The Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) is the UK’s largest independent charity dedicated to saving lives at sea. There are 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland; all of them provide a 24-hour search and rescue service, with the boats crewed by trained volunteers who will risk their lives time and again to save others’. Funded almost entirely by donations, and 95% staffed by volunteers, the Institute is a vital to the safety of yachtsmen, fishermen, beach-goers and anyone who uses the sea. Here in Exmouth we are very lucky to have a state-of-the-art lifeboat station, with two lifeboats and one incredibly brave crew. We’re proud to say that, as well as keeping the marina running smoothly, Harbour Master Steve Hockings-Thompson and Assistant Harbour Master Harry Griffin are both volunteer RNLI crew members. To show your support, click on the donate button and make a donation to this life-saving charity.
There has been a lifeboat in Exmouth for more than 200 years. Based in Queens Drive on the town’s seafront, the current lifeboat station was opened in November 2009 and was built with funds from a number of significant legacies, together with money raised by a major public appeal. The station houses two lifeboats: the R and J Welburn, a Shannon-Class All-Weather Lifeboat (ALB), with its carriage and tractor (Shannon launch and recovery system (SLARS)); and the George Bearman II, a D-Class Inshore Lifeboat (ILB) with its Tooltrak tractor and carriage. The station has a ramp wide enough to allow both boats to be launched at the same time if necessary.
The building itself follows a considered, environmentally-friendly design, with power provided by photovoltaic cells, geothermal heating provided by boreholes made during construction, and a roof designed to harvest rainwater for washing salt from the lifeboats after a call-out.
A visitor Experience Centre is situated above the RNLI gift shop, next to the station, and the Shannon-Class lifeboat (with its Launch and Recovery System) can be seen from its viewing gallery during shop opening hours. Free tours are available at weekends (see website [https://rnli.org/find-my-nearest/lifeboat-stations/exmouth-lifeboat-station] for times). Guided tours can also be booked through the ‘visits’ page [http://www.exmouthlifeboat.org.uk/visits/] on the station’s website, or you can call the shop on 01395 274890.
The current Exmouth lifeboat and shore crew consists of approximately 30 volunteers, from very different backgrounds. Some work for other emergency services, while others are boat builders, sales executives and IT technicians. Commitment to full training places considerable demands on the crew’s time - in addition to being called out for ‘service launches’ – and their dedication is exceptional. Training is formalised in ‘Competence Based Training’ (CoBT), with crew members’ competency in their assigned tasks assessed regularly by RNLI officials.
At Exmouth, a full-time Mechanic ensures both lifeboats are well maintained and ready to go to sea at a moment’s notice, in any weather conditions. The crew, led by Coxswain Steve Hockings-Thompson, is committed to being ready to respond to a person or vessel in distress 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They keep a rota for fortnightly exercises on the Shannon-Class lifeboat, and meet on a monthly basis to discuss previous operations and introduce new team members.