The Crew’s home station joins the RNLI

It was an exciting day for the little guys last Friday, as their ‘home’ lifeboat station* at Portishead was adopted formally by the RNLI. It’s been a long time coming, but after two decades as an independent station, the new boathouse was ready, the crew were all set and the new boat – the Atlantic 75 ‘Spirit of Clovelly’ – sat proudly on her carriage.

By the time the Crew arrived, a large crowd had already started to gather. The station’s operational and shore crew were sporting their brand new RNLI jackets, the fundraisers were out in force and key people from the RNLI across the region were also there. We were joined by a large number of local residents, too, who have been watching with enthusiasm as the station and slipway have taken shape.

The crowds gather…

After a few words from the RNLI’s Divisional Operations Manager and the station’s own Chairman, the RNLI flag was raised by our Lifeboat Operations Manager. A proud moment for us all. The end of one exciting journey, in a way, but the start of another.

…and the flag is raised

With the formalities over, the station’s crew were keen to get the boat into the water. But first, it was time for photographs and interviews with the local media, who had also turned out in droves. It was not just a big day for the station, after all, but for the town and the many people who have supported the station – and the RNLI – over the years.

The boat is prepared for launch

Finally, though, the all clear was given and the shore crew manoeuvered the boat carefully down the slipway towards the murky waters of the Severn Estuary. Thankfully, the tide was in, meaning that the boat could be launched directly from the slipway itself, rather than from the rocky beach below it.

On the slipway

Fans of RNLI tractors may recognise ‘Kevin’ in the photo below. Previously stationed at the RNLI’s Penlee lifeboat station in Newlyn, this plucky little tractor has now been assigned to our own Atlantic 75. We promise we’ll look after him…

The launch

Seconds later, the ‘Spirit of Clovelly’ was afloat and heading out of her carriage.

All systems go!

And while ‘Kevin’ trundled back up the slipway, she showed the crowds what she is capable of. Sure, some of it’s down to our outstanding helmspeople and crew, but she’s a great boat. And the little guys are sure she’ll do Portishead proud, just as she has done the people of Clovelly, in Devon, since 1999.

The ‘Spirit of Clovelly’ shows what she can do

The Crew are delighted with their new ‘home’ at Portishead. And I’m sure they’ll be doing a guided tour on this blog at some point in the near future…

The little guys love their new ‘home’

* It’s the Crew’s ‘home’ station because it’s just down the road from where I live. And it’s the one where I volunteer. Oh, and it’s awesome.

The Great Green Recyclable Regatta

The little guys were delighted this weekend just gone to be invited to Portishead’s Great Green Recyclable Regatta. Organised by the lovely people at Compass Sea School in aid of the RNLI, the event encouraged competitors to construct small wind-powered craft out of the contents of their recycling bins. These would then be raced along a straight course at Portishead Quays Marina.

The Crew are keen sailors themselves, so they were excited to have the opportunity to get involved. And I recently studied for my VHF certificate at Compass Sea School – and have just started volunteering as a fundraiser for the lifeboat station at Portishead (which is about to be adopted by the RNLI) – so I wasn’t entirely unexcited, either. Even Natalie and Molly tagged along.

It was clear as soon as we arrived that some of the dozen or so entrants had taken considerable effort in developing their craft. Look at this Australian challenger, for example:

The Australian challenger

The Australian challenger

Once registration was complete, the boats were transported to the start line. And when they were carefully lined up, the hooter was sounded and everyone got quickly out of the way to let the wind do its work.

The boats prepare for the start

Lining up for the start

A small group of boats built up an early lead, with the smaller ones doing well at first. Gradually, though, the larger craft got into the groove and started to work their way through the fleet.

The boats set sail

The boats set sail

By this time, quite a crowd had developed around the marina, as local people and visitors alike struggled to get their heads around what was going on.

The boats on the water

Well under way now

The little guys admired the craftsmanship that had gone into the different entries. Plastic bottles seemed to be the main material used, but plastic bags, lager cans and vegetable cartons were also popular.

One of the boats

One of the early leaders

We even saw what looked very much like a pirate ship, charging through the middle of the fleet as it made a desperate bid for victory.

Another of the boats

Pirates? In Portishead?

The wind proved to be a little fickle as the boats approached the finish line, with several getting caught up in a circular vortex that saw them heading back towards the start.

Another of the boats

Yes, it is going the wrong way

And as any yachtsperson will know, all marinas have a corner where all of the flotsam and jetsam eventually washes up. Portishead is no different, but thankfully the Compass team were on hand to retrieve the stricken craft and send then on their way.

The boats in a corner

Every marina has a corner where everything washes up

One by one, the boats finally started to trickle their way over the finish line in the approach to the lock gates. I think this one was the winner, but I may be entirely mistaken.

A boat crossing the finish line

The finish line at last

What I know with some certainty, though, is that the Crew were absolutely smitten with the race’s safety boat, which had been prepared by four-year-old Alfie. They were delighted to meet Alfie himself, as well as the boat’s very own LEGO crew.

The rescue boat

The Crew loved the race’s rescue boat

So all in all, a great afternoon on the water. Boat building, racing, excitement, fun and frivolity. And all in aid of a fantastic cause. Who could wish for more? A great big ‘thank you’ to the Compass Sea School team for having such a great idea and for being kind enough to invite the Crew (and me, Natalie and Molly) along to enjoy it.