Friday, 29 February 2008

Prevention is better than the cure.

The 1st of March will see the team patrolling on both Saturday's and Sunday's, every weekend where possible until September.

Accident Prevention Patrols are as is says in the title "to prevent accidents to the public", during the time spent out on the road or off road there is always an element of training, local knowledge testing and checking of equipment.

Based on casualty information over the last few years the patrols are sent out at around 14.00 on both days as this is when most incidents have occurred and when normally the greatest number of people are out and about. Most patrols are done voluntary by the team, as we feel that its important to support the community and offer advice where required.

Quite often the patrol will spot "something that's not right" and get help to a person before they realise matters are out of control, having reached the shore it often takes a little explaining that having capsized six times it was perhaps a good idea to ask for a bit of help.....!

Thursday, 28 February 2008

A Picture paints a thousand words

All I will say is the whole team passed their 1st aid assessment, and thank you to St Mary's 1st School for the use of the hall.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008


Initial Response Team (IRT) or Back Up Response Team (BURT), the two different stages of a Coastguard call out.

When an incident starts, the watch officers at the Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) decide what resources are required.

Taking today’s incident with the yacht, Swanage Lifeboat is launched to assist the yacht, whilst this is being done, Coastguards are required to be the eyes and ears on the ground for the staff in the centres reporting back any additional information required whilst the lifeboat crew deal with the tow.

Not all the team is required for such an incident so an IRT is requested; the IRT normally consists of two Coastguard Rescue Officers (CRO’s) however that can increase depending on the type of incident.
Should a search of cliff incident occur then the whole team (BURT) is requested straight away, a cliff incident requires a minimum of eight CRO’s and of course a search requires as many as possible to cover the area as quickly as possible.

The yacht towed in by Swanage Lifeboat today, the IRT monitored the lifeboat until safely back on the slip. Normally the IRT would also discuss with the skipper what had happened and offer advice if required, today the crew of the yacht remained on board the yacht.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

A big family

If there is one thing that people say to the team on a regular basis is:

“How do you fit work, home life and Coastguard in”?

The answer to this is quite simple really and something we discuss on the station regularly…….we are volunteers so home life and work should come 1st, however when it really matters and the pagers goes off, all the team have their families support to get on with the rescue.
I don’t see the team as 13, I see it as a big family and without the family it does not work, this family includes many friends who often at short notice, suddenly discover extra children in their houses!

Being part of a Government Agency, the role of a Coastguard Rescue Officer is not “a job”, some see it as a hobby or an interest but it’s a commitment to the local community which all team members take seriously and enjoy.

In this country we are very unique in having so many volunteer organisations ready to drop everything to assist others.

Monday, 25 February 2008

The Coastguard around the country

The MCA headquarters at Southampton (pictured above)

3 Regions - West, East and Northern Ireland and Scotland.

19 Districts - Each with with a Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC).

Districts are broken up in Sectors, each Sector has a full time Sector Manager.

Sectors are then broken down into Stations.

So here in Swanage :

East of England Region.

Portland District - Lyme Sector, Weymouth Sector and East Dorset Sector.

East Dorset Sector - Southbourne, Poole, Swanage and St Albans Stations.

Swanage Station covers Middlebere Farm to Dancing Ledge.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Old Coastguard buildings

Around the country in almost every coastal town and village there will be an Old Coastguard housing station.

Almost all to my knowledge are now in private ownership having been sold off by the Governments of years gone past.

The housing station at Peveril was built around 1842 to house the full time Coastguards of this town, a later set of houses were later added just up around the corner, now next to the boat park.

Coastguard houses tend to be quite similar in design up and down the country, thick walls and painted white and always near to the headland of the town or village. Just in this area there are properties at Southbourne, Sandbanks (in fact at one stage those houses were the only ones on the "sandbank"!), Studland (next to Middle beach carpark) Swanage, St Albans Head, Kimmeridge and Lulworth. There were also a set at Hill Bottom or Chapmans Pool, however this have long gone.

The terrace at St Albans head is another fine example of some old properties and even has the original rescue cart building alongside.

This building is a very similar design the our current station building in Swanage, once again with a great arch over the doors.

Just a little reminder that in most cases these properties are now private and on private land.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Coastguard Act 1925

In 1922 a inter-departmental committee appointed by the treasury reported that a newly constituted CG service should be established

"A coast watching force to perform duties in connection with saving of life, the salvage of wreck, the administration of foreshores and certain miscellaneous duties to be administered by the Board of Trade".

The recommendations of the Committee were adopted and received statutory sanction in the CG act 1925. the act specifies the cg responsibilities to include
saving of life
salvage of wreck
administration of foreshores
such duties as may be defined by the board.

