Thursday, 31 March 2011


After kit night, I thought the team members present deserved an award. Their 1st aid certificates!! Gareth thought his certificate was bigger than everyone else's (may be something to do with it being closer to the camera?) Austen put his best work trousers on for the occasion. Still smiles all round.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Kit Night Tonight

Do you remember Airfix kits when many hours would be spent over the dining room table carefully gluing small pieces of plastic together until they vaguely resembled a plane (or boat, or car - it was often hard to tell the difference)? And once complete there'd always be an array of parts left over that you never really knew what to do with. What fun we had.

Our kit night is a more modern version except we start with a fully functioning coastguard rescue team and thoroughly check, clean, inspect and test every piece of equipment before signing it off against the inventory log. Everything gets checked - ropes, slings, winches, mobile lighting, radios, stretcher, lifejackets, PPE, the MRU ('truck' to you and me), throw lines, you name it. We even give the kettle a severe test and occasionally a local hotelier provides us with sustenance.

Unlike the old Airfix version, everything is accounted for and repacked neatly into its proper place ready for immediate service. And no spare bits left over to bung up the hoover.
The Airfix Starter Kit - could have done with this the other day

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Monday, 28 March 2011

Getting Prepared

The season is fast approaching to get boats back in the water. The good weather in the last week has no doubt started to get people busy cleaning and preparing any size of boat whether a sit on kayak up to a 75ft power boat. Don't forget that the safety equipment is also important and despite the financial constraints on us all, don't cut corners. Ensure your flares are in date and serviceable. Life jackets in full working order. If you have an engine on board......get it serviced. Is the battery OK on your radio? Have you registered your vessel with the Coastguard? Or perhaps you have repainted the boat and need to update the Coastguard? Just a few pointers to ensure you have a fun and happy Summer.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

The week ahead

Just checking the diary for the week ahead...... Studland Beach meeting, discussions with users of the beach, The National Trust, Dorset Police, Ferry Company and a few more. This meeting highlights any issues for the coming season. Kit Night......The team have quite a lot to do this month, including a major clean of the inside of the truck. End of Month returns, its the end of the month and the financial year. Not much for a group of volunteers?

The Q Word

Quiet weekend again for the team in Swanage, although elsewhere in Dorset colleagues were kept busy with two seperate incidents involving dogs and cliffs. Gareth even tried a trip to the Co-Op this afternoon and when that failed he went home and lit a barbie. Under normal circumstances either is guaranteed to get the pagers going, but today nothing. Other supermarkets and cooking methods are available.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

The Giant's Daughter

Just noticed two remarkable things over on John's Lifeboat Scrapbook.

Firstly, that it's been updated.

And secondly, that next week he's doing a a 30 mile off-road challenge in the hills around the famous Cerne Abbas Giant. This challenge is of course self propelled ie without the use of a 4x4 which makes it all the more impressive. Even more noteworthy is the fact that John and his mates are doing it for the Help for Heroes fund in memory of the father of two young lads at his school who was killed in action in Iraq.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Parish Assembly

Yes it appears things have changed !

This assembly didn't have any hymns and the headmaster did not give that lesson in social issues, however the Mayor did explain what was going on in the town.

His talk was followed by 9 others including the Police and Coastguard to explain what we were doing and plans for this year.

An enjoyable evening.

Mile Markers

Vistors to the Anvil Point area of Durlston County Park may be surprised to see two tall, metal posts high on the hill facing out to sea. These mark the eastern limit of a ‘Measured Mile’ and an identical set of markers can be seen exactly one nautical mile to the west. The mile starts when the two posts are exactly lined up one behind the other when viewed from the sea and finishes when same hapepns at the other end.

© Copyright Nigel Mykura and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Despite advances in technology, ships still use the markers for timed sea trials. To offset the effects of tide and weather, several journeys are made between posts to obtain an average reading.

A similar system exists on the Thames where pleasure craft can check their speed by passing two sets of markers. Under a minute to pass and they are breaking the 8 km/h river speed limit whereas a minute or over is OK. For the mathematically minded, 8 km per hour is the same as 133.3 metres per minute, so the markers are set 133m apart.

