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60 years of saving lives: RNLI celebrates anniversary of its inshore lifeboats

Lifeboats News Release

Introduced in 1963, the inshore lifeboat continues to be an invaluable asset in the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s (RNLI) fleet as new figures show the charity’s Inshore lifeboats have saved 30,778* lives across 60 years.

Lifeboat launching in rough seas.

RNLI/Joseph Raymond

St Bees RNLI B-831 Joy Morris MBE

The inshore lifeboat has enabled the charity’s volunteer crews to carry out their lifesaving work closer to shore, in areas inaccessible to other lifeboats in the fleet. Designed to be quick and manoeuvrable, inshore lifeboats can operate in shallower water, near cliffs and rocks meaning crews can get as close as possible to those in trouble.

St Bees RNLI has had their current Atlantic 85 B-831 Joy Morris MBE saving lives at sea since 7 April 2009 when it arrived at the station. St Bees RNLI have had 4 Inshore Lifeboats since the station first received it’s D class in 1970. The station’s boats have gone on to launch 484 times, save 71 lives and aid 298 people.

During the time with the D class boat Framed Letters of Thanks signed by the Duke of Atholl, Chairman of the Institution were presented to crew members Ian McDowell and Malcolm Reid in recognition of their meritorious action when they swam from the shore in a north-north-east gale and a rough sea to the yacht Ruffian, aground, about 200 yards from the beach to rescue two men and a boy on 29 August.

In 1985 the station’s D class was replaced with C Class with two engines and space for an additional crew member. To accommodate the larger boat the station’s boathouse was extended in the same year.

In 1993, a Bronze Medal was awarded to Senior Helmsman Ian McDowell in recognition of his outstanding leadership, skill and courage when the lifeboat rescued the two crew from the fishing vessel Coeur De Lion on 31 July 1993. The fishing vessel was stranded on an isolated outcrop of rocks at the north end of Fleswick Bay in a Force 6 Strong Breeze and breaking seas. Shortly after the survivors were taken off the fishing vessel broke up. The Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum were accorded to Helmsman Alastair Graham for his outstanding skill and courage, and to crew members Marcus Clarkson and Paul McDowell for their courage and determination throughout this service.

On the 28th April 1995, the C class lifeboat was withdrawn and replaced with the Atlantic 75 B-719 Percy Henry Patmore MBE. This later class of lifeboat was almost 2m longer and could operate at speeds of 29 knots using it’s twin 50hp engines.

In 2004, the Chief Constable of the Cumbria Constabulary presented his Commendation to Ian McDowell, Paul McDowell, Dave Barker and Dick Beddows of St Bees Lifeboat Station in recognition of their actions on the 8 August recovering two young brothers in difficulty from the sea using the Atlantic 75.

In 2009, the Atlantic 75 was replaced with the current Inshore Lifeboat, the Atlantic 85 B-831 Joy Morris MBE. This latest lifeboat, constructed of carbon fibre, powered by two 115hp engines and crewed by 4 can be operated at speeds of 35 knots for 3 hours.

Dick Beddows, Volunteer Lifeboat Operations Manager at St Bees RNLI said:

‘St Bees RNLI and it’s various inshore lifeboats have enabled our volunteer crew to reach areas close to shore, cliffs and rocks to rescue people in trouble. These fast and highly manoeuvrable lifesaving craft answered the need for a quicker and more agile response to rescues in areas of water that were more challenging to the larger and slower all-weather lifeboats.

‘The Atlantic 85 we operate is a part of our community and suit the demands of the rescues. With its unique features and capabilities this has made a huge difference to the efficiency and effectiveness of our 24/7 search and rescue service.

The Joy Morris MBE has aided many people in difficult situations, whether that’s people being cut off by the tide, boats in trouble or water users in need of our help.

The RNLI builds and maintains most of its inshore lifeboats in house at their Inshore Lifeboat Centre in Cowes on the Isle of Wight. This allows the charity to have greater control over costs and quality ensuring they produce the best lifesaving asset for their crews and spend their supporters’ donations in the most efficient and effective way.

For more information about our Inshore Lifeboats, click here.

Notes to editors:

· *Statistics taken from 1963 – 2 May 2023. Includes lifesaving statistics from our Atlantic 85, D class and E class lifeboats, launches of our daughter boats from the RNLI’s all-weather lifeboats and models of inshore lifeboats that are no longer part of the RNLI fleet.

Atlantic 85 lifeboat

· The current generation of B class lifeboat is called the Atlantic 85 – named after the Atlantic College in Wales where these rigid inflatable lifeboats (RIBs) were first developed. 85 represents its length – nearly 8.5m. The lifeboat is both day and night capable and can operate in weather up to a Beaufort Force 7.

· There have been three generations of B class lifeboat. The first one was the Atlantic 21, the first RIB to join the RNLI fleet. It served from 1972 until 2008.

· The Atlantic 21 was then replaced by the Atlantic 75, which was in service from 1993 until 2022. It has now been replaced by the Atlantic 85, which was introduced to the fleet in 2005.

· The introduction of the first rigid inflatable lifeboat (RIB) – the Atlantic 21 – into the RNLI fleet back in 1972 revolutionised lifesaving at sea.

· The speed, manoeuvrability, agility and versatility of these RIBs dramatically improved the efficiency and effectiveness of our search and rescue service. All three generations of our Atlantic lifeboats have helped us to save thousands of lives at sea.

· When it comes to responding to a lifesaving task, the Atlantic 85 lifeboat is one of the fastest in the fleet; her top speed is 35 knots powered by two 115hp 4-stroke engines.

RNLI/Joseph Raymond

St Bees Atlantic 75 B555

RNLI/Joseph Raymond

St Bees RNLI C-515

RNLI/Joseph Raymond

St Bees RNLI D-180

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

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.