The coastguard act is seen as an enabling act, which in modern times gives the Secretary of state the authority to determine the duties of HM Coastguard to meet current requirements.
HM Coastguards role and responsibilities were specified by the Secretary of state in a statement laid before Parliament in 1992 as:
"HM Coastguard has a statutory duty under the CG Act 1925 to be responsible for the initiation and co-ordination of civil maritime search and rescue with the UK Maritime search and rescue region. This includes the mobilisation, organisation and tasking of adequate resources to respond to persons either in distress at sea or persons at risk of injury or death on the cliffs or shoreline of the UK

Thursday, 21 February 2008

A new dawn

Today, the plans for the new building for the team took a huge step foward with the Purbeck District Council Planning Officer issuing the "grant of planning permission" or "decision notice."

From my understanding the final plans have been agreed and the MCA can now go out to tender for the building.

As ever we are grateful for the assistance of several Town and District Councillors in resolving the few issues that were outstanding and finally getting the project moving again.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Half Term

Stuck for something to do over the half term holiday's? Fed up with wandering around the shops in our large towns? Then can I suggest you pack yourself a flask and a snack and take yourself and the family out into the countryside and enjoy the scenery for free!

Yesterday the children and I set off for St Albans head, mainly to trace where James Blunt has just filmed his latest video, but also to get out in the fresh air.

Having visited the chapel and the NCI lookout, we sat down for a small picnic before returning home, the whole trip three and a half hours long, result, tired children and some great photo's.
Just a couple of reminders:
Tell someone where you are going and what time you estimate you will return.
Have the correct clothing and most importantly the correct footware.
Plan your route and check the weather forecast.
Our coastline is beautiful, but please remember the cliff edge, especially if the ground is wet.
Take your rubbish home with you.
Stay on the footpaths and close gates if crossing farm fields, keep dogs on leads near livestock or the cliff edge.
Enjoy yourself, but should you see someone in trouble or you believe is in trouble, dial 999 and request the Coastguard.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Life as a Deputy Station Officer (DSO)

Its not great being the DSO, you get left all the rubbish jobs by the Station Officer, look after the station when the Station Officer goes on holiday and when it’s training time you get used as the crash test dummy!
Yesterday the team started their annual 1st training, we are very fortunate to have two Paramedic’s in the team who over see the training ready for the Sector Manager to assess each of us.
Brian thought it was a good idea to catch up on some sleep!

Sunday, 17 February 2008


When the team get paged, Austen or I normally follow up with a group text message to ensure everyone is aware of the incident they are about to attend.

At last Sunday’s incident at Old Harry, the normal text message was sent,

“Dog incident at Old Harry”

Off we went and shortly after arriving, my message tone on my mobile went.

"Really sorry Ian, going to be delayed currently sitting on a beach in the Caribbean, will the Coastguard pay my mileage ?…Terry"

Now that’s what I call commitment.

Friday, 15 February 2008


A few years ago whilst talking to a colleague at work, he told me that his sister had been rescued by the Coastguard and lifeboat back in the late sixties.

His sister, then in her teens had been out walking with her boyfriend around Ballard when something went wrong, night set in and of course the pair had not returned home to Poole.
Worried parents had called the Police and in turn the Lifeboat and Coastguard set out to search, up and down the cliffs they searched (my colleague remembers looking out of his window of his home in Poole at the search lights of the lifeboat).
Just as the search was about to be called off a hand was sighted amongst the rocks and the badly injured pair was taken by lifeboat to the slipway and a waiting ambulance. His sister was later transferred to Southampton for specialist treatment, and slowly recovered from the ordeal.

Having a rough date I started to search the records and found the very incident and showed him the records of that night, he took his mother to the lifeboat house and pointed out the rescue on the many boards around the boathouse.

Sadly just after this Christmas my colleague contacted me, saying his sister had sadly passed away following a long illness, the family were putting together a book of her life and asked if it was possible to have a copy of the records of that night when she nearly lost her life. With the help of Dave Turnbull who kindly took a picture of the board in the boathouse, I copied the records from our log and passed them on.
The request from the family is he that the story be told to ensure that others are aware of the risks around our coastline, even after 40 years one single event can have a huge impact on a family and a thank you to all those that put their time in to save others………

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Oil v wildlife

The other day when I was working in the station, a local fisherman knocked on the door saying there were oiled guillemotes down at Peveril Point.

I popped straight over to see these two birds clearly covered in some form of oil and as most people know if these birds start to ingest the oil it tends to be fatal for them.

Having reported the situation to the Operations room to get some specialist treatment, a check was carried out along the shoreline for further birds or signs of oil on the beach.