Although we use the Swanage mile markers as reference points when we need to, we don't get so many jobs on the Thames.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Parish Assembly

Tonight at 7pm at the Mowlem is the Parish Assembly. The Mayor has asked us to do talk on the Coastguard.

Last time I was in an assembly was nearly 25 years ago, I wonder if things have changed?

More later

Wednesday, 23 March 2011



The team have been searching for an 86-year old lady tonight, missing since 5pm from the Beach Gardens area.
A quick assessment rated the casualty as 'Urgent Respose' and so the full team (BURT) was deployed wearing full PPE and following a carefully worked plan based on the casualty's habits, ability and likely movements.  Thankfully the lady was found near Ocean Bay shortly before 9pm.
Fortunately this was just a training exercise in search management and there was no casualty.  But in every other sense the operation was carried out as if it was a real life scenario.  Without proper management or planning a search can very quickly become inefficient and non-productive, and having had two large searches in recent weeks we need to make sure we're on top of the game.

Nothing Seen

The IRT was tasked to Old Harry last night to investigate a report of flares or white stars being sighted about 3 miles off shore. However, on arrival nothing untoward could be seen and having monitored the area for 30 minutes and checked in at Studland Bay too the team was stood down and returned to station.
Malicious false alarm or someone ringing with good intentions having genuinely thought they saw a distress signal? We'll never know, but what is important is that the team attended and the area was checked.
If YOU see someone either in danger or who looks to be in danger in and around the coastline, dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Purbeck Footprints - The Adder

More cracking shots from local photographer Julian Sawyer. What I like about Julian's blog, other than the obvious quality and compositions of his photos, is that he is able to capture the abundance of local wildlife half of which I didn't know was here.

The snake photo is a cracker; i'm defo wearing my boots next time I'm up at Durlston.

The wider team

We have often said its not just the team members that are Swanage Coastguard, there are many local people supporting us.

Over the weekend our truck developed a technical problem.......a flat battery.

Now before anyone thinks that's a bit careless, the vehicle is fitted with a special bit of kit that ensures even if you leave the lights on and the power level drops there is always enough power to start the truck.
On this occasion the device failed so we knew the battery had developed a fault, steps were put in place to ensure we could continue to provide cover until we could source a replacement battery.

The Coastguard don't have a fleet maintenance team, we use local garages to keep the vehicles serviced and on the road, we are measured on "down time " of the vehicle so fast reliable service is vital.

Thankfully we have a Swanage garage who can deal with the truck, when we 1st had the vehicle we had to take it to a dealership in Poole - a 50 mile round trip, taking the vehicle out of town for up to 6 hours.

Yesterday within 20 minutes of phoning Steve at Avenue Garage, two of his staff were knocking at the door of the station with a battery. Fitted and tested in 10 minutes the vehicle was again fully available.

Its this good local support that ensures we can stay available.

Monday, 21 March 2011


There’s been a perigee-syzygy in Swanage this week; no not a Polish Folk Festival but an extreme supermoon.


Actually it’s a phenomenon across the globe, not just Swanage.

Now most people know that the moon causes our tides; I always thought this was something to do with the type of cheese the moon was made of, but apparently it’s something that clever chap Sir Isaac Newton invented, on 5th July 1687, it’s called gravity.

“Tides are periodic rises and falls of large bodies of water. Tides are caused by the gravitational interaction between the Earth and the Moon. The gravitational attraction of the moon causes the oceans to bulge out in the direction of the moon. Another bulge occurs on the opposite side, since the Earth is also being pulled toward the moon (and away from the water on the far side). Since the earth is rotating while this is happening, two tides occur each day.”

So putting physics to one side.

 ….Swanage Lifeboat chap and Secret BBQ Chef Andy Lyons popped out and took some photos of the low tide in Swanage. He has very kindly allowed me to borrow them for the blog, thanks Andy.

