The Lord Lieutenant of the Isle of Wight, Major General Martin White, sampled what it was like to be an RNLI life-saver in testing conditions, when he joined the lifeboat crew at Cowes for an on-board night-time training exercise.
Not only did the exercise in the Solent, involving the Atlantic 85 ‘Sheena Louise’, take place in darkness, but also thick fog.
Thanks to the lifeboat’s radar the Queen’s Island representative was, however, able to return to the harbour later without incident; there another station member played the role of an unconscious casualty, needing to be transferred from a pontoon on to the lifeboat while strapped into the lifeboat’s newly delivered stretcher.
Before the lifeboat was launched Maj Gen White, kitted out in full inshore lifeboat protective gear, received a detailed briefing from helm Patrick Moreton. Then in almost zero visibility a navigation exercise was conducted using radar to locate and go up to a Solent buoy.
Mark Southwell, the station’s Operations Manager, said later:
“He found travelling in the open and unable to see anything an interesting experience, and was surprised that even with the buoy’s bright light it only became visible barely feet away.”
It was only last month that the crew had undergone intensive training on the use of the new flexible stretcher, designed for Atlantic 75 and 85 boats. Keen to act as a bone fide crew member, the Lord Lieutenant was only too keen to play full part in helping to transfer the ‘casualty’ to the lifeboat.
When not in use the stretcher rolls up into a bag and is carried on the A frame mast of the lifeboat. It is also designed to be winched with a casualty up into a rescue helicopter. The stretcher is in addition to the zip-up ‘ambulance pouch’ traditionally carried on the lifeboat.
Earlier in the evening Maj Gen White met a large number of boat and shore members at the station, which he last visited when accompanying HM Queen for the official opening by her in July 2012.