On Sunday we paid a visit to the RNLI (ROYAL NATIONAL LIFEBOAT INSTITUTION ) fund raising day in the fishing village of Porthleven on the South Coast near Helston.
The RNLI is a wholly charitable institution, and the whole of the UK is covered by their boats and Lifeguards solely by public donations. So this is one of many events around the country where the public can show their support and raise valuable funds for the service.
So what I have tried to show is a short pictorial of the days event with a few of the 189 images I took on the day, so I hope you will enjoy, and please next time you see the RNLI collectors around drop a few schekals in their pots, and remember the people at the sharp end who risk their lives countless times throughout the year to help others.
So an emergency call went out to the nearby fishing village of Mousehole (pop. 1,200) and to the citizen members of its Royal National Lifeboat Institution. This is a nautical version of an American volunteer fire department. In the past 21 years volunteers at Mousehole's Penlee Lifeboat Station have rescued 91 seafarers. But this attempt, six days before Christmas, ended in a tragedy that has stirred all England.
It began at 7:30 p.m. when Trevelyan Richards, 56, coxswain of the lifeboat Solomon Browne, fired a rocket that exploded over the town. The signal summoned his entire force of 16 volunteers. Richards picked seven men, ranging in age from 22 to 46, to join him on the mission. (By tradition, in very bad weather no two members of the same family are allowed on a rescue.) "It was just like any other launch," remembers Neil Brockman, 17, whose father, Nigel, was aboard. "They were all joking and laughing when they went out. They couldn't be serious about anything."
When the 47-foot lifeboat reached the Union Star, the stricken vessel was temporarily secured by its anchor. But within minutes the anchor line apparently snapped. Mountainous waves turned the ship broadside, pounding it closer and closer to the rocks. With the vessel only 100 yards offshore, the Solomon Browne moved in close—only to be picked up by a wave, like a cork, and dropped onto the deck of the Union Star. The lifeboat slipped off into the churning sea but returned again, this time successfully picking up four people. By then the winds were so treacherous that the Royal Navy helicopter hovering nearby was forced to withdraw. The last view its pilot had was of the Solomon Browne attempting to make another pass at the ship. The lifeboat crew members, declared the helicopter pilot later, were "the bravest men I have ever seen."
No one can say with certainty what happened next. There were no witnesses—and no survivors. The Union Star capsized, then was tossed on the rocks. The Solomon Browne was smashed to kindling. Only eight of the 16 bodies have been found—four from the Solomon Browne. The grieving citizens of Mousehole pulled the wreckage of the lifeboat onto a nearby slip. Among the first items found by Jim Madron, a fishing vessel skipper, was his son Stephen's hat.