed that since delivery, and prior to her official naming, Julie Poolie has already been instrumental in saving one life and had also been involved in the successful rescue of another four people. This serves to highlight the impact Robert’s generosity has already made to the RNLI and to the people of the United Kingdom.
Acceptance was followed, in the traditional way, by Julie Poolie being officially christened by Robert, using a less traditional form of fizz, Coca-Cola, to the cheers and applause of all assembled.
Finally, Julie’s ashes, and those of their beloved Pug, Brian, were scattered by Robert into the River Thames accompanied by a number of red roses, cast by friends and family, and, in a touch of levity, the sound of party blowers.
Commenting on the ceremony and on formal acceptance of B-926 Julie Poolie into the relief fleet:
Robert said: ‘I’m delighted to be here today for the naming and dedication of this B class lifeboat. This lifeboat is the best of its kind, I am assured of that, and the crews who will use it deserve nothing less’.
RNLI Deputy Chair Janet Cooper OBE said: ‘We are very grateful to Robert who, by funding this lifeboat, is allowing us to continue our vital lifesaving work – we really do owe a great debt of gratitude’.
Notes to Editors
The B Class ‘Atlantic’ Lifeboat
· Named after Atlantic College in Wales where these rigid inflatable lifeboats (RIBs) were first developed. The 85 represent the lengths of the lifeboats – nearly 8.5m.
· Introduced into the fleet in 2005, the Atlantic 85 is the third generation of B class lifeboat.
· One of the faster boats in the RNLI’s fleet, the Atlantic 85 can reach up to 35 knots, powered by two 115hp 4-stroke engines.
· The Atlantic 85 is designed to operate in shallower water as well as fairly challenging open sea conditions too – force 7 (near gale force) winds in daylight and force 6 at night.
·There are currently 75 Atlantic 85 lifeboats at stations around the UK and Ireland and 20 in the relief fleet.
The RNLI Relief Fleet
Regular rescues and rough seas take their toll on the RNLI’s lifeboats, and it is essential that they receive regular maintenance and upgrades so that they can carry on saving lives. This sometimes means that they can be away from the station for weeks at a time.
When this happens, we need to replace them.
· The relief fleet consists of 34 all-weather lifeboats and 42 inshore lifeboats.
· On standby in strategic points around the UK and Ireland, the relief fleet is kept in a constant state of operational readiness to provide cover at any of our 238 lifeboat stations.
· The relief fleet’s lifeboats are built and maintained to the same exacting high standards as the lifeboats they replace and are ready to be deployed quickly, at any time, to any of our stations enabling our search and rescue service to continue uninterrupted.
· Based just under Waterloo Bridge on the north side of the Thames, Tower RNLI is the dedicated search and rescue resource for central London and covers a 16 mile stretch of the Thames between Barking Creek and Battersea.
· Tower RNLI is the RNLI’s busiest lifeboat station having launched on over 8,350 service calls, rescuing almost 2,000 people and saving over 330 lives since it opened in 2002 (with 3 lives saved to date in 2022).
· Unlike coastal crews who respond to pagers, Tower RNLI has a full crew compliment on station 24/7 and 365 days a year. To enable that to happen, our volunteer crew of 55 work at least two 12hr shifts per month at the station, supported by 10 permanent crew.
· After 20 years serving the people of London, this iconic London landmark, situated on the Victoria Embankment next to Waterloo Bridge, is in desperate need of modernisation if it is to sustain future years of lifesaving. To help meet this need, the RNLI launched an appeal in September to raise funds for a new station at Tower RNLI. For more information, or to donate, please visit rnli.org/towerstation
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.
Learn more about the RNLI
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