How Things Happen

The Boss

The RNLI appoints a Lifeboat Operations Manager to run each lifeboat station, and he takes full responsibility for all the operational activity at that station. The LOM used to be known as the honorary secretary, and it is still common to hear the LOM referred to as the ‘hon sec’ in conversation. So now you know! Littlehampton’s LOM is John Jones, who has spent his lifetime working in marine and shipping industries.

The headline responsibility of the LOM is of course to receive a request to launch on service, consider the nature of the call and the sea conditions, and then authorise the launch. He will muster the crew, and brief them before they go to sea. During a service, the lifeboat’s activities and radio traffic are monitored from the boathouse. Operational coordination is handled by the coastguard, who will communicate with the lifeboat station as necessary, but the lifeboat can communicate with the boathouse by radio as well.

When the service has been completed, the details, including times of launch, arrival on scene, nature of the casualty, details of vessels and people involved are reported to the RNLI operations department. The LOM has two deputy launching authorities, either of whom will undertake the LOM’s role whenever he is unavailable.

Lifeboat Call

Prior to the launching of a lifeboat, someone is in distress. It may be the ship’s crew that has seen someone in trouble, it may be the friends who went to sea, or it may be that someone else who has received a distress signal. Now that cell phones are the norm, it is better to have the ability to ask for assistance. Unfortunately, it does not provide a substitute for shipboard or shoreside radio, but allows the lifeboat to help in locating the person in need.

Nowadays, the crew is paged out on their cell phones. However, although we all prefer traditions to end, maroons have proven to be far more effective. It can happen more quickly than expected, but never heard, maroons will only be found near the lifeboat. Most maroons are still used for first aid, but they also to indicate that help is on the way.

First-or-served: The crew meets at the boath, and the conditions aren’t such that the LOM prefers to employ senior crew. The LOM will provide a reference to the call and a type of casualty, both of which will be identified. Information can be programmed into the navigation instruments when the coastguard locates the lifeboat. In most cases, a good helmsman is waiting to take control of the lifeboat in eight minutes. The circumstances may call for special equipment that is not always on hand.

Gaining an Ordinary Standard of Living

Boatmen have to be as alert as possible in order to keep the lifeboat always ready for service. The LOM ensures that all these are completed as well, naming the lifeboats, assigning crews, making sure the drills are conducted, organizing exercises, and keeping the lifeboats maintained. Crew training is regularly monitored by the divisional inspector, his deputies, and the RNLI staff.

We’ve got a diverse crew with some who have had boat experience and others who are just joining for the experience. Each crew member has their own manual, which has details on the subjects and the requirements for training, and keeps track of each session’s details. The more time they have at sea, the more experienced the crew will become, and eventually, that will include helmsmen taking control of the lifeboat. Crew training is also included in the helming.

local training is supplemented by RNLI’s mobile training units (MTUs), which will make the team aware of particular training in a timely manner that keeps the unit up to date on subjects Recently, RNLI students took seamanship lessons from a full-time instructor who was present each evening for the entirety of the course.

A week or so before, there was another MTSU and instructor who came to visit us at Littleton. Eight evening sessions over six weeks were spent training in using a radio operator’s console to use emergency positioning beacons and finding transmitters. While the rest of the audience passed their short-range VHF radio examination, most of them owned a smaller workboat, sailing boat, or motorcycle.