WHY DID Hamble NEED A New LIFEBOAT Station? Securing the future for Hamble Lifeboat, continuing our work assisting and saving lives

A successful lifeboat at sea has three foundations; a well maintained boat, a well trained crew, and a fully functioning lifeboat station from which to operate.

Our 30+ year old boat shed was in need of replacement with a purpose built lifeboat station. The new station was needed to support and reflect the professionalism of the crew and to make best use of the outstanding community fund raising effort that has equipped Hamble with two of the UK's most up-to-date lifeboats. Importantly, it will help the charity to meet forthcoming challenges and continue to save lives in the UK's busiest waterway.

Hamble Lifeboat - serving the public, saving lives since 1968

Since 1968, Hamble Lifeboat has been saving lives off the Hampshire coast. Local residents, fishermen and boating enthusiasts, concerned at the mounting tally of accidents and deaths in the River Hamble and neighbouring waters, called for a lifeboat to be based there. With the RNLI unable to help, the community established its own independent lifeboat and crew. The lifeboat has since attended thousands of emergencies on the water, assisted many thousands of people to safety and saved hundreds of lives.

Now, thanks to its supporters' dedicated fundraising efforts, Hamble operates two of the UK's most advanced inshore lifeboats - Pacific 32 rigid inflatables - which are fully equipped to handle every situation, from towing to medical emergencies. The boats are alternated on six-month shifts, the off-duty boat being stored and maintained in the lifeboat station. The crew totals 15 volunteers drawn from a wide range of backgrounds.

As well as making regular weekend, Bank Holiday and major event patrols, the crew are ready to respond to distress calls day and knight, 365 days a year, in all weather and sea conditions. They have even ventured out in winds gusting to 60 knots.

They are highly trained, working regularly alongside the Coastguard, RNLI and police, and have built up an expert knowledge of the waters they patrol.

Responding to a growing need, preparing for future challenges

Having built an indispensable pool of skill, dedication and equipment, Hamble Lifeboat was keen to maintain its efficient and effective rescue service. It particularly needed to prepare for two new challenges that loomed on the horizon.

The first was the growing popularity of water-based activities. This increase is making the waters and beaches of the Solent ever more congested and is rapidly increasing the number of a call-outs. Hamble's lifeboat crew already responds on average every two and a half days and this rate is expected to increase.

The second challenge that has to be met is training. Increasingly stringent regulations and new lifeboat code of practice are placing unprecedented levels of training and boat maintenance on Hamble's lifeboat crews that require a suitable, all-weather facility.

Why Hamble needed a new lifeboat station

The biggest obstacle to meeting these challenges was the lifeboat station. This was a prefabricated 'Atcost' garage, erected more than 30 years ago. It fell far short of modern health and safety standards and was also too small to house either boat properly. The boats had to be partially dismantled - which took two hours - before being stored as part of the rotation and maintenance schedule.

Once inside, a boat took up most of the room in the station, making vital maintenance of boat and equipment incredibly difficult. The lack of space made it impossible to rinse and dry crucial safety equipment after a call, shortening life usefulness and putting more demands on volunteers to raise funds to buy replacements. With the boat taking up most of the room, essential shore training for the crew has to take place outside, year-round, in all weathers.

A final drawback was the boathouse's lack of facilities: heating, toilets and hot showers. This has recently taken on a greater prominence with Hamble's drive to recruit more crew and spread the burden of the duty rota. Lack of modern facilities is deterring potential new crew-members from joining. It is understandably unfair to continue to expect a lifeboat man or woman to wash in the cold sea after a winter's night-time call-out. A new purpose built lifeboat station was Hamble lifeboat's greatest priority in preparing for those challenges.

A new station to meet new challenges

Planning permission was granted for a 187m2, two storey building, to replace the previous boathouse and neighbouring public conveniences. The new lifeboat station includes:

  • adequate room for secure storage and maintenance of one of the service's two lifeboats,
  • enough storage space for safety and first aid equipment,
  • comfortable quarters for duty crews at weekends and bank holidays,
  • indoor shore training facilities for lifeboat crews,
  • hot showers for crews to wash down after call-outs,
  • toilet facilities for crews, with separate public access,
  • compliance with current health and safety requirements.

Better serving our crew and people in difficulty on the water

The new lifeboat station now allows Hamble Lifeboat to meet the greater demand for rescues and the more rigorous service standards that are coming into force. It provides greater comfort for lifeboat crews and makes training and lifeboat maintenance easier and more efficient. It will also prolong the life of safety equipment, saving the funds that support our rescue and patrol missions.

Better training will help keep our crews' skills on the water well-honed, maintaining and improving the assistance they give to people in difficulties on the water. Easier maintenance will help guarantee the lifeboats' preparedness for every emergency situation. A fully functional station will, moreover, help preserve our rapid response times, especially important when the station is not manned: on weekdays and at night.

Visitors to the river Hamble foreshore now also benefit from separate access to the station's WCs.