Lots of reefs off Ocean Bay, and plenty of sand elsewhere.

Photos by Andy Lyons

The moon has also had some consequences for shipping in the Solent.

Old photos of Peveril Point?

We need your help, for a couple of years we have been researching the history around Peveril Point (our former home for 140 years). We are particular interested in the period 1939 to 1945 when of course photography was a little restricted.

It may be a family photo of someone on the Downs , what we need to do is look over their shoulder to confirm some points of interest that may have been at Peveril.

Can anyone put us in touch with people you can remember the artillery unit based at Peveril?

Over to our readership !

Record Breaking Lobster

The BBC reported this last week....
“A fisherman has donated a lobster he deemed to be too special and too old to be eaten to a local aquarium.

Marcus Hyde landed the crustacean in Bracklesham Bay off West Sussex while fishing for sole. The 3ft (1m) lobster, which weighs nearly 9lb (4kg) and is thought to be more than 50 years old, has been given to the Blue Reef Aquarium, Portsmouth.

Sealife experts at the aquarium said a fully-grown lobster would usually be half that size.

In 2009, another lobster of about the same age and weighing 8lb (3.7kg), was caught and given to an aquarium in Hastings.

The record holder is an Atlantic lobster nicknamed Mike who weighed 42lb (19kg) and was caught in 1934.”

Talking of crustaceans, Terry’s Coastguard Callsign is Mike, and he was born in 1934, although to be fair he weighs more that 19kg. ....I'm so dead for writing this!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Partnership Working

A recent Press Release from Dorset Police concerning the search for an elderly lady last weekend.

Swanage Lifeboat ILB

A quick tasking yesterday to support Swanage Lifeboat ILB (Inshore LifeBoat); to be fair we only provided a watch over them and took details; well done lifeboat team.

Photo: Swanage ILB in Action

Watch out Terry for that Ferry.

The other morning whilst looking for Ferry Terry in his duty free shop on the Sandbanks ferry, the cross channel ferry "Cotentin" headed out of Poole.

Not alot of room for error?

And I never did find Terry....anyone seen him?

Saturday, 19 March 2011

A spot of gardening

After today's call out the team came back to the station to start tidying up round the side and back of the station.

You may remember a new drainage pipe was installed a few weeks back and after the workers had finished they left some large stones on the surface which meant the grass wouldn't return.

Messrs Brown and Kitching with spade and rake started to clear the ground whilst Austen made the coffee and Tom gave advice.

Professor Splash

Fair play to him.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Power of the sea and earth

The effects of the earthquake last week in Japan cannot be under estimated when you see pictures like the one above. Our thoughts go out to many who have friends and family in Japan and to the many rescue workers.

Thursday, 17 March 2011


Last night I was speaking to a well respected member of the public about the Coastguard when I suddenly realised that they thought Coastguard Rescue Officers (us) were FULL time!

So the next twenty minutes was spent explaining how despite being a part of a Government Agency we are all volunteers. There are full time Coastguards - Sector Managers, MRCC staff and HQ staff to name a few.

Coastguard Rescue Officers are not retained like firefighters, however get a small payment when called out and for one official training session a month. The rest of the time the team give their time for free which probably equates to over 70% of the hours put in.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Dog up date

The owners of Tommy got in touch yesterday, Tommy is safe and well having been checked out by a local vet. The cuts on his nose are healing nicely and he's back to his usual self.

Thats good news..........

A little reminder to keep your dogs on leads when near the cliff edge.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Another Dog Job!

The Coastguard team along with Swanage ILB went around to Studland again today after "Tommy" the Collie dog decided to leap off a 60ft cliff.

The dog out with its owners had been very careful walking from Swanage around to Studland however just as they approached the final field before the Bankes Arms "Tommy" took the quick route down to the beach.

Thankfully after the 60ft drop the dog was seen to run off, that's where the problems began for the Deputy Station Officer! Having walked around the beach the dog thought he was not going to be caught by Austen, however a quick thinking ILB crew cut the escape route off and hey bingo, dog recovered to the ILB.

