Tag Archives: lifeboat

The Lifeboat, by George R Sims

Our Lifeboatmen 4


The Lifeboat

By George R Sims

Been out in the lifeboat often? Ay, ay, sir, oft enough.
When it’s rougher than this? Lor’ bless you! this ain’t what we calls rough!
It’s when there’s a gale a-blowin’, and the waves run in and break
On the shore with a roar like thunder and the white cliffs seem to shake;
When the sea is a hell of waters, and the bravest holds his breath
As he hears the cry for the lifeboat — his summons maybe to death —
That’s when we call it rough, sir; but, if we can get her afloat,
There’s always enough brave fellows ready to man the boat.
You’ve heard of the Royal Helen, the ship as was wrecked last year?
Yon be the rock she struck on — the boat as went out be here;
The night as she struck was reckoned the worst as ever we had,
And this is a coast in winter where the weather be awful bad.
The beach here was strewed with wreckage, and to tell you the truth, sir, then
Was the only time as ever we’d a bother to get the men.
The single chaps was willin’, and six on ‘em volunteered,
But most on us here is married, and the wives that night was skeered.
Our women ain’t chicken-hearted when it comes to savin’ lives,
But death that night looked certain — and our wives be only wives:
Their lot ain’t bright at the best,sir; but here, when the man lies dead,
‘Taint only a husband missin’, it’s the children’s daily bread;
So our women began to whimper and beg o’ the chaps to stay —
I only heard on it after, for that night I was kept away.
I was up at my cottage, yonder, where the wife lay nigh her end,
She’d been ailin’ all the winter, and nothing ‘ud make her mend.
The doctor had given her up, sir, and I knelt by her side and prayed,
With my eyes as red as a babby’s, that Death’s hand might yet be stayed.
I heerd the wild wind howlin’, and I looked on the wasted form,
And though of the awful shipwreck as had come in the ragin’ storm;
The wreck of my little homestead — the wreck of my dear old wife,
Who’d sailed with me forty years, sir, o’er the troublous waves of life,
And I looked at the eyes so sunken, as had been my harbour lights,
To tell of the sweet home haven in the wildest, darkest nights.
She knew she was sinkin’ quickly — she knew as her end was nigh,
But she never spoke o’ the troubles as I knew on her heart must lie,
For we’d had one great big sorrow with Jack, our only son —
He’d got into trouble in London as lots o’ lads ha’ done;
Then he’d bolted his masters told us — he was allus what folks call wild.
From the day as I told his mother, her dear face never smiled.
We heerd no more about him, we never knew where he went,
And his mother pined and sickened for the message he never sent.
I had my work to think of; but she had her grief to nurse,
So it eat away at her heartstrings, and her health grew worse and worse.
And the night as the Royal Helen went down on yonder sands,
I sat and watched her dyin’, holdin’ her wasted hands.
She moved in her doze a little, then her eyes were opened wide,
And she seemed to be seekin’ somethin’, as she looked from side to side;
Then half to herself she whispered, “Where’s Jack, to say good-bye?
It’s hard not to see my darlin’, and kiss him afore I die.”
I was stoopin’ to kiss and soothe her, while the tears ran down my cheek,
And my lips were shaped to whisper the words I couldn’t speak,
When the door of the room burst open, and my mates were there outsideWith the news that the boat was launchin’. “You’re wanted!” their leader cried.
“You’ve never refused to go, John; you’ll put these cowards right.
There’s a dozen of lives maybe, John, as lie in our hands tonight!”
‘Twas old Ben Brown, the captain; he’d laughed at the women’s doubt.
We’d always been first on the beach, sir, when the boat was goin’ out.
I didn’t move, but I pointed to the white face on the bed —
“I can’t go, mate,” I murmured; “in an hour she may be dead.
I cannot go and leave her to die in the night alone.”
As I spoke Ben raised his lantern, and the light on my wife was thrown;
And I saw her eyes fixed strangely with a pleading look on me,
While a tremblin’ finger pointed through the door to the ragin’ sea.
Then she beckoned me near, and whispered, “Go, and God’s will be done!
For every lad on that ship, John, is some poor mother’s son.”
Her head was full of the boy, sir — she was thinking, maybe, some day
For lack of a hand to help him his life might be cast away.
“Go, John, and the Lord watch o’er you! and spare me to see the light,
And bring you safe,” she whispered, “out of the storm tonight.”
Then I turned and kissed her softly, and tried to hide my tears,
And my mates outside,when the saw me, set up three hearty cheers;
But I rubbed my eyes wi’ my knuckles, and turned to old Ben and said,
“I’ll see her again, maybe, lad, when the sea give up its dead.”:
We launched the boat in the tempest, though death was the goal in view
And never a one but doubted if the craft could live it through;
But our boat she stood in bravely, and, weary and wet and weak,
We drew in hail of the vessel we had dared so much to seek
But just as we come upon her she gave a fearful roll,
And went down in the seethin’ whirlpool with every livin’ soul!
We rowed for the spot, and shouted, for all around was dark —
But only the wild wind answered the cries from our plungin’ bark.
I was strainin’ my eyes and watchin’, when I thought I heard a cry,
And I saw past our bows a somethin’ on the crest of a wave dashed by;
I stretched out my hand to seize it. I dragged it aboard, and then
I stumbled, and struck my forrud, and fell like a log on Ben.
I remember a hum of voices, and then I knowed no more
Till I came to my senses here, sir — here, in my home ashore.
My forrud was tightly bandaged, and I lay on my little bed —
I’d slipped, so they told me arter, and a rulluck had struck my head.
Then my mates came in and whispered; they’d heard I was comin’ round.
At first I could scarcely hear ‘em. it seemed like a buzzin’ sound;
But as my head got clearer, and accustomed to hear ‘em speak,
I knew as I’d lain like that, sir, for many a long, long, week.
I guessed what the lads was hidin’, for their poor old shipmate’s sake.
So I lifts my head from the pillow, and I says to old Ben, “Look here!
I’m able to bear it now, lad — tell me, and never fear.”
Not one on ‘em ever answered, but presently Ben goes out,
And the others slinks away like, and I say, “What’s this about?
Why can’t they tell me plainly as the poor old wife is dead?”
Then I fell again on the pillows, and I hid my achin’ head;
I lay like that for a minute, till I heard a voice cry “John!”
And I thought it must be a vision as my weak eyes gazed upon;
For there by the bedside, standin’ up and well was my wife.
And who do ye think was with her? Why Jack, as large as life
It was him as I’d saved from drownin’ the night as the lifeboat went
To the wreck of the Royal Helen; ’twas that as the vision meant.
They’d brought us ashore together, he’d knelt by his mother’s bed,
And the sudden joy had raised her like a miracle from the dead;
And mother and son together had nursed me back to life,
And my old eyes woke from darkness to look on my son and wife.
Jack? He’s our right hand now, sir; ’twas Providence pulled him through —
He’s allus the first aboard her when the lifeboat wants a crew.

