Last year RNLI lifeboats rescued more than 8,000 people nationwide, with an average of 40 calls per year from St Helier alone. Each of those calls costs approximately £5,000, taking into consideration the costs of fuel, maintenance and training.
On an island surrounded by water, it?s easy to see how the RNLI have become an important and essential service for our shores since the first boat was stationed at Havre Des Pas in 1861.
The backbone of the service relies as much on the hard work and dedication of the crew members as the work of The Ladies? Lifeboat Guild who help raise funds, charitable donations, and legacies left to them. The 23 voluntary crew members come from all types of professional backgrounds including finance, fishermen, engineers, tradesmen, drivers, and coastguards. The longest serving crew member Les Le Ruez, has been on the St Helier crew for 20 years, and the newest edition for several weeks. That?s not to forget the 3 ladies who volunteer and the youngest member at 26 years old. Each of them have a pager and are on call 24/7, dropping everything at a moment?s notice in order to launch the boat and be out of the harbour within 10 minutes of being called.
At present, there are 2 boats at the St Helier station; the 20 year old all weather Tyne Class, Alexander Coutanche, which runs at 17 knots (20 miles per hour) and holds 6 crew, and the inshore lifeboat B class, Atlantic 85 David Page, which runs at 35 knots (40 miles per hour) and holds 4 crew. The latter has a weather limitation of a force 6 wind, and is better used for calmer conditions and for getting in closer to the shore.
Now, as the Tyne Class is coming to the end of its frontline life, the RNLI are replacing this with a Tamar at a cost of £2.6 million, due to the electronics and quality materials needed to build the vessel. The Tamar will be safer for crew members with a new suspension seat design, have a Y class inflatable boat held in the stern, will be faster at 25 knots, and have a larger casualty carrying capacity. There are already 6 on station in the UK and ours is now in production with £1.3 million still to be raised. The station coxswain Andy Hibbs states that, ?to meet the increasing and ever diverse demands on our services it is vital that we have a new Tamar class lifeboat. This will allow us to respond to some incidents quicker while keeping the crew safe?.
Although the Jersey RNLI are undergoing constant fund raising, this is focused on the new lifeboat appeal at present and with a target to reach by spring 2009, this is as important as ever. Saturday the 26th April sees a spectacular lifeboat appeal ball at the Hotel de France, with the entire proceeds of the event going toward the new St Helier lifeboat. A free family open day on Saturday 31st May will give the public a unique opportunity to go down and meet the crew, check out the station and jump aboard the lifeboats at St Helier. Something everyone can get involved in, is the breakfast pyramid at the Pomme d?Or, whereby you pay £12 with £5 going to the Tamar lifeboat appeal. You can book your table at the restaurant – just let them know you want a breakfast for the appeal.
If you wish to donate please send your donation to St Helier Lifeboat Appeal, Lifeboat Station, Albert Pier, St Helier, Jersey CI, JE2 3NE or ring 0800 543 210 or log into www.rnli.org.uk/sthelierappeal