ILB Crew save "Tommy" from Austen.
Being the 14th dog rescue since 2010, we are getting use to chasing dogs up the beach! Tommy received some deep cuts to his nose but other than being scared of Austen was not injured.

Climber Incident - Sunday

Prior to the search deployment yesterday evening the IRT was called to a climber who had fallen on a climb at ‘Cattle Troughs’ approximately 1 mile west of Anvil Point Lighthouse. It was reported that he had broken a leg in a fall from 5m.

His climbing group made him safe while another climbing group ran to Anvil Point lighthouse in an attempt to call the emergency services. Finding the rescue phone out of order they then ran a further mile to the Durlston Country Park to raise the alarm.

At 17:42 CROs Craker and Kitching were paged and deployed to the Lighthouse, They ran the mile of the cliff path arriving 18:01 to find Rescue Helicopter 106 on scene with the winchman attending to the casualty. After a brief interlude the casualty was lifted and taken by helicopter to hospital.

With the sun setting at 18:32 this gave a short 9 minute window for the two climbing groups to recover themselves and their kit from the cliff face and return up the slopes to the safety of the coastal path. All people accounted for, all kit recovered as night closed in.

The two separate climbing groups are to be commended for their efforts; and we wish the chap a speedy recovery.

# Just as the Coastguard Team were about to leave the car park they were flagged down by Dorset Police to discuss an elderly person who had just gone missing.

Thank you

Tonight the team have been involved in a search for a missing 85 year old near Durlston. The temperature outside was not good (around 5 degrees). The Coastguard IRT team deployed just after 8pm and was further strengthened just before 9pm by the whole team.

Shortly after this the lady was discovered on The Downs by one of the Coastguard teams (Messrs Thompson, Simmons and P Brown). It appears she had slipped down a bank into the undergrowth but other than being cold was OK and taken to a waiting ambulance to be check over and returned home.

Tonights incident was an excellent example of partnership working which thankfully ended in a good result.

I would like to thank the team for turning out so quickly (in full PPE!) Dorset Police Officers, Dorset Police Helicopter, Swanage Lifeboat Crews and the members of the public who kindly allowed us access to their gardens and homes to search.

Oh special thanks to the Swanage Lifeboat crew for using the new callsigns ...well done chaps, this training is really working !

Sunday, 13 March 2011


Two jobs for the team today. Two good results; in fact one good result, one terrific result. More tomorrow.

Mountain Bikers - Urban Downhill

We often do bits and pieces on this blog about mountain bikers wearing helmets; and to be fair the overwhelming majority do. We have about half a dozen incidents on the Purbeck hills a year and put simply helmets save lives.

One of the lifeboat chaps (thanks Andy) pointed me in direction of this. It’s a u-tube video of a professional mountain biker (with helmet camera) at an organised event in Chile. Wow this guy can cycle.

It’s worth a couple of minutes. Try to watch it without ducking or flinching.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Our Water Man

I have always said its the wives/partners that keep the team on track.

This week one of the team took delivery of a new washing machine. We shall not release the name to save some embarrassment.

Having unpacked the machine, prepared the pipes the machine was plumbed in, plugged in and up came an error message....?

Hhhmmmm.....check, check (little bit of swearing) some more checking and ......give up and watch the football.

The lady of the house then took control logging on to the company's web site and cross referencing  the manual and the error message.

Suddenly bingo!.......Shouting to Mr X....."When you connected the pipes did you actually turn the water back on?"

What readers should understand is that the individual concerned actually works for the local water company!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Chief Coastguard Commendations

The Chief Coastguard has announced his commendations for 2010.

Congratulations to those awarded this honour.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Consultation Extended

A decision over changes to the UK's coastguard service (ie YOUR coastguard service) has been postponed by six weeks and the consultation period extended.

As well as an on-line consultation (see panel on the right - there's still time!) there have been a number of public meetings to dicsuss the changes, including earlier this week in Weymouth. If you missed that one and don't mind the odd bit of travel then there's another one at Kirkwall in Scotland on Tuesday next week and again in Ullapool (also Scotland) on Wednesday.

