Duty called in two different directions on Saturday for Cowes RNLI crew member Penny Maclean when she had to temporarily put aside organising the station’s annual fun day to concentrate on overseeing the launch of the lifeboat to a genuine shout.
It was while Penny, as a Visits Team Officer, was organising Yellow Welly Day that a call from Solent Coastguard came through, requesting that the lifeboat search for a broken down RIB in the Solent. Immediately she switched roles to become the on–duty Deputy Launching Authority, to approve the launch and monitor the lifeboat’s operations.
“I have only recently been made a DLA and this was my first ‘shout’. Immediately the station had to go into operational mode. I had to leave other volunteers to prepare for Yellow Welly Day as the crew got themselves and the boat ready for launching.
“Fortunately for all concerned the emergency call came some 50 minutes prior to the public being allowed to pour into the station and enjoy the many attractions on The Parade.”
As it turned out the lifeboat crew never managed to locate the RIB, later learning it had been towed to safety by a passing fishing boat. The lifeboat eventually returned to station at 10:20, allowing the day’s first visitors to witness a real-life boat recovery operation.
About 400 members of public visited the station over the 6 hours it was open; many of them using the chance to view the lifeboat close-up and to talk to crew members. Upstairs visitors could enjoy refreshments and take part in a raffle, and youngsters could take part in a yellow welly colouring competition. Meanwhile visits team members gave out leaflets in the streets publicising the event, accompanied by Stormy Stan (inside of which was crew member Graham Creagh).
The event was supported not only by the Cowes RNLI Guild and East Cowes Branch, but also by other emergency services including the Needles-based Coastwatch; WightSAR; the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service and the Isle of Wight Ambulance Service. Bembridge RNLI Lifeboat and a police launch tied up alongside Trinity Landing and allowed members of the public to tour the boats.
The Coastguard Rescue Helicopter from Lee-on-Solent performed a low-level fly past also.
Local restaurant owner Rod Ainge provided ample sandwiches and cakes for those taking part in the day, and local shops donated raffle prizes.
An additional reason for celebration came at the end of the Open Day when two members of the lifeboat, Deputy Launching Authority Dave Lewis and crew member Mark Harker, arrived on The Parade after participating in the 65 mile Isle of Wight Ultra Challenge from Chale. The pair completed 50 miles of the event before Mark felt unable to carry on, and they took a taxi back to Cowes from Ryde. Their efforts, however, still raised useful funds for the Earl Mountbatten Hospice.