Monday, 28 April 2008

Caption Competition

Over to the readers tonight, what is the Sector Manager doing? Gareth is clearly thinking about something and Austen seems to have something growing out the back of his helmet which has pushed his head down.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

How not to lose equipment

When we set up the rope rescue equipment, the 1st new piece of equipment to come out of the vehicle is this new "Orange" sheet.

Made of tough plastic, its pinned down and the equipment is laid out so it can be used easier rather than trying to grab bits out the vehicle which often gets rather chaotic.

And the name of this important piece of equipment?

"The dump"!

Friday, 25 April 2008

The Berry

Just to the left of the boat park slipway (as you look out to sea) is a small set of rocks called locally as the 'Berry'.

For many years this had a pole on it to mark this small and troublesome set of rocks, however in recent years that pole has gone.

For many a visitor to the town launching their boat from the slip, tide and wind waits for no one and on a Saturday afternoon sat at the angling club you watch the odd boat drift or be steered by accident on to the rocks despite all the vocal comments of those on the shore.

At today's beach users meeting, there were discussions about putting the pole back however who was responsible? Who put the pole there is 1st place? Who put the traffic cone on it a few years back? Well hopefully an answer will be found soon and if deemed necessary to warn a small craft about to land then hopefully it will be replaced.

Thursday, 24 April 2008


Last night Austen and I attended our 1st PACT meeting for Swanage & Herston. The local PACT panel is made up from leading people and groups from the community, for example, Dorset Fire and Rescue, Dorset Police, Chamber of Trade, Local Councillors, youth services and ourselves.

Once a month the Pact panel will hold surgeries at either the Co-op or the Youth centre where members of the public can come and discuss any issues regarding the town, these issues are then brought to a panel meeting and the main ones are discussed and a plan of action is drawn up.

PACT panels are being set up throughout the country (Government initiative), and we are proud to be part of something that will in time make a difference.

Why not come to one of the surgeries, the next one being at the Co - op (next to the station) on Monday 28th April at 10.00am and tell us what issues you would like to be tackled, - anti social behaviour, speeding motorists, poor lighting in the town...what ever if we don't know we can not try and solve it for you.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

The Look

This is what the new building will look like when hopefully work starts in the next couple of months. Its going to alot different to what we have now.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Out with the old

Having official moved over to the new equipment, this meant the removal of the old stuff.

Its not quite as simple as throwing it away, each item has a certificate which needs signing and confirming its withdrawal from service.

Also the Agency has insisted that the Sector Managers confirm its withdrawal and correct disposal as quite rightly they don't want these items being used anymore, IE not appearing on eBay or being used for climbing.

So once this has been done, the metal work will be sent for recycling and the ropes (that's over 1200 metres of rope just for our station) will be used once more when we lift some fossils for a special project and then hopefully they are going to be sent to Monkey World at Wool where another group of primates will be able to use them!

Sunday, 20 April 2008

A year on!

April 2007 (Studland Beach)

April 2008 (Swanage Sea front)

Lets hope the sun comes soon!

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Anyone know a good builder?

The good news was........

This week the MCA (The Maritime & Coastguard Agency) instructed the building consultants to go to tender to find someone to build the new station.

As this is a large project, this process will take about 5 weeks to happen, 3 weeks for companies to put a tender in and the 2 weeks for the tenders to be chosen.

This is another huge step forward in the building project as once the tender is accepted.......the ground will be broken and building started.

Before anyone starts writing to us (the Swanage Team), can I point out we have nothing to do with the selection of a builder, in fact technically we are not allowed to visit the site until the building is handed over to MCA!

Friday, 18 April 2008

The Result

Four months and just short of 50 hours of training, the final few members of the team were passed proficient by the Sector Manager in using the new rope equipment.

This now means the team are authorised to use the new equipment "in anger" and don't have to use two sets of equipment.

But it doesn't stop there!

Having passed the assessments, we start practising on our "hot spots", Old Harry, Ballard, the Downs and Anvil Point.

To all the team (and families as we have had some long training sessions) Well done and thank you.

And to top that we got some even better news so you better log on tomorrow for that!

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

The Alpine-Butterfly-Wotsit-Knot

Tomorrow is the final assessment on the new cliff gear!

Assessor: -“Right, I need a loop in the middle of this rope, the rope needs to run straight, it needs to be untied easily under sever load, and take a three way loading…what do you suggest?”

