A festive start to the new year

The run-up to Christmas is always a busy time of year, even if you’re only a couple of inches tall. The little guys were delighted, therefore, that their friends at RNLI Portishead had decided to wait until the new year for their festive meal and get-together.

And so, last Friday evening, the little guys got dressed up (well, got dressed, which is about as much as we can hope for around here) and headed down to the H&W pub/restaurant overlooking the town’s marina.

Meal 1

The first thing that the Crew noticed was that the pub’s upstairs dining room was absolutely heaving, with over a hundred people greeting each other warmly and finding somewhere to sit. The second thing they noticed was that all of these people were crew, fundraisers, station officials and otherwise connected to the lifeboat station. A bit overwhelming, really.

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Unabashed, the little guys quickly got into the festive swing of things. Crackers were pulled, new friends were mad (including most of the lovely waiting staff) and plans were hatched.

One of the plans, however, appeared to be the theft of my dessert…

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Thankfully, I noticed in time and quickly put a stop to such shenanigans. That’ll sort them out.

Meal 2

It was a fantastic evening, though, and the little guys, Natalie and I had a truly awesome time. A massive thank you to the tireless Helen, the station’s press and publicity officer, for putting together such a great event. And thank you, too, to the brilliant staff of H&W for making us all so welcome.

The little guys welcome ‘My Lady Anne’ to Portishead

Last Sunday was a big day for the RNLI lifeboat station at Portishead. Because it was time to dedicate and bless the station’s brand new Atlantic 85 lifeboat ‘My Lady Anne’. And there was no way that the little guys were going to miss this.

‘My Lady Anne’ had arrived on station at the beginning of the previous week and the (regular sized) crew had spent an intense few days getting to know her and learning about the new equipment on board.* Because while she is similar to the station’s existing Atlantic 75 lifeboat ‘Spirit of Clovelly’, there are a few important differences.

Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, the new boat is just over a metre longer than the old one and can take an extra crew member. Less obviously, she has a stronger carbon fibre and foam core laminate hull, which makes her stronger. She has more powerful engines, too, which make her a little faster. And anyone who’s paying attention will see that ‘My Lady Anne’ comes complete with her own radar set – invaluable when working in poor visibility.

By the time the little guys arrived at the station, the new boat was already poised at the top of the slipway and looking resplendent in the sunshine.

The lifeboat on the carriage

The station’s crew and other personnel were also starting to gather, the crew looking particularly smart in their shirts and ties.

The boathouse

It soon became apparent, though, that there might be a launch and demonstration of the new boat on the cards. Or someone didn’t get the memo about the dress code.

The crew and spectators gather

The station’s chaplain was on hand to bless and dedicate the boat. The station was also delighted to welcome Bill Wraith, whose generous donation helped to fund the lifeboat, which is named in memory of his late wife.

Our chaplain and station personnel

Once the short ceremony – which included the now-traditional pouring of cider over the bow of the boat – was over, the crew leapt on board and everyone got ready for the launch. The little guys made sure that they had a good view.

The boat getting ready to launch

Within seconds, ‘My Lady Anne’ was down the slipway and approaching the waters of the Bristol Channel.

The boat going down the slipway

And then, with the minimum of fuss but a certain roar of two 115 horsepower outboard engines, she was off…

And they're off

The little guys, and everyone else, enjoyed a fantastic display of the boat’s – and the crew’s – capabilities. She certainly wowed the crowd with her manoeuvrability and startling turn of speed.

The crew show what the boat can do

So while the station has had to hand the ‘Spirit of Clovelly’ back to RNLI HQ, there’s no doubt that ‘My Lady Anne’ is a worthy successor. And everyone at the station – indeed, everyone in the town – is proud to have her as part of the team.

* You might also be interested to know that she was pronounced ‘on service’ on the Thursday evening and was called out to her first shout on Saturday. It’s all go here…

At the Portishead Raft Race

Earlier this month, the little guys were delighted to be asked to help organise the RNLI stand at the Portishead Raft Race. They launched themselves into their role with gusto, taking the time the evening before the event to check the supply of souvenirs and to make sure that all of the necessary paperwork was in order. (There’s always paperwork…)

IMG_7506 TWOn the day, the Crew supervised the setting up of the three gazebos, wisely leaving the actual hard work to people who were more than an inch and a half tall. They were quite pleased with the overall design of the stand, though, with ‘their’ souvenir stand taking centre stage.
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We’d recruited over a dozen of the station’s excellent volunteers to help out at the event. Some came for the day, while others popped in for an hour or two. But all worked tirelessly to make the event a success.

IMG_7540The little guys were keen to do their bit, too, and tried their best to promote the souvenirs without themselves accidentally getting sold. They also helped to tell people about the role of the RNLI and about our brand new lifeboat station.
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And they hadn’t forgotten our canine friends, with a water bowl and biscuits for passing dogs. (Though I have to admit that Molly, my Labrador, ate most of the biscuits…)

IMG_7550As if all of that wasn’t enough, Stormy Stan also took time out of his busy schedule to come along and support the event. Always a big hit, he seemed to revel in the limelight and couldn’t resist showing off some of his ‘moves’.
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The little guys were overawed to meet Stormy Stan, who is most definitely one of the ‘big guys’. Though Crew Members Jackie and Steve couldn’t help but remark on the resemblance between His Storminess and Coxswain Bob, even if Bob is now a little greyer in the beard than he used to be. (I hope he doesn’t read this…)

IMG_7538 TWWith their hectic schedule during the day, though, the Crew wisely paced themselves and took time out every once in a while to have a quick break.
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And despite their many organisational responsibilities, the Crew had a most excellent day out at the Portishead Raft Race. They made a host of new friends and gained a little more insight into the tireless work undertaken by our volunteer fundraisers. Most importantly, though, they learned that, with teamwork and a sense of humour, great things can be accomplished.

