In an emergency call 999 and ask for the Coastguard

Seven members of the Whitstable lifeboat crew have been presented with the station’s ‘Rescue of the Year’ trophy at a ceremony held on Saturday evening at the boathouse.

Whitstable lifeboat operations manager Mike Judge explained that “Each year we present in memory of Dave Foreman who was a former crewmember, helmsman and honorary secretary of the station who passed away in 1993 a trophy for what is considered by members of his family to be the best rescue of the year and Wendy Foreman, Dave’s widow presents the trophy”

This year the award goes to helmsman Rob Nichols and his crew of Dave Parry, Rob Judge and Tim Smith along with launchers Mark Sidders, Alex Quan and John Skinner who were involved in launching and crewing the lifeboat on 7th August last year when following the lifeboat’s display at the Whitstable Regatta the crew were diverted to assist a 34-foot charter angling boat with 10 persons onboard taking in water near to the Horse Sand in the entrance to The Swale.

The crew located the casualty vessel at anchor and a crewmember and salvage pump transferred aboard. The pump made little improvement to the situation so the occupants of the casualty vessel where brought onboard the lifeboat and the Margate ‘all weather lifeboat’ requested to proceed to assist.

The Margate lifeboat arrived at the scene and their pump also placed onboard the  angling boat whilst the Whitstable lifeboat landed 9 of the occupants ashore at Harty.

The Whitstable lifeboat then towed the stricken vessel ashore at Hollowshore at the entrance to Faversham Creek and beached the craft at the skipper’s request, before returning to station”.

Shortly after arriving back at the lifeboat was then launched to incidents involving inflatable craft off Leysdown. The three occupants of  the two craft being landed ashore at Leysdown  and it is for the lifeboat services on that day last year that I would ask Wendy to present the award to the crew.


Certificate of Service presentation to former Crewmember

In a further recent presentation at the station, Paul Kemp, a  former crewmember and helmsman has been presented with his ‘Certificate of Service’ marking 35-years of service to the Whitstable Lifeboat and the RNLI.

Paul Kemp followed his father Pat into the lifeboat at a time when there was a strong tradition of family involvement with the lifeboat, and at that time there were two generations from several families involved with the crew.

Paul joined the crew shortly after the introduction of the station’s first Atlantic 21 lifeboat, a march larger and faster craft that the old two man crewed ‘D’ Class boat with which the station was originally equipped. The new boat Paul recalls “was fitted with a radio and navigation lights to allow it to go to sea at night and a ‘fledgling’ depth sounder but navigation was purely down to a compass and local knowledge”.

During his 35-year involvement with the RNLI, he also worked for several years as a ‘Fleet Mechanic’ servicing lifeboats and launching equipment then as deputy divisional engineer supervising those operations.

Over the years Paul has seen an enormous amount of change. “When I started, the crew were alerted by a klaxon mounted on the boathouse, then by maroons. Oil skins, woolly hats and sea boots provided some protection from the elements. However, the adoption of new technologies and materials in the boats and the introduction of new rules and regulations has meant there has been considerable change and whilst  the sea-going ‘job’ remains the same with the lifeboat going to the same types of distress situations the organisation around it has changed beyond recognition. The crew are now alerted by electronic message pagers, the boat is fitted with modern depth sounding and navigation equipment, the oil skins, woolly hats and sea boots have been replaced with dry suits, thermal under suits and crash helmets with built in communications, a far cry from when I started and navigation was purely down to a compass and local knowledge!”

As for his most memorable call, this he says was “Just after I was made up to helmsman in 1995 when we were called to four persons onboard a yacht just of Faversham Creek who, in a gale and the dark, could not pick up their anchor and had got caught up on the moorings of other craft. It was the only time in my whole career that I damaged the lifeboat when I broke the radio aerial and its mounting in the course of the service and I still have the damaged mounting to this day!”.

Lifeboat crew scatter ashes of Whitstable lifeboat fundraising Chairman

In a moving ceremony on Sunday afternoon members of the lifeboat station, relatives and friends gathered  at the end of the West Quay to watch the scattering of ashes of Diane Lamberton, chairman of the station’s fund-raising branch who passed away suddenly in January.

Diane had been on Whitstable RNLI’s fundraising committee for over 50 years, since the station was established in 1963. Diane was well known throughout the local community for working tirelessly for the RNLI and liaising with other local fundraising groups. She carried out an enormous amount of unseen work and was also a personal friend to many of the crew and their partners.