Probationary Coastguard Rescue Officer: "Um, well" (cogs whirring in the brain), “I know an Alpine Butterfly Knot, or Caving Knot or Lineman’s Loop or Butterfly Loop”. (Actually they’re the same thing)

Assessor:- “Can you show me how you tie one?:

Probationary Coastguard Rescue Officer: “here goes….!”

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Joint incidents

The UK emergency services are working more and more closely to provide and support each other,

This picture taken last carnival shows the team assisting the air ambulance crew loading a patient at Peveril Point.

The team will hopefully be signing an agreement with the South Western Ambulance shortly to provide a co responder scheme in Swanage.
This scheme provides extra training for the team, extra life saving equipment and if the team are out on patrol and available, the Coastguard will attend 1st until an ambulance arrives.
We will keep you posted

Monday, 14 April 2008

The Coastguard family increases!

Congratulations to Sarah And Phil Graves on the birth of their son, Benjamin who arrived safe and well yesterday.

Another potential team member in 16 years then!!

This of course makes Paul (pictured left) a grandad! The 5th "Grandad" in the team.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

One of the best views in the world

We live in one of the best parts of the country (my opinion), one of the best vantage points in the patch is Ballard Down.
Either looking down into Swanage or into Poole Harbour it has one of the best 360 degree views I know...and its our patch to patrol!

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Some reward

As I write this entry, our colleagues in the Operations rooms are returning to work after their 24 hours of industrial action over pay and conditions.

Whilst we (Coastguard Rescue Officers) are classed as volunteers, there is a small amount of reimbursement (or pay!) for our efforts.

The station gets about £11,000 a year to run, this covers the 100 + incidents we normally get, 2 hours paid training a month that we can claim for (we normally do the rest voluntary), 18 hours a month looking after and checking the equipment (not each! per station), 5 or 6 hours a month to do the paperwork and attend meetings etc.

So to give you an example:

On a call out, the moment you get paged, you get 3 hours pay;

3 X £5.52 (yes that's the national minimum wage rate) = £16.56

The incident could last 10 minutes or 3 hours, that what you get, however get called again within the 3 hours and don't get paid again.

£16.56 perhaps isn't too bad for a disturbed meal or lack of sleep,however I forgot to say the tax man then has his chunk and as most of us are already employed, he taxes us at basic rate of 25%, so the final figure is.....£12.42 a call out

I think you might see why we are called volunteers.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Life as a Station Officer

Its not easy being the Station Officer, you get "challenges" from above (the bosses) and below (the team), lots of paperwork and when it goes wrong you know who gets to sort it all out!
We are a delicate breed so perhaps when my children brought a new mug for me, they had a point. afraid!

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Sad Day .....part 2

At 07.00 tomorrow morning (11th April) many staff in the Coastguard operations rooms around the country will again walk out on strike over their pay.

This strike will last 24 hours until 07.00 Saturday12th April

Plans are again in place in ensure the safety of the public, 999 calls will be answered as normal.

We again confirm that Coastguard Rescue Teams remain on call during this period and are not part of this strike action.

The Chocolate Fridge!

A fridge full of chocolate? Yes that’s right readers; we have a fridge full of confectionary delights…’s hardly Thornton’s….but pretty good, apart from the fact there are no Curly Wurlies.

Now the reader would be forgiven in thinking we just sit there on training nights, pigging on chocolate and biscuits and that we must all be 20 stone porkers…not the case! It’s actually mainly there for three reasons:- (i) team morale (ii) to keep the energy levels of the team up during lengthy searches operations, and (iii) to be available for casualties if necessary.

Obviously if you’re suffering from full on hypothermia, the last thing you need is a Lion Bar stuffed in your mouth. But take the Kayakers earlier this year, (see previous blog) they were cold and wet after two hours of carrying their kayaks, and what they needed was a Mars Bar, a Bounty and a hot cup of tea.

And which CRO is no stranger to the chocolate fridge....a clue is in the photo.

Reminder to myself: Must have a word with Mr Bentham, (Chocolate and Biscuit Officer) about the Curly Wurlies.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Training Night

Monday was training night.

