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What happens on a 'Shout'

Whether you are an experienced boat owner or a holiday maker out for a walk along the coastline everyone can get into trouble on the sea.

Lifeboat calls are initiated from various sources; 

  • A distress call to the coastguard from a mobile phone.

  • A VHF distress call to the coastguard.

  • A report of an overdue boat or person.

  • A sighting of something in the water.

  • A 999 call from a concerned member of the public.

Nine times out of ten the request to launch the Lifeboat comes from the Coastguard. The coastguard will page the Launching Authorities (LA) at the station. Minehead has four LA's to ensure 24 hour cover.

Bessie and crew launch on service

Bessie and crew launch on service

On receiving a page the LA immediately contacts the coastguard. They are given an update on the situation and are requested to launch the Lifeboat. Whether the Lifeboat is launched or not is the responsibility of the LA. The LA's are people that have been selected because of their knowledge and experience of the sea, sometimes they are ex crewmen or retired professional seaman. They will page the crew and will quickly make their way to the boathouse to authorize the launch.   

On receiving a page the crew immediately stop what ever they are doing and make their way down to the boathouse. The first 2 crew and 1 helmsman through the door then start to get dressed in their dry suits. As the rest of the crew assembles the boat to be launched is prepared, this may either be the Atlantic 75 or the D Class depending on the information the LA has. It may also be both boats in case of a search. Although the Atlantic 75 is a a faster and bigger boat the D Class is ideal for rescuing people cut off by the tide or in shallow water rescues.

D Class recovers a swimmer

D Class recovers a swimmer (photo by Steve Guscott)

The helmsman and crew are then briefed by the LA on the situation and a rescue strategy is quickly worked out.

The boat is then launched, although the above procedure may sound long winded it is usually performed very quickly the boat is often on the water within about 7 minutes of the first page.

As soon as the boat is on the water the helmsman takes charge of the boat, crew, and rescue operation. The Coastguard are contacted on the VHF radio to inform the Lifeboat has been launched on service and to pass any additional information.  

When the crew arrive on scene they hopefully find the casualty and they will render aid as required. This may be towing a vessel to safety, recovering people to safety, or giving first aid. In some situations the service may be to search for a boat or person, this can take sometime and may involve other agencies such ad the Coastguard, RAF Rescue Helicopter, Police Helicopter, or local boats wishing to aid the search.

When the boat returns to shore the boat it is refuelled, and  washed. The coastguard is then be notified that the boat is ready for service again.