Our speakers for the October meeting were Caroline and Maggie, volunteers for the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution). This was an open meeting and it was lovely to see so many members and guests attending. Caroline first talked about the history and current status of the RNLI – it was officially set-up in 1824 and covers all of the UK and Southern Ireland. The RNLI is a charity and 98% of their income is from donations and 98% of the workers are volunteers. There are currently 237 lifeboat stations all around the UK including Tower on the river Thames, set up as a result of the Marchioness disaster when 51 people drowned. Tower is the busiest lifeboat station in the UK - there is a lot of traffic on the Thames plus the currents are very fast and can be a bit like a washing machine. The RNLI has several different water vehicles – large boats that can do about 100 miles with a crew of 6, small boats that can get closer to the shoreline, both of which can go out in all weathers, 4 hovercrafts and some jet skis. There are also about 2,000 RNLI lifeguards around the country who are proactive in their approach – they will be proactively watching so they can spot the dangers and prevent accidents before they happen, as well as responding instantly if accidents do happen.
Caroline then told us about some rescues performed by the RNLI: we watched a video that showed the RNLI rescuing a father and his two sons who had got into difficulty in a small inflatable under Durdle Dor. The dingy had hit the rocks and punctured and the family were hanging onto the rocks. All were safely rescued. Then followed an incredible account of a rescue performed by the RNLI in December 1966 involving a 1,200 ton Greek freighter with 19 crew members; the ship's engines had failed and she was drifting dangerously close to the Anglesey coast in 100mph hurricane winds. There were so many things hampering the rescue – the RNLI boats (3 lifeboats were involved) had difficulty finding the freighter as visibility was so poor; the waves were 35ft high and the freighter was rolling and being lifted high in the sea with the propellers above the heads of the lifeboat crew; one of the lifeboats on the freighter had come loose and was swinging around making it even more difficult for the rescue boats to get near her. Despite all of the challenges and a rescue that took over 24 hours, there were no fatalities or casualties. This rescue resulted in 17 bravery awards being presented, including 2 golds and 3 silvers.
Every year about 190 people drown and the RNLI is looking at who these people are. Their aim is to halve this number by the 200 anniversary in 2024. Those most at risk are fishermen mainly because they don’t like wearing life jackets. So the RNLI has been working with them to find a more “user-friendly” jacket. We then saw a very moving video of a young fisherman who had never worn a life jacket but had recently started to wear one. He then got into difficulties and it was the jacket that saved him and allowed him to get married and enjoy life. A very thought-provoking video.
We then had the opportunity to buy RNLI merchandise which raised over £150.00, so thank you everyone who bought something.
November 9th, 2017 – Sarah Talents will tell us about a retirement home for polo ponies – a charity helping blind people to ride.
December 14th, 2017 – John Pitman will talk about his role as Dame in pantomime for 33 years. This promises to be a very good evening and may include audience participation. Should be fun!
Why not come along as a guest, a potential new member, or as someone who is interested in listening to a particular speaker? We are a cheerful group of ladies and we do have fun! If anyone would like to come along or would like more details please contact Carolyn Brown.