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Messing about in boats

Yesterday, the RNLI Dungeness had an Open Day (that’s the Royal National Lifeboat Institution to you). Per Wikipedia, the RNLI has 444 lifeboats at 236 stations. Since 1824, they’ve saved 140,000 lives at the cost of 600.

They’re entirely funded by private money (legacies, donations and merchandise), which I think is unutterably awesome, so we try to turn out when they have a fundraiser and spend some money. I bought a hat and Uncle B bought a burger and we put some money in the thing.

It was a lovely sunny, breezy day, and I didn’t go watch the maneuvers. I plunked myself down on the warm shingle with the complete works of Kipling (I’m up to 2% now!) and listened to them sing sea shanties in the boathouse. That there’s some powerful local atmosphere.

Uncle B did go watch the maneuvers and, even though he only brought a little handheld camera, he got some great action shots of the boats. Black and white doesn’t do ’em justice. He’s a better photographer than I am, and that pisses me off no end.

If you squint at the background, those are the white cliffs of…Folkestone, actually. But the white cliffs of Dover look just the same and they’re the next headland along the coast to the Northeast.

Fun fact: the RNLI was originally called the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck. Or NIPLS.


Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: August 4, 2014, 10:39 pm

Have you read “Amy Foster” by Conrad? Mind you, I don’t want to take you away from Kipling, but it’s short & worth a read if you like shipwrecks & Edwardian literature.

Comment from Deborah
Time: August 4, 2014, 11:56 pm

Is this the organization that use white plastic collection boxes shaped like boats (about 12-15 inches long), placed in restaurants and bars?

Comment from Nina
Time: August 5, 2014, 12:08 am

Sounds like a great weekend!

I’m still in moving mode, but at least it’s the unpacking phase, which is slightly less onerous than the others. Only real problem at this point is trying to fit everything into a house 1000sf smaller than the previous one.

Burger? Sounds good. Time to make one!

Comment from David Gillies
Time: August 5, 2014, 12:19 am

Yep, Deborah, that’s them. There used to be excellent ones where you put 10p in and a little lifeboat ran down a slipway. Many parents were nagged for many coins in many seaside sweetshops.

Comment from Bloke in California
Time: August 5, 2014, 12:20 am

Deborah – Yes, those collection boxes are for the RNLI

Not only are they funded entirely by private money, they actually refuse taxpayers’ money. And they don’t bugger about with publicity-seeking surveys and the usual charity crap: they just go out to sea in filthy weather and bring people back.

So please put some money in the little lifeboat if ever you see one, it won’t be wasted.

Comment from Deborah
Time: August 5, 2014, 2:49 am

A long-winded but interesting story (to me, anyway). In 1993, Husband, Son, and I were waiting in the bar, for a table in the restaurant at the Putechan Hotel near Campbeltown in Scotland. The bar was “decorated” with books, and I found a first edition by one of my favorite authors (Neville Shute Norway), so I sent an emissary—my son, resplendent in his U.S. Navy uniform—to ask the bartender if I could buy it. He gruffly replied that the book wasn’t his to sell, but if I put some money in the donation boat (I can’t remember what he called it), then I could have the book.

I thought about what is would cost me to buy the book in the states, and/or have it bought/mailed from Scotland, then I stuffed almost 40 pounds in the donation boat (what I had in my wallet—it was a first edition). The bartender seemed pleased, and of course a “good deal” is what makes both parties to the transaction happy. I saved the receipt from our meal, tucked into my book, and it’s a wonderful, happy memory that I cherish.

Comment from mojo
Time: August 5, 2014, 3:01 am

My NIPLS explode with delight!

Comment from Nina
Time: August 5, 2014, 3:34 am

I don’t recal ever seeing a boat, but next time I’m over there I certainly will look and drop in a tuppence or two.

Comment from SCOTTtheBADGER
Time: August 5, 2014, 6:23 am

The British equivalent of the USCG, who are descended, in part, from the United States Lifesaving Service. You gotta go out, but you don’t have to come back.

Comment from Mike C.
Time: August 5, 2014, 7:52 am

IIRC, T. E. Lawrence worked on life boat designs after WW I.

Comment from Mr. Dave
Time: August 5, 2014, 12:00 pm

The fast rescue craft are superb boats. I’ve gotten to ride in the smaller ones. A good coxswain can handle seas and maneuver like crazy.

I just wanted to say coxswain on sweasel’s blog.

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: August 5, 2014, 1:41 pm

Having grown up on the shores of one of The Great Lakes (Hint -think Edmund Fitzgerald), I have long held great admiration for those boys in the rescue boats. We called them ‘Rollover boats’ but I guess they are rightly called ‘Self-righting Boats’. Their job is scary as hell.


Comment from Deborah
Time: August 5, 2014, 2:35 pm

One of the things I miss most about living on Galveston Bay is seeing and hearing the Coast Guard. I love that big red stripe. And when a CG helicopter roars overhead—holy cow. Nothing else sounds like it.

Comment from Deborah
Time: August 5, 2014, 2:48 pm

The coastline at Dungeness looks so smooth, I can’t figure out where RNLI would port. And why does the ground at Dungeness look so scraped?

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: August 5, 2014, 4:43 pm

Well I’m all for NIPLS myself.

Comment from Mrs Compton
Time: August 5, 2014, 6:47 pm

Deborah, I loved your story, it’s little things that make traveling so fun!

Comment from David Gillies
Time: August 5, 2014, 10:42 pm

Britons of a certain age will remember the Mousehole* Disaster. These boys aren’t messing around. The inshore rescue boats don’t need berthing in a harbour, just a slipway, a boathouse and a winch.

* pronounced Mowzal.

Comment from jic
Time: August 5, 2014, 10:48 pm

“The British equivalent of the USCG”

Actually, the British do have a coastguard:


They don’t have the law enforcement and military responsibilities of the USCG (although they did once have an anti-smuggling role), but they do all kinds of maritime safety and rescue coordination stuff. Most of the actual search and rescue part is left to the RNLI and the military, although they do do some.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: August 6, 2014, 12:03 am

Deborah – Dungeness is an extremely strange place. It’s a headland mostly composed of gravel and shingle that has been washed up the coast and dumped there by the tides. By some reckonings it is the only actual ‘desert’ in England (judged by annual rainfall).

It also has two lighthouses (because it’s growing, the old one ended up too far in land), a nuke and the world’s smallest public railway (the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch) which is, actually, the world’s largest and most expensive train set!

It’s home to fishermen, rogues, dreamers and it isn’t quite in this world.

In winter that sea is about as rough as it gets this side of Cape Horn. There have been many wrecks off that cost. Which is unfortunate as it is also one of the world’s most congested and busiest routes.

It’s one of those places you either love or hate. Happily, The Weasel and I both love it.

Comment from Deborah
Time: August 6, 2014, 6:44 pm

Thanks, Uncle Badger. Dungeness is quite a sight from overhead—I’m glad to know it’s just as intriguing on the ground. I did find the Dungeness RNLI station—I was looking for a dock or pier. Didn’t expect a dry-land launch site.

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