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Ilfracombe RNLI invites press to join training exercise

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: January 16, 2014

  • CREW: Stuart Carpenter and Andrew Bengey.

  • FROM SHORE: The boat before setting off from Ilfracombe harbour.

  • TEAM EFFORT: The crew during the anchoring exercise.

  • CLEAN UP: Getting things ship-shape at the end of the training session.

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Journal reporter Duncan Drury joined Ilfracombe's lifeboat crew on a wet and windy evening last week to see what's involved in an RNLI training exercise.

REGARDLESS of the weather or hour, Ilfracombe's RNLI lifeboat crew is out training and rescuing people who find themselves in difficulty off the North Devon coast.

On a blustery evening last week, I climbed aboard Ilfracombe's offshore lifeboat to see what a training session involved.

Petrol and sea spray filled the air as coxswain Andrew Bengey steered the boat out of the harbour.

Andrew said the plan was to stop at Lee Bay for anchoring practice before continuing to Morte Point.

Although the boat has an inside area, most of the crew prefer to stay on the deck.

Andrew said: "It can get like a hot washing machine down there and people do get sick.

"If you start to feel sick the best thing to do is look up at the stars – the instinct is to bend over."

Hanging onto anything solid as the boat crashed through the waves, falling head-first into a sharp edge seemed like a real possibility.

Andrew said: "We go out in much worse than this.

"It's an all-weather boat so it can cope with anything."

As we left Ilfracombe behind, land and sea turned into a disorientating blur.

Mechanic and navigator Jonathan Davies said one of the most important things new crew members learned was to distinguish between the coast's lighthouses.

"They all flash a certain number of times," he said. "So you learn them and they give you a good idea of where you are."

Most of the crew undertake hours of training and assessments around day jobs and families.

Having moved from London to Ilfracombe, Matthew Glubb now balances his commitment to RNLI with his work as a software developer and spending time with his family.

He said: "With this and work you don't have a lot of spare time but everyone wants to be here and most people who join stay for years."

The journey back was smoother because the boat was going with the swell.

Once we were beached in the harbour, the crew prepared for an hour or more of cleaning the boat and returning it to the station before calling it a night.

Ilfracombe RNLI is currently taking on new volunteer crew members. Anyone who lives or works in Ilfracombe and is interested can call the lifeboat station on 01271 863771.

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