THE HAMPSHIRE ROSE: harbour trips in a traditional lifeboat
The other day, I was sitting up top of Ilfracombe lifeboat station chatting to Stuart Carpenter, a volunteer helmsman on the inshore life boat, when rather cheekily I asked him what his day job was. He glanced out over the harbour, laughed and said ‘I drive a lifeboat around all day.’ The lifeboat in question is the “Hampshire Rose” a traditional wooden lifeboat which Stuart has had restored to take passengers on half hour tours around Ilfracombe harbour. She is a Rother Class lifeboat and saw active service in Kent until 1990. Lifeboats with wooden double-ended hulls (like hers) were in use for nearly 200 years. Dressed in traditional lifeboat colours of orange and blue, she’s unmistakable once you know her. She’s licensed to take 12 passengers.
To book – look out for the traditional lifeboat man on the harbour or call 07818 094228 email: email@example.com
Chatting alongside Stuart was Leigh Hanks: fulltime mechanic and deputy coxswain and Ilfracombe’s lifeboat station’s only paid employee. Amazingly the lifeboat has a pool of 29 volunteer crew members. It sounds plenty, yet at any one time, 24/7, a lifeboat operations manager, a mechanic and a coxswain (for both the inshore boat and the all weather boat) is on call. Boat Stories salutes them all for their time and courage and will blog about the RNLI one day. We would love to make a film too! Meantime though, I couldn’t ask Leigh what his job was – so I asked him about his hobbies and rare days off. Turns out his holiday of choice is skippering a boat and diving and he is relief skipper of the diving boat ‘the Obsession 11.’
Boat Stories has never been on any boat named Obsession but I spotted Obsession 11 last week, from Lundy. Recognisable, with her diving platform at the stern, she was dropping off a happy looking mixed party on the quay. Besides diving she offers everything from swimming with seals (see our page) to hen and stag parties or the scattering of ashes. The good news is that every member of the Obsession fleet (skippers and crew) also volunteers for the RNLI, so out in the Bristol Channel you should be in safe hands.
The skipper and owner of Jay Jay (available for diving and angling ) and Lundy Explorer, Mark Hutchings, also volunteers on the lifeboat crew. Good to know because the Bristol Channel, with its fast, high tidal race, deserves respect. The Lundy Explorer is a new, bright orange rib, capable of zipping in and out of the coves along our beautiful coast. Boat Stories went for a ride in the rib last summer hoping to spot Dave the Dolphin. We were disappointed not to see Dave the bottlenose, but we did a lot of zipping as the crew tried to make up for it by providing an adrenalin rush. Many people were entertained by Dave last summer and as ever Boat Stories is keen to look behind the headlines, find out why he paid us a visit and why or where he might have moved on. Or whether as rumour has it - he turned into Doris! If we hear he’s back – we’ll let you know. Rick Morris, MARINElife’s Lundy wildlife officer, told Boat Stories that lone dolphins have often been rejected by their social group or pod because they have misbehaved in some way or are simply too young and fit to be acceptable - in the same way that young male lions are forced to leave their family pride. It might be that Dave approached boats – looking for company. But we really don’t know enough about dolphin behaviour. A quote often used, I have borrowed it myself when writing voice-overs for films, “we know more about outer space than we know about life in our oceans”.
Contact Jay Jay or Lundy Explorer on 07827 679189 or 01271 863398
If you go out on one of the charter boats or take the Oldenburg to Lundy (blog coming soon) there’s a fair chance that you will see common dolphins riding the bow wave – and keep your eyes peeled for harbour porpoises. The message from MARINElife is enjoy watching our local sea mammal population– but don’t harass them – they will come to you if they want to. See Lundy warden’s guidelines on our ‘swimming with seals’ page. And let us know if you see anything interesting. A sun fish or (totally harmless) basking shark perhaps? They’ve been spotted already this year but Boat Stories hasn’t seen them yet..