Eventful year for lifeboat

Joseph Bulmer

THE lifesavers of Appledore Lifeboat have completed another momentous year.

While rescues were down on the record levels of the previous two years, the station remained one of the busiest in the Bristol Channel and 2010 was also eventful in other ways, not least the arrival of its new state-of-the-art main lifeboat.

The arrival of the �2.7 million Mollie May in March was a memorable and colourful event as the inshore lifeboat Douglas Paley and the outgoing main lifeboat George Gibson hoisted their colours to escort her in to a rapturous welcome by a large number of people who congregated on the quayside.

Her official blessing and naming ceremony in September was also memorable as, in true lifeboat style, there was a call-out as her donors were going on board for a short trip. Crew members quickly answered the call in the inshore rescue boat.

Record rescues just topping 80 in the previous two years fell to 68 last year, these ‘shouts’ covering all manner of emergencies - commercial, fishing and pleasure boats, wind and kite surfers, walkers and potential suicides.

The first shout of last year turned out not to be a rescue, but was one of the most memorable. On New Year’s Day the lifeboat crew was called to a rather surprised double Olympic medallist James Cracknell, who was paddling his surfboard around Baggy Point on his way home from a surfing session. A 999 call had summoned the inshore rescue boat as a well meaning member of the public thought the person on a surfboard so far offshore on a dropping tide might have been in difficulty.

One of the last shouts of 2010 in late November saw the new lifeboat Mollie Hunt and her crew at sea for much of the day. Launched late morning to a local fishing trawler that had suffered steering failure near Hartland Point, the lifeboat took the boat in tow. But there was insufficient water to cross the estuary bar into Appledore, so the lifeboat moored off Clovelly until the tide rose and eventually towed the fishing vessel safely into Appledore at 5pm.

Other calls included being part of a successful major search and rescue operation for a missing woman, people and dogs cut off by the tides, potential jumps from various bridges over the Torridge and Taw, searches after reports of red flares in the Taw, yachts which have broken their moorings, kite and wind surfers in difficulty in strong off shore winds, boats with engine failure and much else.

Not only the lifeboat crew, but the station’s invaluable fund raisers had a busy year, too.

During the year the station benefited by around �50,000 through Lifeboat Guild activities, souvenir sales, in-memoriam donations, box collections and donations from independent, third party organised events.