Voluntarily working hard to keep all water users along our coast from harm!
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution was first established in 1867. Since then, RNLI lifeboats have rescued in excess of 137,000 lives. RNLI crew and lifeguards come from all walks of life and therefore high quality training is essential to ensure they are able to deal with the many situations they encounter. There are 233 lifeboat stations strategically located throughout the UK and Ireland.
The RNLI established a lifeboat station at Old Hunstanton in 1837. The first lifeboat was a pulling and sailing lifeboat launched from the beach with the help of horses borrowed from local farms. There were three of this type of lifeboat all named “Licensed Victualler” and all funded by that organisation.
During 1920 the RNLI experimented with launching tractors at Hunstanton. The trials proved the effectiveness of these machines and they were then used throughout the country for beach launching. As the years went on, the calls for the services of a lifeboat at Hunstanton diminished and in 1931 the station was closed. The crews of these lifeboats had launched on service 53 times and had been credited with saving 113 lives.
Towards the end of the 1970s there was an increase in boating and leisure activities in the area and the RNLI decided to re-establish a lifeboat station at Hunstanton. A local committee was formed and the old Boathouse was brought back into use. This building had cost £700 to build in 1900. The first lifeboat was a D class inshore lifeboat launched with the aid of a second hand farm tractor. Within four years it was realised that the area of operations from this station was rather large and an Atlantic 21 was placed on station. The area covered from this station covers the whole of The Wash and round the North Norfolk coast as far as Brancaster.
After trials with the Atlantic 21 a new lifeboat, funded by the American Lifeboat Appeal Fund, the “Spirit of America” was placed on station. During the sixteen years stay of this lifeboat it was launched in service 337 times and the crew were credited with saving 78 lives. The launching tractor was an open topped County class. In 1998 it was replaced by an Atlantic 75 fast inshore lifeboat and a Talus MB-4H purpose built tractor. At the naming ceremony in May 1999 the lifeboat was christened “DJS Haverhill” by the sisters of David James Sissons who had previously lived at Haverhill. He was a fundraiser for the RNLI and a merchant seaman who sadly died at an early age. He bequeathed £25,000 which, with a similar sum from an anonymous lottery winner largely paid for the new lifeboat. This lifeboat has two 70 hp outboard engines giving it a top speed of 32 knots. It has a crew of three and can carry 20 other people.
In July 2001, the RNLI conducted trials with a hovercraft at various stations round the coast including Hunstanton. These trials proved satisfactory and in 2003 the present hovercraft arrived at Hunstanton. This has fleet number H003 and is named “Hunstanton Flyer (Civil Service o 45). This hovercraft was built by Griffon Hovercraft Limited of Southampton. It is powered by two Volkswagen 1.9 litre turbo diesel engines and with a crew of three can reach speeds of up to 30 knots over water and for safety reasons, 15 knots over land. A new boathouse was built to house it and on 21 May 2005 a naming ceremony and dedication service was held at the station.
Since then the hovercraft has been involved in several incidents and rescues all over The Wash area and round to Brancaster. The hovercraft is useful for shallow water, sandbanks and marshes which it can go over without damaging vegetation. It is particularly good for shoreline searches. The lifeboat is used in all sea rescues and functions well in all weathers. However, its usefulness is limited in shallow waters where it needs to navigate sandbanks.
The team of volunteer crew which keep Hunstanton going consists of 20 men and 2 women (as at March 2010). The team welcome the public to view the rescue craft at the station between 9am – 12 noon every Sunday morning throughout the year and, of course, new volunteers are also welcome. Recently there was a very successful appeal to raise funds for a new Atlantic 85 Fast Inshore Lifeboat, which is scheduled to be delivered in late 2010. If you would like to make a donation or to contact the station for an organised visit please ring the Lifeboat Operations Manager, Robin Rafferty on 07771 662978 or write to him at 67 Waveney Road, Hunstanton, Norfolk, PE36 5DQ.
The work of the Hunstanton RNLI station is made possible solely through RNLI Donations. This funds the lifeboat rescues and the necessary training for the crew so that they can be ready to help any seafarer in distress at the drop of a hat. So next time you see an RNLI collection box why not spare a small (or large) donation. The next time they are called out could be for you or someone you know.