Oil is an important commodity to the world, but sometimes to the cost of wildlife, so its important that oiled birds or oil on the beach is always reported to the Coastguard so samples can be taken and traced, leading to prosecution of the offenders.

What happened to the above two......well as I went to get our bird boxes, they decided to go for a swim, however they were caught later and taken up to Durlston Country Park, who passed them on to be cleaned up.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

The Trees

Before any plans for the Coastguard Station were ever submitted the Town Council were undertaking a tree survey on all their land including those trees in the North Beach car park. The trees were found to be unsuitable for the location due to their height and the types of roots they have (Im told the roots cause alot of damage). The work would be carried out whether the station was there or not.

At the site meeting held last August alot of time was spent discussing the trees as we wanted to ensure if the trees were going to be cut down, that they be replaced as soon as possible to ensure both privacy for local residents and that enviromental issues were addressed, it was at this time the tree work was considered to be done at the same time as any building work.

Lots of money and advice was sought about these trees including an independent survey, even the Planning Committee had a look on their visit.

This week I chased up how things were going with the building only to find there has been a problem..........the trees!

It would appear the District Council appear unhappy about the trees and are again looking at who was meant to sort them out......(AAAAAAHHHHHHH)

Im pleased to say, the project team are working hard to resolve the issue.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

End of an era

Sometime in April or May, the Coastguard will be saying goodbye to a great piece of equipment.

After many years of saving lives the Sikorsky S-61N will be retired from service being replaced by smaller Agusta Bell AB139.

Both helicopters from Portland and Lee on Solent will be changed to the new type, helicopters in the Shetland Isles and Western Isles have already changed to Sikorsky S92.

It will be sad to see these aircraft go from our area which from memory arrived in about 1995 when the Coastguard tookover the search and rescue from the Royal Navy. Most of the current aircrew are transfering to new aircraft and will start training shortly.

So if you want to photograph some aviation history, you only have a short time to do so.

Computer image of the AB139 in HM Coastguard livery

Monday, 11 February 2008

John Bentham

Many of you will know John from his tyre and exhaust expertise, however perhaps you did'nt know that John is our longest serving member in the Swanage team having joined in September 1980.
Last year when the MSC Napoli was beached off Branscombe beach, little did we expect it would involve us, but an urgent request for support had John disappearing down to Weymouth for nearly two months.
Having been temporarily promoted to Station Officer, John was given the job of security of MRCC Portland, signing in and escorting all visitors around the building during the day.

As always John carried out the role to the highest standards, meeting alot of people during the two months, in recognition of his hard work the Chief Coastguard has awarded John with a 'Letter of Thanks', in his 2007 awards

On behalf of the team, well done John we are very proud of you.

Sunday, 10 February 2008


In 1994, HM Coastguard closed the last two fixed lookouts and swapped to mobile patrols, those last two were Holyhead and Swanage. A charity was set up called the National Coastwatch Institute which had a vision to take over the old Coastguard lookouts and continue watching the coast again reporting any incidents to the Coastguard.

14 years on NCI Swanage is going from strength to strength and provide the Coastguard with vital information, many times in the last few year we have attended the lookout to run an incident and since the lookout was rebuilt, this is another great asset for the town.

Last night my wife and I were guests at the annual NCI dinner, the highlight was presenting 6 new watch keepers with their certificates having passed their final assessments. I was also presented with a picture of the Coastguard helicopter landing at Peveril Point.

To all the NCI members thankyou for a great evening and continue the good work.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

A day Weymouth

Today Austen and I attended the annual Station Officers meeting at Portland Coastguard. The meeting is a chance for all the Station Officers (SO's) and Deputies (DSO's) from the whole of the Portland District (Hants/Dorset border down to Exmouth) to get together and discuss any issues and share good practices.

What many people don't realise is that "Portland Coastguard"(our co ordination centre, aka the ops room) is in fact on the quay at Weymouth!

The operations room is where our full time Coastguards work, answering 999 calls, monitoring radio channels , launching lifeboats, scrambling helicopters and tasking Coastguard rescue teams. I would say that in the summer this place can get very busy, however with the Napoli and the Ice Prince to name a few the winter months can equally be busy.

Friday, 8 February 2008

Getting ready

For the vehicle and team to roll out of the station a of lot of time is spent ensuring the equipment is clean, safe and ready for use.

When new equipment arrives 1st the Sector Manager does his bit....

Ensuring each piece of equipment has its unique serial number on it, which is then recorded on to a form which is signed everytime that piece of equipment is checked.

The item is then handed over to the team for use, every month the team gets together to check everything from the ropes to the blue lights on the vehicle.