Googling around reveals that Englishman George R Sims was an interesting character: the journalist, poet, dramatist, novelist and bon vivant wrote a series of hit plays and monologues, yet his output included Horrible London and How the Poor Live, a striking description of big city poverty in the Victorian era. A multi-faceted chap indeed. Read about him here.

My thanks to regular reader Paul Mullings for this one!

Building the Colin Archer Emma

There’s plenty to read and pictures to see at the Emma website – but as it’s in Dutch, I suspect many Intheboatshed.net readers won’t understand it too readily. If Nederlands isn’t your favourite language, happily all is not entirely lost – it’s possible to make sense of quite a lot of it using Google Translate and I gather an English version of the site is in the works.

However, there is no Google app that can help you get over the urge to acquire a similar vessel from somewhere and go sailing forever…

The Wikipedia has quite a lot more information about Colin Archer (1832–1921), shipbuilder and designer of more than 200 boats including the design used for building the Emma.

Archer was famous for his durable and safe vessels, and his output included a distinctive double-ended design for the Norwegian Lifeboat institution.

The class of boat remained in service for many years, and some original boats and later builds have been adapted for use as cruising yachts – Emma is an example of a recent build by Tom Pollman from Holland, and is based on drawings of lifeboat RS22, Vardo.


Colin Archer monument erected in his home town of Larvik, photo by Stig Andersen from Wikimedia Commons

Psssst… wanna apprenticeship job in boatbuilding?


Restoration projects by Abingdon & Skabardis

Kyle Abingdon of Abingdon & Skabardis Marine Carpentry  has been in touch to say that he is looking for a part-time apprentice to work at his company’s workshops at Dargate near Favershhsam.

No knowledge or experience is required, but a driving licence and transport would be useful.

Kyle adds that the yard has lots of work at the moment including building four Oxford punts and restoring an ex-RNLI Oakley class lifeboat. CVs should be sent to Kyle at info@marinecarpentry.co.uk.

Cromer Lifeboat crew stepdancing in the 1970s

This YouTube gem shows the Cromer Lifeboat crew stepdancing to a melodeon in the 1970s.

It’s a shame enthusiasts for old and traditional boats tend to ignore the cultural stuff – the songs, stories and dancing – that goes along with sailing and fishing.

But they’re obviously important, and step dancing is in some ways especially precious because it’s so unrecorded. For generations it was ignored by folklorists and historians because it was so very common in the pubs of East Anglia and the south-eastern corner of England and along the South Coast . And then in many places it rapidly disappeared, along with the last generation that practised it.

But all is not lost. Step dancing never quite died out in East Anglia and is now experiencing quite a revival with competitions and exhibitions, as well as spontaneous stepping in pubs. In Kent and Sussex also, families and enthusiasts are keeping the tradition alive, and working to bring it back into the public realm.

