Visitors to Penarth’s Victorian seafront will be familiar with the sight of the modern lifeboat station at the southerly end of the Esplanade. Not everyone, however, will know the full history of the lifeboat station. A lifeboat was established at Penarth in 1861 on the northern shore of the Bristol Channel where vessels frequently stranded on the shoals. The original ‘station’ sat just below the location of the Fig Tree restaurant, in amongst Penarth’s deck chair stall.
With the establishment of the lifeboat stations at Barry Dock and Weston-Super-Mare, it was decided to close the Penarth station in 1905. However, in 1980 it was decided to re-open the station and a D Class inflatable lifeboat became operational on 17 June 1980 some 75 years after the original station closed.
With a purpose-built station on the esplanade, Penarth RNLI now accommodates two lifeboats. The smaller ‘D’Class lifeboat, which carries up to three crew members is seen as the workhorse of the station. It’s speed and manoeuvrability make it ideal for working along the rugged coast, and the local islands of Flatholm, Steepholm, and the smaller Sully Island, which although accessible at low tide is quick off twice a day by the tide.
First introduced into the RNLI fleet in 1963, the design of the inflatable D class lifeboat continues to evolve to meet changes in demand and technology. Highly manoeuvrable and usually operates closer to shore than the all-weather lifeboats. Those who have been on the ‘D’ class will describe the ride as being like a roller coaster, and it can be quite unforgiving when it hits the surface of the sea during rough weather.
The second boat at Penarth is the Atlantic 85 lifeboat, which carries up to four crew members. With a top speed of 35 knots and a rigid hull, this lifeboat is able to withstand the very harshest of sea conditions and weather. The Atlantic 85 is part of the B-series of lifeboats, originally designed and developed at Atlantic College.
Penarth lifeboat station is one of the busiest in Wales, and the volunteer crews attend between 60 and 70 shouts on average each year. Calls can be to broken down vessels, first aid emergencies at sea, missing person searches and to assist people cut off by the tide – the Bristol Channel having the second largest tidal range in the world.
Although not everyone in the crew has a sailing background, all are volunteers and as a crew, we have a range of ‘day jobs’ – some from the emergency services, local companies, company directors and several from the marine industries. Our crew members freely give of their time and attend weekly training evenings, formal exercises and of course respond to emergencies as required, at any time of the day or night.
We are tasked by the Coastguard control centre at Milford Haven and are alerted by pagers. Depending on the nature of the calls, either or both boats may be launched, both using specially developed tractors, by members of our shore crew.
There is a great community spirit within the crew – we socialise together, support charity events and as a result, develop excellent team skills. We all share a desire to give something back to our community, by saving lives at sea, whilst fostering a community spirit. And that is why this year we are wholeheartedly supporting the fashion week fundraising event. More on that in the next couple of pages.
Penarth Lifeboat Station (RNLI)
The Esplanade, Penarth CF64 3AU
029 2071 1659
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