Last weekend saw an unprecedented number of different operational lifeboats converge on Cowes, all from lifeboat stations in or close-by the Solent area.
Altogether a dozen lifeboats from 10 Hampshire and Isle of Wight stations, some belonging to the RNLI and others independent, were eventually moored alongside pontoons in the Royal Yacht Squadron. In addition, the crews were joined by members of the Sandown & Shanklin and Freshwater independent stations, who travelled to Cowes by car.
Mark Southwell, station operations manager for Cowes RNLI lifeboat station, whose Atlantic 85 was launched to welcome the visitors, explained later that continuing safety cover from the respective stations was of prime importance for all those involved.
“The closest stations to us already have their boats launched and crews kitted out, and could easily get back to their patches in roughly same time it would take to respond to a page, get changed and launched.
“Another consideration is that early January traditionally has the least number of ‘shouts’. Despite this, 3 lifeboats were surprisingly called away during the get-together to attend to ‘shouts’ – Calshot and Hamble craft to go to a stricken rubber dinghy at the BP jetty in the River Hamble, and Gosport lifeboat to assist the crew of a dinghy off Hillhead.”
Mark believed it was useful for the lifeboat crews, station managements, shore crews, trainers and safety advisors – who are largely volunteers – to meet informally in this way. Most boats would in any case be out at weekends for more routine type training exercises.