My thanks to ace melodeon player Katie Howson of the East Anglian Traditional Music Trust for spotting this one.

Colin Archer RS14 roars through rough sea

If you’ve ever wondered what a superbly bouyant  Colin Archer looks like when sailing in the weather for which it was designed, now’s your chance to see one on YouTube. It’s bloody marvellous!

My thanks to Jim Van Den Bos for pointing it out.

1863 lifeboat for sale on eBay – and two other lovely old ladies in need of rescue!

Lifeboat conversion Friend of all Nations for sale on eBay

Fowey boat builder Marcus Lewis has suggested I draw readers’ attention to the fact that the 1863-built lifeboat Friend of All Nations is currently for sale on eBay. I gather she was converted to make a gentleman’s yacht in the 1920s.

It’s an interesting story, as I’ve noticed her half sunk in the past and wondered what she might be. For a photo I took a couple of years ago, click here. She’s an historic piece – there’s a newspaper report of a tragic rescue in which she was involved here.

She’s 43ft in length, 14ft in beam and weighs about 12tons, and I gather she can be floated for transportation purposes. Mark can provide more info on 07826 853149.

Mark also thought readers would like to see some photos he took recently while working at the boatyard at St Winnow on the River Fowey.

Radium Morecambe Bay prawner Radium Morecambe Bay prawner Radium Morecambe Bay prawner

Radium Morecambe Bay prawner


The first is he believes a Morecombe Bay prawner named Radium. ‘She has been in Fowey for at least 30 years, probably a lot longer,’ says Marcus. ‘She was kept at the head of Mixtow Creek and was owned by Bill Peacock.

‘She was an ongoing project then, and I was involved in replacing some of the deck planking for him, but the boat was really decaying faster than it was being repaired, but it did float, just!

‘I think when Bill died she was taken up on the beach at St Winnow, and then into the yard. Having gone through a few owners, the yard has now claimed her I think.

Radium’s name is interesting and is engraved on her rudder head, so I guess it’s original – which might put her after 1910? It would be good if someone knew something about her!’

Motor launch Rosemary Motor launch Rosemary

The motor launch Rosemary was built in Polruan after the war for Claude Richards.

‘I think he was a former Humber lifeboat mechanic. Anyway, he ran the evening ferry service from Polruan to Fowey, as well as river trips. His former boat, also Rosemary, had been requisitioned in the war, and when the war was over he asked for it back, but it was in too much of a state – so a new one was built.

‘The boat changed hands several times after Claude retired, but always running pleasure trips up the river Fowey, round the docks and shipping, down to the harbour mouth and back to the quay. Sadly she has been laid up at St Winnow for about 10 years, and probably now past refloating. Who knows how many passengers she carried in her years of service?’

Marcus Lewis is based at Fowey, Cornwall. He can be reached on tel 07973 420568 and via his website at www.woodenboatbuilder.co.uk.

The Life-boat and its Work, a history from 1911 – part III


lifeboat, newquay, book, lifeboat institution, history

Heroes all: the Newquay lifeboat crew on the occasion of a Royal visit in June 1909.

‘A site was chosen in the hollow, a Life-Boat house built, and a concrete slipway constructed in order that the boat might be launched into deep water within easy reach of the open sea and command the whole bay… When required the boat is brought to the edge, and the crew, having donned their oilies and “Kapok” life-belts, climb in and take their places. The masts are stepped, and, at the word of command, she is released, shoots down the slipway and dashes into the sea in a cloud of spray.’

lifeboat, newquay, book, lifeboat institution, history lifeboat, newquay, book, lifeboat institution, history lifeboat, newquay, book, lifeboat institution, history

lifeboat history lifeboat, newquay, book, lifeboat institution, history

lifeboat, newquay, book, lifeboat institution, history

lifeboat, newquay, book, lifeboat institution, history lifeboat, newquay, book, lifeboat institution, history

lifeboat, newquay, book, lifeboat institution, history lifeboat, newquay, book, lifeboat institution, history lifeboat, newquay, book, lifeboat institution, history

lifeboat, newquay, book, lifeboat institution, history lifeboat, newquay, book, lifeboat institution, history lifeboat, newquay, book, lifeboat institution, history

lifeboat, newquay, book, lifeboat institution, history lifeboat, newquay, book, lifeboat institution, history lifeboat, newquay, book, lifeboat institution, history

lifeboat, newquay, book, lifeboat institution, history lifeboat, newquay, book, lifeboat institution, history

lifeboat, newquay, book, lifeboat institution, history

To see the rest of this series:

The Life-boat and its Work, a history from 1911 – part I

The Life-boat and its Work, a history from 1911 – part II

The Life-boat and its Work, a history from 1911 – part III

Also, Ed Bachman has collated these individual pages into two pdf files. Thanks Ed!

The Lifeboat pdf part I

The Lifeboat pdf part II