Most of the training this year has been based on the new cliff equipment; and for a change the Station Officer (SO) decided we needed a change. So it was off on the cliffs to revisit our off road driving skills and to improve knowledge of the local area, notably the cliffs and walks around the quarries west of Anvil Point. He also wanted to reinforce the point that if the terrain looks too tricky for a vehicle then get out and walk…obviously this lesson had nothing to do with the team getting the truck stuck twice in two weeks…well at least we’re consistent!

So eight men in two 4wds driving round the cliff top spotting new routes, revisiting old routes and checking we have the necessary keys for all the padlocked gates.

…and no one got a vehicle stuck! Sounds fun…and it was…but useful training as the tracks are muddy and difficult to negotiate, even more so in the dark under rescue conditions.

And then back to the station to wash the vehicle off….although it appears John is sweeping stuff up again. He’s got a habit of doing that!

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

MCA Website

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency have a new home
(...well a new look internet site!)

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Building up date

The latest on the building is that final costings are being sought and then the project will go out to tender, hopefully with a start date sometime in June.
Fingers crossed then!

Friday, 4 April 2008

Have a think (please)

In the last month two letters have appeared in local papers stating

"another tragedy for climbers at Durlston" and

"why not simply prohibit rock climbing at Durlston"

"Then there is the risk to rescue teams and the huge cost involved"

So far I have resisted the temptation to respond to the author of these letters...until now.

I guess the author is referring to the incident in January when sadly two people lost their lives at Durlston within an hour of each other.

One of those persons was NOT a climber and we await the full findings of HM Coroner.

Since January I'm aware of eight road deaths, let alone serious injuries in Dorset, shall we ban driving in Dorset?
We have had several dogs go over the cliffs, a few divers over the years and a fair few marine related they need looking at?

Risk to rescue teams - Yes there is a risk, there is a risk every time anyone steps outside the front door however we assess every stage of an incident to reduce the risks involved, having trained very hard to a high standard.

Cost, clearly the author of the letters knows more than me regarding these "costs" however my simple reply is this "what is the cost to save a life", in my book "priceless".

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Quiet Stroll

It was a lovely evening in Swanage, so off down Burlington Chine for a quiet stroll along the beach. Suddenly I hear women screaming!!!!!

…..reach for the phone

…..oh it’s alright it’s the Swanage Sea Rowing Club (SSRC) ladies team practising in the bay!


Which reminds me; I hear on the grape vine that SSRC have overcome their first big hurdle in securing a much needed ‘Gig Shed’. Gig? – Yes, you know big long boat from Cornwall.

Swanage Town Council have apparently agreed in principle to support a scheme to develop on land opposite the Pierhead building; great stuff!...nice to see the Town Council supporting this project!

Now it’s up to the club to liaise with the Planners at Purbeck District Council to find an acceptable scheme. Not easy given the site is outside the ‘settlement boundary’ of the town and therefore normally protected from non-essential development. But in this case SSRC have a very strong case and importantly community support. Well done chaps, especially Bryan Taylor who’s worked so hard on this.

See more at:-

Oh and as a Cornishman it’s great to see Cornish Pilot Gigs in Swanage!

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Or was it?

When the "Deputy Blog" told me he had the ideal story for the 1st April, I sat back and got ready for it, yes it was amusing and I would just love to see 13 of us in the vehicle.

What "Deputy Blog" didn't know was we have actually had one in the station!!!

Right......that's enough on that subject back to normal tomorrow.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Dream on

OK, OK the previous post was an April Fools,
there's obviously no such thing as 4 wheel drive drive Smart car
....or is there?

More New Equipment!

Just had confirmation from HQ today that Swanage Coastguard are first in the UK to trial a new rescue vehicle – The MCA Smart!

You may have previously seen the Emergency Service versions below:

The new vehicle has been chosen for its manoeuvrability, versatility and high power to weight ratio. Whilst on first viewing it might appear like a ‘normal’ Smart Car, the heavily modified vehicle will feature full four wheel drive, a 0-60 time of 6.2 seconds and be equipped with the usual emergency lights/strobe systems, integrated into the roof bar. We have a sneaky peek of the vehicle taken in Swanage recently.

MCA Smart

New equipment on test will include infrared/heat seeking capabilities for night work, GPS- 4 dimensional positioning, along with ‘run flat’ off-road tyres! All in MCA official colours; oh and did we mention it’s a cabriolet too! …allowing better visual co-ordination with the new Agusta Bell helicopters.