The Portishead lifeboat station opening ceremony (Part 2)

In last week’s blog post, we talked about the preparations leading up to the Portishead lifeboat station’s opening ceremony. After several months of planning and hours of frenetic activity on the day, the bunting was up, the boathouse was as clean as a boathouse has ever been and all station personnel were freshly washed and crisply ironed. The preparation was finally over and the guests started to arrive.

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The launch team had taken the precaution of putting the lifeboat at the top of the slipway, so that she could be launched – if necessary – without disrupting the ceremony too much. Or, at least, without having to move everybody out of the way. Clearly, three burly crew members leaping into the lifeboat and roaring off in a thunder of outboards was unlikely to go unnoticed.

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The little guys were keen to get out and mingle with the visitors as they arrived. They seem to have developed quite a following over the last few months, so their presence generated a fair amount of excitement.

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It soon became apparent that, in addition to the few hundred invited guests, most of the town of Portishead had turned out to support the lifeboat. With the sun out and the tide in, there was a party atmosphere on the quayside. And there were ice creams, which always helps…

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The event started with some music from the Portishead town band, followed by a few words from some of the RNLI’s top people, the station’s Chairman, the Lifeboat Operations Manager and our chaplain. And then the moment we had been waiting for, with the official cutting of the ribbon by Peggy Gittings, whose late husband, John, had been very much the driving force behind the station for many years.

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As time went on, more and more people arrived on the quay, until the place was pretty much packed. Local dignitaries, station personnel and fundraisers rubbed shoulders with representatives from other local lifeboat stations, coastguard rescue team members and local people.

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After the official bit was over, the three members of the boat crew who had spent the last half an hour sweating in their drysuits breathed a sigh of relief and clambered into the boat. The Atlantic 75 ‘Spirit of Clovelly’ was quickly launched and wowed the crowds with a demonstration of her capabilities.

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One of the lifeboats from Weston-super-Mare had also come along, so the little guys spent an enjoyable half hour or so watching the two boats in action.

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The Atlantics were soon joined by ‘The Chieftain’, a former Liverpool class lifeboat and now privately owned. Based at Barmouth from 1949 to 1982, she and her crew saved 132 lives.

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While all of this was going on, there was music accompaniment from a folk band and then some local shanty singers. And as you may have noticed in the photo below, the station’s own Crew Member Neil decided to help out.

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In the boathouse, there were refreshments for the invited guests. There was also more bunting from the bunting design competition. There were about 1,500 entries, so it was a bit of a challenge to find space for all of it!

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Crew Member Jackie was extremely impressed with the artistic skills of the local children, who had clearly put a lot of effort into their entries. (As had volunteer Nancy, who cut out the bits of bunting and then sewed them all together…)

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Coxswain Bob, meanwhile, was watching intently as the boat crew assembled for a group photo in front of the lifeboat, once she had been recovered from the water.

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As the afternoon drew on, the guests and visitors gradually dispersed, many heading for the hog roast and live music that was getting started at the pub just up the hill. The little guys, meanwhile, braced themselves to take down all of the flags and bunting that they’d spent hours putting up just a few hours earlier…

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It had all been well worth it, though, as the day had shown just how much local support the lifeboat station can draw upon and had proven once again how deeply people care about the lifeboat and her volunteer crew. It had also been great fun. And after all of that planning and preparation the station is now officially open!

The Portishead lifeboat station opening ceremony (Part 1)

Last Saturday was a big day for the little guys. A very big day. Because after years of negotiations, over twelve months of construction and weeks of planning, it was time for the formal opening ceremony of the new RNLI Portishead lifeboat station. And with this being the Crew’s home station, they could not have been more excited.

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The little guys got down to the station nice and early, keen to do whatever they could to help out. But despite it being only 7am, it was clear that someone had arrived even earlier and was already hard at work…

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Up in the crew room, the little guys said hello to the other volunteers, who were now starting to arrive in considerable number. In addition to the boat and shore crews, station personnel and fundraisers, there was also a sizeable contingent from RNLI headquarters and from the regional base. Which was good, because there was an awful lot to do before the ceremony got started at 11 o’clock.

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As you’d expect from the lifeboat service, a plan was quickly developed and tasks were allocated. The little guys helped to set up some of the tall ‘feather flags’ and then got to work putting up bunting all around the boathouse. Much of it was the result of the bunting design competition organised by the station’s press officer, which the little guys had helped to judge.

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The bunting looked absolutely outstanding. And that fact that it had been designed and created by local schoolchildren (and a few adults!) made it even more special.

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Back in the boathouse, tea and coffee were being organised for after the ceremony. With around 400 invited guests expected, along with an indeterminate number of local people, it was important to look after them properly.

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Coxswain Bob took this extremely seriously, to the extent that he even insisted on checking the biscuits personally. (As, it has to be mentioned, did quite a few other people…)

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As the time of the ceremony approached, and with the set-up complete, the order was given to stop what we were doing and to change into ‘smart’ clothes. For the crew and volunteers, this was an opportunity to don our smart new shirts and ties, which had only arrived a couple of days previously.

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And then, suddenly, we were ready. The time was upon us and the guests were starting to arrive. But for details of what happened next, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until next week…