This is hard work, so after its all done its time to sit down and put the world's problems right...well at least discuss them!.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

The big debate

Having gone to the planning committee, the only thing being built was the pressure that this project was not going to happen.

On behalf of the Coastguard Agency, I was given 3 minutes to explain why this building was so important at the start of the planning hearing. In brief the committee decided that they wanted to visit the site to have a look. The main concerns were the VHF radio, the design of the building, its location, the public toilets ..... that was just about everything we thought!

During the following month a visit was made and there was a super turnout of people, showing their support and a few people raising their concerns, the Councillors went away to think about the scheme.

D day arrived (thats decision day) arrived and off we went to Wareham to listen to the debate, the committee were given a choice of 4 different designs to choice from thankfully all but one of the planning committee were in favour and the permission to build was finally given subject to a few planning matters (final design, materials being used etc etc).

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Always on duty

The other day a colleague at work said to me, Ian don't you ever stop and have some time to yourself? The answer was simple.........of course I do, it just happens that a lot of my interests happen to be linked to the Coastguard.

The rescue work is the serious side of the job but even when I'm out walking, taking pictures , talking to different people and generally enjoying the area we live in, I've always got my eye on what people are doing out on the water.
The other day, I was having a walk out to Peveril Point, camera at the ready and .......

That does'nt look right......quick phone call to Portland Coastguard (our operations room) to let them know what I'm watching, and the next thing the patrol were standing next to me! On this occasion, it was a simple tow in and details taken, so I left the matter in the hands of the team and continued my walk, watching those on the water.

You never know, even a Lifeboat blog writer might need a hand sometimes!

Monday, 4 February 2008

Planning Permission

After six years of discussions, meetings , worry, sweat and tears, the sight of this going up was a huge step forward.

The Agency had reached agreement with the Town Council (land owner), allocated funding towards the project , finally it looked like we were going to get our new premises.

Having spent all this time on the project, one step forward and two back, I was not expecting a smooth ride, 99.5% of people were supportive of the Coastguard but perhaps not in North Beach Car Park......!

Lots of letters flew about in support of the plan, but there were quite a few opposing the idea, in fact the file stands at about 3 inches thick!

The main concerns included

The VHF aerial,

The Stream and risk of flooding to neighbouring properties,

The Public toliets that formed part of the plan and agreement with the council,

The noise we were going to make,

Its not in the right place,

Clearly we needed to explain a few things and started to tackle those concerns by having an open day and visiting local home owners.
We kindly got the support of a retired team member to act as our spokesperson and a mini campaign began to show why this project was so urgently needed.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Happy Customers

One of the best things about "Coastguarding" is when you get happy smiling faces and a thankyou for your efforts.....a good job well done.

These two kayakers had gone for a paddle across the Peveril tide race, as time went on they turned around and started to paddle back however the current was a little strong so they did the right thing......stopped, and paddled safely towards the nearest land so they could carry their craft over the headland.

The patrol had been told about their situation by the watch keeper in the NCI lookout, so off they went to assist and safely escort the two back to the station. The two had'nt even realised they had been "watched"and were very pleased with the help when we arranged to help collect their car and offer them a warm thats service.

Location Location Location

The search continued, but with options running out the MCA approached the Town Council as the lease on our current building was running out. Negotiations started to locate a suitable site and after a lengthy process the North Beach Car Park was identified as a possible site.........
This was only the start of a process which took about three years, lots of meetings and discussions followed and finally everyone met together for a site visit in August 2007.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Looking after the environment

The other day whilst out for a walk, I came across three young chaps on the parish slipway having some fun with some red ribbon. Whilst I never what to spoil any bodies fun (I was once there myself) ,I was a little concerned that this ribbon was being spread along the beach, around the rocks and into the water. Calling over to them to come and have a chat, I explained whilst it was no doubt fun, had they considered what would happen if they left the stuff on the beach, what would happen if they were swimming and got caught up in it ?, let alone what it would do to the marine life? Im very pleased to say they stopped, gathered up the stuff and placed it in the bin. (it was later collected by the patrol to ensure it didnt end up back on the beach)
In this day and age where some are ready to condone the actions of the young, credit to these guys who realised their actions could have led to an accident.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Industrial Estates.

Swanage has two sizable industrial estates and on several occasions, I was sent to look at possible premises on both estates. When a possible site was identified, plans were stopped dead when it was discovered both estates had covenants on them placed by Purbeck District Council and the South West Regional Development Agency. Both estates were developed with funding by both of them, restricting their use to businesses and to ensure those businesses had local employees, sadly whilst the Coastguard is an emergency service, it’s not a business and doesn’t employ people (we are volunteers).