An NBRC crew, coxed by David Davidson, spent a couple of chilly hours of the evening of Wednesday 11 May working with an RNLI crew, led by Simon Cowan, on techniques that could be involved in the rescue of a skiff by a lifeboat. A small but hardy bunch of members braved the biting east wind to watch from the quay wall.  

This is a summary of what we tried.

Long tow (the skiff is pulled by the lifeboat on a long line)

  • The skiff crew shipped oars when the lifeboat came alongside
  • One of the lifeboat crew came aboard the skiff and secured their line through the drainage hole in the rib under the bow seat
  • Once under tow, the skiff cox needed to steer, following the lifeboat

Short tow (the skiff is secured alongside and manoeuvred by the lifeboat)

  • The skiff crew shipped oars when the lifeboat came alongside
  • The lifeboat crew tied to the skiff fore and aft, holding the skiff tight against the lifeboat
  • This enabled the lifeboat to move the skiff forward and turn to port or starboard

Manoeuvring to person overboard (assuming the cox falls overboard and can't be recovered with a few backing strokes)

  • Stroke moves to cox' seat
  • Bow watches and points continually at the person in the water, calling out the approximate distance (most important)
  • New cox uses 2 and 3 to row and turn the skiff
  • Skiff approaches the person overboard upwind, to control the speed

Recovering person from the water

  • Bring person in the water midway along the boat, between stroke and 2 oars, or bow and 3 oars
  • 2 and 3 rowers try to keep their weight central in the boat while reaching to pull the person in the water into the boat
  • All others remaining in the boat move to the opposite side to counterbalance the person coming out of the water
  • If pulling somebody in head first is difficult because of their weight or their legs are wrapping under the boat, try to get them to lie back in the water and put their legs into the boat
  • The effort for two people to pull somebody in is much less because the legs aren't dragging and the body is supported by the water

Letting off a smoke flare

  • For the exercise, the RNLI notified the Coastguard , who then notified the local emergency services that they did not need to respond
  • The bow rower took the flare from the safety bag
  • The flare must be held at the base (the top will be very hot), at full arm's length (away from the face), downwind (so the smoke blows away from the crew) and over the side of the boat (so it can be dropped if it malfunctions and when it expires)
  • The smoke is released by pulling the cap at the top and lasts about one minute
  • The cap came off the flare easily, but the cord inside was awkward to pull