Exmouth RNLI welcomes home the first Shannon in the South West
At 1.03pm on 9 May, R and J Welburn entered the Exe Estuary. Crowds of the charity’s supporters lined the seafront awaiting the first glimpse of the first Shannon class lifeboat in the South West.
The arrival of the station’s new state-of-the-art lifeboat had been planned by Exmouth RNLI volunteers to be a collaborative community welcome. Schools, local businesses, families and supporters from around the country flocked to the beach on the sunny but blustery day.
Both of Exmouth RNLI’s operational lifeboats, Mersey class Margaret Jean and D-class George Bearman launched in good time to meet the new member of the fleet. In the charity’s tradition of the outgoing lifeboat leading the incoming one, the station’s inshore lifeboat joined Teignmouth RNLI’s Atlantic 85 class The Two Annes, behind. The R and J Welburn was decked out in colourful nautical bunting to draw attention in the midst of the lifeboat flotilla. Members of local sailing clubs also took to the water to join in the occasion.
After passing the town, the flotilla returned eastwards towards the lifeboat station where crowds had gathered at a safe point on the beach. Coxswain, Steve Hockings-Thompson landed the R and J Welburn straight onto the beach at a speed of 20 knots, to cheering crowds.
After utilising the Shannon Launch and Recovery System (SLARS), Steve performed a number of movements on the water to demonstrate the agile manoeuvrability of the Shannon in shallow water. After the last recovery, performed by the station’s shore crew volunteers, the loaded SLARS moved to the boathouse to even more cheers.
Exmouth RNLI Mechanic, Mark Sansom was aboard the Shannon and commented;
‘As we approached the beach, I couldn’t believe the number of people who had turned out to welcome us home. We had been away for five days’ training, since there’s a lot of extra commitment needed, taking us away from our families and work. It’s all well worth the effort to see the support from all that attended.’
Volunteers had announced last week that the 18-month appeal to raise £150,000 towards the total cost (£1 million) of the SLARS had been met. However, the Exmouth Lifeboat Fundraising Team’s work still continues to raise money for saving lives at sea. Local business, Stuart Line Cruises organised a special Shannon sightseeing trip for the arrival day and donated all proceeds totalling £253.01, to the station. Fundraising volunteers worked hard to provide refreshments, raising £150.77 and the total collected from boxes amassed to £40.49 during the day.
Exmouth RNLI is the second lifeboat station to receive a Shannon class lifeboat in the whole of the UK and Ireland. Now Crew and Shore Crew volunteers have commenced a period of intense training and once they are passed out, the R and J Welburn will be approved as operational.