An update on the ramp at Exmouth Lifeboat Station
Recent sand movement at the bottom of Exmouth lifeboat station’s ramp means the Shannon class all-weather lifeboat cannot be safely launched and recovered from the station at the moment.
Preliminary ground investigations have now been completed and designs are being prepared for necessary alterations to the ramp in order to return the all-weather lifeboat to the station.
In the meantime, this lifeboat is still on service and is situated on a mooring within the Exe Estuary, adjacent to Exmouth Marina. Despite this temporary change, the crew have shown continued commitment and dedication in unforeseen circumstances, and the lifeboat has remained on service throughout.
Exmouth’s D class lifeboat is still located at the lifeboat station, where it can be launched and recovered from the beach via the public slipway 150 metres from the station.
We would like to give huge thanks to our volunteers and the local community in Exmouth for their continued support. We know people have various questions relating to this work, so please find below some FAQs.
Why is the lifeboat station situated where it is?
The location of the lifeboat station and boathouse is ideal as it is in the right position for the Shannon Launch and Recovery System (SLARS), which allows us to launch to save lives at sea at any state of tide. The location is a lot more accessible as it avoids the need for a boarding boat, has ample parking, and houses both lifeboats in the same building. It also improves crew welfare as the volunteers have proper changing and toilet facilities, as opposed to the portacabin used before. The location carries practical benefits for the condition of the lifeboat itself because maintenance, fuelling and cleaning of the lifeboat are all made easier.
What are the timelines for this work and when can we expect to see the Shannon back at the station?
Preliminary ground investigations have now been completed and designs are being prepared for necessary alterations to the ramp in order to return the all-weather lifeboat to the station, which should be a permanent solution. We will complete the work on the ramp in as short a timeframe as possible. However, there are certain factors outside of our control which mean we won’t be able to work at certain times – such as high tides, crowds of beach users in late spring/summer, and nesting bird periods over winter.
The efficacy of the RNLI’s lifesaving response at Exmouth will be unaffected while this work takes place and the lifeboats will continue to be on service throughout the year.
Why didn’t the RNLI build the ramp down to the bedrock?
When the station was built, the sand levels presented no cause for concern and to build the ramp into the bedrock at that time would have been a major, disruptive, and hugely expensive project. The length and depth the ramp was dug into the beach was calculated to be more than adequate for the typical rise and fall of the beach levels. The recent unprecedented sediment movement within the Exe Estuary has made clear the requirement to investigate altering the ramp.
The level of recent sand loss along Exmouth Beach is far greater than the usual rise and fall through the seasons. Many of the structures along the seafront are being undermined, including other ramps onto the beach. No one foresaw the drop in the beach levels that is now occurring.
Why was the lifeboat moved away from the Marina and to the lifeboat station originally?
Having the all-weather lifeboat on the mooring opposite the Marina presented multiple issues in terms of accessibility, crew welfare, and the condition of the lifeboat itself. Changes in the channels around Pole Sands meant the lifeboat could not get out to sea at some low tides, so we changed to a carriage launched lifeboat system that can drive the lifeboat to the deeper water. The purpose-built station and boathouse resolve these issues and we are looking forward to returning the Shannon class lifeboat to the station when the necessary ramp work is complete, so that the lifeboat can get out to sea whenever it is needed.
Why not keep the lifeboat inside the marina?
Exmouth Marina is very busy and popular and when spare space is available the owners kindly let use a berth free of charge. The footbridge across the marina entrance needs to be raised whenever larger vessels (including the lifeboat) need to get in or out. Although it is unlikely, having the lifeboat inside the marina includes the risk of the bridge breaking down and leaving the crew unable to get out to someone in difficulty. For this reason, the lifeboat is currently moored outside, rather than inside, the marina. However, the best option for our lifeboat’s location is being on its carriage in the boathouse, where it can launch and get out to sea at any state of tide. We look forward to being able to return the all-weather lifeboat to the boathouse when the necessary ramp work is complete.