And as I'm in charge of the blog tonight, that's all for now from Occasional Blog. Oscar.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Swanage Bravo - Oscar

Austen took over training for a bit the other night to explain the Z drag or was it the team explained the Z drag to Austen?

Anyway to ensure fairness and strong leadership we used our new callsigns.

Poor old Gareth got really confused, too many "Oscars when it came to his turn"

Thank you to the several people who have got in touch thinking the "Oscar callsigns" were an early April fools day joke......its not, we promise, its an new operational instruction from up high.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Training - Natalie Portman

When training we are given hypothetical ‘Rescue Scenarios’.
For instance:-

“You arrive on scene to find a man in his 50’s has collapsed, you are told he has a history of epilepsy”

“You arrive on scene to find a scuba diver who has pains in his arms and feels nauseous”

It’s a good way of training and allows a number of options to be tried and discussed so that we are on form for a proper incident.
Last night we were doing some training on vertical lifts using the quad pod. Brian and Nick were tasked as cliff man and cliff top safety officer. Ian had obviously run out of rescue scenarios so did his best to make one up…. “You arrive on scene to find a packet of Jaffa cakes at the bottom of a mine shaft”.

Now Brian is no stranger to biscuits and immediately set about rigging up, however in conducting a risk assessment Nick argued that he wouldn’t send Brian down an abandoned mine for a packet of Jaffa cakes. A good point we thought which rather scuppered Ian's training session. That prompted a short debate about when you would go down a mineshaft.

Brian suggested that he would take that risk if actress and Oscar winner for her roll in Black Swan – Natalie Portman was stuck on the bottom. He could not decide whether she would be wearing the black or white Swan costume. We explained that this was his fantasy rescue scenario and he should choose for himself.

Natalie Portman in Mine Shaft Rescue
Needless to say Brian wore full personal protection equipment to recuse Miss Portman who was brought to surface using a z-drag rope configuration.

Tonight's Public Meeting

Public Meeting to discuss the closure of Portland MRCC

Venue:  All Saints School,Sunnyside Road, Weymouth, Dorset, DT4 9BJ

Date and Time: 19:30 Tuesday 8th March 2011

Monday, 7 March 2011

Tonight's Jaffa cakes have been brought to you courtesy of...

In a changing word we are now being sponsored when training. Tonights training session jaffa cakes were provided by a local hotelier.  Shameless plug yes, but there were two packets!

(Disclaimer: Other B&Bs and plenty of other types of biscuits are available in Swanage)

New Call signs

We hear that there will be changes to our call signs soon.

Currently we use the call signs "Swanage".....then Alpha, Bravo, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Kilo,Lima, Mike, Oscar, Papa, or Tango depending who we are.

The Alpha or Bravo call signs normally relate to the Station Officer or Deputy however if they are absent, the Operations room needs to know who is in charge of an incident.

So someone came up with the idea to add "Oscar" to the call sign to indicate Officer in Charge.

For example - "Swanage Alpha Oscar" or "Swanage Golf Oscar"

Now slight problem for Swanage Oscar as he becomes "Swanage Oscar Oscar" if he's in charge, sounding like he has to repeat everything!

But our John has the biggest issue......"Swanage Foxtrot .......Yep you radio experts will understand this one!"

Sunday, 6 March 2011

News updates

Dare I risk it and say its been a quiet weekend?

As you can see on the left of the screen there's a public meeting next Tuesday to discuss the closure of the Portland Operations Room (MRCC). Well to be fair it's actually worded  ' discuss the existing MRCC and the Coastguard modernisation proposal.'

....but I suspect the word closure will be used a lot during the evening.

In other news a hoax caller has been arreseted.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Cliff Rescue Podcast.

Here’s a Podcast from the MCA - explaining what we do.

"Coastguard Rescue Officers are volunteers who serve HM Coastguard. They give their time and skills to provide a coastal emergency response service. In this podcast we see a team putting their training to use in a cliff rescue exercise."

