In Beaches

The RNLI are almost unsung heroes of the English Riviera. Every single day of the year they are ensuring that our seas are kept as safe as possible. This hard work and dedication is crucial in maintaining such high standards for the beautiful bay in South Devon and a huge contributing factor to the raft of awards we continue to win.

Here, you can meet some of these heroes! In this article we delve into the life of these amazing volunteers and get up close and personal with RNLI Torbay Crew Member, and recently promoted Deputy Coxswain, James Hoare.

The RNLI Torbay base is in Brixham, right next to Breakwater Beach, some people have even assumed they are the Brixham lifeboat even though many of their ‘shouts’ occur across the whole of the English Riviera and frequently visit Torquay, Paignton and beyond, occassionally right out into the English Channel.

RNLI Torbay Lifeboat in action

RNLI Torbay station

RNLI Torbay was effectively two different stations initially; the first opened in Brixham in 1866, the second opened in Torquay in 1876 but the latter subsequently closed in 1923 when a motor lifeboat was installed in Brixham. Then in 1924 Brixham station was renamed to Torbay as it was seen to service the whole of the Bay, Torquay, Paignton and Brixham.

The volunteer crew have been tasked ever since. In the early years, it seemed the crew were not needed as regularly as they are now though. During the years of 1876 and 1923 the Torquay lifeboats were launched 26 times and rescued 19 lives. That is in stark contrast to recent times, when it seems the demands are much higher and much more frequent. The Torbay lifeboats were tasked 96 times in 2017 alone, making RNLI Torbay the South West's 3rd busiest station, after Plymouth and Weymouth, and making Devon the second busiest county in the UK after Tower London.

There are currently two RNLI Torbay lifeboats stationed onsite in Brixham; a Severn Class all-weather lifeboat called Alec & Christina Dykes, and a D Class inshore (inflatable) lifeboat called Leslie & Mary Daws. The boats are named after individuals giving donations.

The Severn Class all-weather lifeboat, Alec & Christina Dykes

RNLI Torbay Lifeboat, severn class all-weather big boat

The D Class inshore (inflatable) lifeboat, Leslie & Mary Daws

RNLI Torbay Lifeboat d class inshore boat

If you want to know about the Torbay Lifeboat in more detail then please visit the history pages of their website. Here you will see a timeline of events and lots of comprehensive information, all carefully curated by the previous chairman of the Torbay Lifeboat Management Group, David Ham MBE.

Meet the RNLI Torbay lifeboat crew

The Torbay Lifeboat is currently made up of 24 fully trained crew and 5 trainees. All of whom are volunteers. Quite amazing really!

Here is a montage of most (but not all unfortunately) of the crew. All looking very determined to keep the seas of the English Riviera protected! These are all volunteers, with the exception of the Coxswain Mark, and the mechanic Ashley.

RNLI Torbay Lifeboat crew

There is a very diverse mix of people with various different skills within the crew. Ranging from an ex-RAF engineer, school Vice Principal, former teacher, commercial fishermen and other seagoing roles, marine scientist, paramedic, a psychologist and some retirees.  The whole crew are volunteers and carefully fit the demands of always being on-call to answer the pager when there's a 'shout' around their day jobs or shifts.

As well as the crew, there are several important support roles in place which aid the smooth operations of the Lifeboat. These are as follows;

  • Operations Manager - Nick O’Brien
  • Coastal Safety Officer - John Turner
  • Station Mechanic - Ashley McInally
  • Treasurer - Michael Gilbert
  • Press Officer - Victoria Bowen
  • Visits Officer - Carol Pearson
  • Station Coxswain - Mark Criddle OBE
  • Medical Advisor - Dr R Bromige
  • Chaplain - Matthew Skinner

As above, the station has a Lifeboat Chaplain and a Medical Advisor, and as well as the crew there are a number of DLAs (Deputy Launching Authorities) who are also on-call and respond to the pager to co-ordinate launches from the boathouse (communicating with Torbay lifeboats, local coastguard teams, HM Coastguard at Solent and other rescue services during a ‘shout’); the Operations team is headed up by our Lifeboat Operations Manager Nick O'Brien.

The station has a Treasurer, Press Officer, Visits Officer and Coastal Safety Officer (all volunteers).  There is also an active fundraising arm - Torbay Lifeboat Fundraisers - who arrange frequent and varied local events and visits to help keep funds coming in to support the local lifeboat service.  Their biggest event is on 12 August and is named the Seaside Special, which is a combined (and Herculean!) effort between the ops team, management team and TLF - there is more on this below in the article.

The Torbay Lifeboat teams all come under the umbrella of the Lifeboat Management Group, the Chairman of which is Paul Bradfield (former crew member).  David Ham MBE, our former Chair, is now Lifeboat Administrator and manages their website. All teams - Ops/Crew, Management Group, Fundraising and any sub-committees - meet on a regular basis to ensure the smooth running of the station. They are also supported by a regional HQ at Saltash, Cornwall and of course Head Office which is in Poole.

