For the Crew’s first ‘official’ visit, they decided to head down to Brixham, home of the RNLI’s Torbay lifeboat station. For anyone who doesn’t know Brixham, it’s a small fishing town at the southern edge of Torbay, on the sunny Devon coast. The town has a strong maritime heritage and many of its activities still revolve around the sea.
The station has two lifeboats: a 17-metre Severn* class all-weather boat and a 5-metre D class inflatable. The Severn, named ‘Alec and Christina Dykes’, is kept afloat at the edge of Brixham marina, where it stands as a poignant reminder of the dangers faced by those who work (and play) on the sea.
The little guys were in awe of the enormous lifeboat and spent some time admiring her** impressive kit and powerful lines.
Here’s the all-weather boat tied up safely at her pontoon. I remember that in the early 1990s, when I was quite young, my father worked on the development of the Severn. Though back then the class didn’t yet have a name and was known simply as FAB (Fast Afloat Boat) 3.
Having spent enough time ogling the massive orange lifeboat, the Crew moved on to the station’s brand new RNLI shop. When I was in Brixham for the gig rowing regatta a month or so ago, the shop consisted of a trestle table on the harbour wall. Now, however, it has its own small building right opposite the lifeboat station itself.
‘Are those little LEGO lifeboat people?’, came the query from the lady running the shop. She’d evidently seen me lying prone across the promenade with my camera and was keen to know what was going on. And once she’d met the little guys, it was clear that she was smitten. She even invited them in for an impromptu photo session.
Next stop was the lifeboat house, home of the D class ‘John William Hirst’. Although quite small, the D class has been the workhorse of the RNLI fleet for as long as I can remember (and since way before that, in fact). It can travel at up to 25 knots and is highly manoeuvrable, so is ideal for rescues closer to shore.
The Crew went absolutely nuts for the D class and pressed their faces up against the glass in the viewing gallery. I can tell what’s going to be on their Christmas wish-lists.
The lifeboat house itself was also fairly impressive, documenting the station’s long history. Torbay lifeboat station was founded in 1866 and is one of the RNLI’s busier stations, with the lifeboats launching on service about a hundred times a year.
With a great town, a historic lifeboat station and fantastic weather, I don’t think the little guys could have picked a better place to start their voyage of discovery. We learned lots, saw some amazing boats and met some great people, all in just one day. I can tell this is going to be fun…
* The RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat classes are all named after rivers. Don’t say you never learn anything here…
** For those not from the maritime tradition, boats are always referred to as ‘she’. I don’t know. They just are.