Our Lifeboat maintains a 365 day, 24 hour readiness, and there must always be crew members available to help those in peril at sea. All Lifeboat crew members are trained to an extremely high standard, and training at Helensburgh has always been taken seriously, to ensure that every member of the Helensburgh Lifeboat crew is fully prepared for responding to any emergency at sea (refer to 'Training' for more detail).
Any report of someone needing help is usually directed to the Coastguard (please read the 'Coastal Safety' page on our web site for what you should do in the event of an emergency at sea).If the Coastguard consider that the services of the Helensburgh Lifeboat is required, they will immediately contact our Lifeboat Operations Manager or one of his deputies and request the launch of the Lifeboat. It is the decision of the Launching Authority if the Lifeboat should launch, based on the information received from the Coastguard; though it would be very unusual for a request to be refused, and in cases of extreme urgency the Coastguard has the authority to page the Lifeboat crew directly (read more about the local 'Lifeboat Management Group' ).
Once the ‘launch’ decision has been made, the Launching Authority pages the crew and heads for Rhu Marina and the Lifeboat Station, ready to brief the crew on the mission.
In certain circumstances - extreme weather conditions, or perhaps to enable newer crew members to gain experience in less urgent situations - the Lifeboat Operations Manager in consultation with the Senior Helm will select a crew; but usually the first three crew members to arrive at the Lifeboat House will crew the Lifeboat, providing that a qualified helm is available.
Whilst the sea-going crew get themselves kitted up - thermals, drysuit, lifejacket, helmet, gloves, other crew members prepare the Lifeboat for launching, make sure any required equipment is stowed on board, and start to launch the Lifeboat. The crew stumble down the slipway desperately trying to zip up drysuits and put lifejackets on, before wading chest deep in the water and hauling themselves onto the lifeboat with the Helm reversing off the trolley at 30 knots.
This all sounds a time-consuming, drawn out process, but the Helensburgh Lifeboat crew have always prided themselves on their speed in launching, and anything over seven or eight minutes from the initial contact from the Coastguard to the Lifeboat hitting the water, is considered decidedly tardy.
With the Lifeboat at sea, the Crew’s first task is to establish VHF radio contact with the Coastguard to receive any updates on the rescue mission. The Coastguard, with advice from the Lifeboat crew, control the progress of the rescue, and have the capability to call in other rescue services as required. The Helensburgh Lifeboat crew often work in tandem with the search and rescue helicopter from Prestwick, shore-based Coastguard mobile teams, and boats from the Faslane based Ministry of Defence afloat unit.
Meanwhile, ashore in the Lifeboat House, the Operations Manager or his deputy will monitor the progress of the rescue through the radio transmissions between the Coastguard and the Lifeboat crew , be on hand to offer advice as required, and record radio traffic and the progress of the mission for preparation of the subsequent report to be submitted to the RNLI headquarters at Poole.
On the conclusion of the rescue, the Lifeboat crew will be told by the Coastguard to stand down and return to station - which after a long search on a cold night can be a very welcome message.
On hearing this, those members of the crew who have remained ashore will prepare the launching trolley for the return of the Lifeboat. The Lifeboat crew drive the boat onto the launching trolley, the boat is winched back up the slipway, re-fuelled, washed down, equipment re-stowed, the Lifeboat checked for any damage, and is once again ready for its next service.
The helm in charge of the Lifeboat will make a report to the Lifeboat Operations Manager, who will then sign off with the Coastguard, advise them that the Helensburgh Lifeboat is back on station and ready for service, and start his paperwork. Meanwhile the Lifeboat crew may retire to the local hostelry for a more informal de-briefing.
For further information on the services of the Helensburgh Lifeboat, please go to the 'Recent Launches' page of our web site.