Only two of the RNLI Torbay roles are paid, that of Coxswain Mark Criddle OBE and Lifeboat Mechanic Ash McInally - both Mark and Ash are full time and also on call on a rota basis to ensure there is cover 24/7, 365 days a year.

All of the crew are expected to arrive at the Torbay Lifeboat in 5 minutes after receiving an alert of their pager of a ‘shout’! That’s pretty impressive and also means you have to live and work within a short distance of your lifeboat.

Want to join the crew? Check our the RNLI website.

A new Deputy Coxswain

The Torbay Lifeboat and one crew member in particular has had some very good news recently. A hard working and fully committed crew member for 11 years, James Hoare, recently passed out as the new Deputy Coxswain!

In his ‘day job’, James works as a Financial Advisor and has been Helm of the RNLI Torbay inshore lifeboat (inflatable) for some time, recently 'passing out' as Deputy Coxswain of the all-weather lifeboat. This has been a dream of Jame’s since the age of 9 when he actually used to draw pictures of the lifeboats at Brixham marina.

It has taken James the best part of 18 months to enhance his crew training and step up to the ‘big boat’! He has had to show real dedication and determination to fit studying around his ‘normal job’ and has taken his studies home, at the Boathouse and whilst afloat to ensure he was successful.

James, the newly appointed Deputy Coxswain said he “would not have been able to achieve this result without the help of all the crew at Torbay, past and present. I would therefore like to thank everyone in helping me achieve such an incredible milestone, and taking me from the drawing of a dream at 9 years old to the reality 25 years later.”

The entire RNLI Torbay team are thrilled to celebrate James’ hard work and achievement – we know that locals and tourists of the English Riviera are lucky to have such a skilled and dedicated team of volunteers, willing to go out at a moment’s notice and help save lives at sea.

Learn more about James and becoming a Coxswain on the RNLI website.

RNLI Torbay new Deputy Coxswain, James Hoare

A real lifeboat rescue, in South Devon

An RNLI rescue is known as a ‘shout’. Here we explore one in a little more detail. As we’ve already said, Torbay Lifeboat is one of the busier in the country with 96 shouts last year alone.

One of the most recent ‘shouts’ from Torbay Lifeboat was an unusual series of events…

In January, the hugely powerful, relief lifeboat, Volunteer Spirit, was at sea on a rough weather training programme when it was actually called to divert operations to a ‘shout’!

RNLI Torbay big boat in severe weather

About a mile off Berry Head, Brixham, the boat was called into action to help a large fishing boat. The skipper of ocean-going fishing trawler Holly Ann, radioed in as they had lost steering.

With the sea conditions worsening to north-easterly gale force 8 and gusting to gale force 10, Mark Criddle at the helm of Volunteer Spirit our relief lifeboat, immediately diverted from rough weather training to attend the struggling trawler. Within minutes Mark was alongside the trawler, the crew attached a precautionary line and guided the trawler back into the safety of the harbour.

RNLI Torbay rescue in rough water

Read more about this ‘shout’ on the RNLI website.

RNLI Torbay Seaside Special

As a charity, the Torbay Lifeboat is always grateful for every penny received. Apart from saving lives all year round, another way they like to give back to the local community is by hosting a big party! This year the RNLI Seaside Special will be held on Sunday 12 August.

This is a great day out for all the family, especially for young ones looking to learn a bit more about saving lives on the sea.

Right at the end of Torbay Lifeboat week, the Seaside Special is a great event which will feature a huge amount of water-based and waterside activities, search and rescue demos (with a helicopter!), visiting current and classic lifeboats, retail and craft stalls, a live music stage, catering, public access to our all-weather lifeboat, a service of dedication on the quayside, an evening cruise around the Bay, candlelit walk along Brixham Breakwater and a spectacular fireworks display! Phew, not much then!

What are you waiting for? Get on down there, enjoy the fun, learn a little, and all for such a wonderful cause.

The images used for this blog article have been supplied by RNLI Torbay’s photographers, Andy Kyle, Vicki Bowen, Nigel Millard, Chris Slack Photography and Jennifer Clough.

Related

RNLI Lifeboat Week
Participatory Event
RNLI Lifeboat Week

RNLI Lifeboat Week Full details will be listed on the web site www.torbaylifeboat.org.uk  A week of fun and games at the Lifeboat station and on the water including a range of stalls, etc Torbay has been served by Lifeboats since 1866 and Brixham has provided the base for a lifeboat since then. The Station was granted the Freedom of the Borough of Torbay in 1988.  For a period just under 50 years Torquay had a lifeboat station, Dartmouth also had lifeboats for just under 20 years from 1878. A new Dart Lifeboat Station was established in November 2007. ​​​​​​​Our Station is among the busier lifeboat stations in the Country and can anticipate around 100 launches in any one year. Brixham is a busy fishing port, there are five large marinas

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