It was an early start, even before the sparrows were up. This did allow us to miss most of the early morning rush hour traffic. We were very fortunate not to get held up on our journey, reaching the RNLI in good time. When we arrived, there was ample time to use their facilities and to sit in the Slipway Bar to enjoy coffee/tea and biscuits which had been ordered in advance. The Bar overlooked the harbour and The Twin Sails lifting bridge which is an amazing piece of engineering, and the first bridge of its type to be built in the world. When the bridge is up, the two lifting leaves symbolise the sails of a yacht and offer different views from every position along the quayside, from a sailing symbol to the spire of a Cathedral.
The RNLI College is at the heart of the RNLI – where lifesaving volunteer crew and lifeguards from around the UK and Ireland are trained. There are over 350 lifeboats in the RNLI fleet based at stations around the UK and Ireland. Between them, RNLI lifeboats cover 19,000 miles of coastline and some busy inland stretches of water. All the RNLI’s boats are built at Poole, and they have an engineering facility where boats from the entire fleet are serviced/repaired as necessary. There are two categories of Lifeboats all-weather and inshore. Two highlights of the tour were to visit the simulator in which we were taken on a lifeboat rescue; and then to the Sea Survival centre which hosts the wave tank; a crew was already receiving a briefing on what to do if their boat capsized. Getting into boat the crew positioned themselves ready for the boat being turned upside; eventually they came from under the boat, one by one, went to the back of the boat and the skipper pulled a rope which inflated the buoyancy chamber and turned the boat the correct way up again, fascinating.
It costs approx £180 Million a year to run the lifesaving service. They rely on donations from the public and revenue from hiring out teaching and conference rooms. A 24 bedroom accommodation block enhances this facility and if not hired out to crews needing to stay for trainings can be hired out to the public. The College can also be used for corporate events and weddings etc.
As you approach the entrance to the RNLI there is a beautiful sculpture which is a tribute to every lifeboat crew member who lost their life while endeavouring to save others at sea
After the visit to the College our coach driver picked us to transport us to Bournemouth where we had approx 3 and a half hours free time, to have lunch, sit or walk by the sea and let the world go by. It was a long day but well worth it. Our journey home was without hold-ups and we arrived back in Carterton approx 6.45pm. Pam