Swanage Coastguard Team Training at Old Harry

Friday, 4 March 2011

Left a bit......right, found it

Austen and I have just returned from helping the senior section of the guides with Geo cashing, (or was it they were helping us?) Having remembered how to turn the GPS devices on, off we went. Of course we cant say where we went in Swanage but in 45 minutes we...sorry the guides found two of them.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Dog and Cliffs......a forthcoming event

You may remember last year we had a fair few dogs fall off the cliffs?

The National Trust at Studland will be holding a "Dog Awareness" event to highlight this worrying trend and we have been asked to attend to support the event.

Saturday 16th April - 12.00 to 3pm - venue to be confirmed.

Come and meet the Coastguard and enjoy the beach at the same time.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011


We have the Swanage Senior Guides visiting the station on Friday for a spot of Geo-Caching. When I saw this on the rota I thought…what? Anyway it turns out that that you run around (or walk I suppose) with a Handheld GPS (Global Positioning System) looking for things.

Entry Level GPS

Basically, a high tech treasure hunt for the Girl Guides, sorry Guides… have they have been rebranded? I suppose it is orienteering for a tech savvy generation.

Austen and I thought this was not that exciting but we have since been told that there may be gold biscuits hidden in them hills. Obviously it becomes more interesting when there is proper treasure; in my book chocolate biscuits are treasure. Needless to say if I end up on top of Nine Barrow Down in the dark and cold only to find a pack of Budgen's value custard creams the boss will get some good natured abuse.

Joking aside, it’s a great way of teaching teamwork and navigation skills over challenging terrain. I’m sure the Guides will be very proficient. It'll give us a chance to dust off the team GPS and refresh our own skills.

We often have local schools and community groups visiting us for talks and demostrations etc. and it's something we like to do for the community. Please get in touch if you have any ideas or requests.

Dee's Carpet.

Following the blog earlier today we've been inundated with requests to see the stair carpet at Coastguard Dee's B&B..... I say inundated, one person has asked; so not to disappoint here it is.


I’m reliably informed, by Dee, that each stair is individually cut and the stripes even turn a 90 degree corner! Who’d a thought we’d be doing a coastguard blog about carpet.

A normal blog tomorrow I promise.

Butcher, baker and candlestick maker.

Regular readers will know that we are volunteers and not full time Coastguards; although in the summer it may as well be full time.. We are not paid as such but instead given a payment to compensate for disruption to family life. The rate is the minimum wage. We certainly don’t do it for the money. We probably put in 3 voluntary hours for each 1 hour paid.

The Coastguard Family

We have a mixed bag of occupations, self employed painters x2, maintenance chap, senior emergency control room operator, a youth worker, a bloke who does water stuff, a business advisor, a tyre fitter, Studland Ferry x2, care worker, planning officer, and finally Dee who has decided to have lots of jobs including a B&B owner/restaurant staff/beach warden/ tourist information person.

All very varied really and great if you want call on expertise, although I think we could do with taking on a plumber as my sink is blocked.

I’ve been told in no uncertain terms that I’m not to mention Dee's Bay Lodge B&B on Springfield Road, Swanage as we are not allowed to advertise great B&Bs with wifi and big breakfasts, ensuite bathrooms with shaver points, and what is the most funky stair carpet in western Europe.
(Just so I don’t get in trouble ...other Swanage B&Bs are available)

Phew! managed to get away with that.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Eric's Speedos

No not his swimming trunks...

The other day Eric is driving up Ulwell Road in the Coastguard truck when he spots the Police speed trap. He’s not speeding so no problems.

He returns to the station and says that it’s dead tricky because our truck speedometer says 20 and 40, but not 30. He explains to an incredulous audience of coasties that he couldn’t see the number 30 and thought he’d better play it safe and chose the number 20 … this point someone spat their coffee over the carpet.

We explained that he could split the difference by allowing the speedo needle to fall halfway between 20 and 40 ….which would be 30.

(As an aside, Eric only wears his speedos when he's playing golf)