Hamble Lifeboat was formed by Hamble residents in 1968 as the Southampton Water Inshore Rescue Service (Hamble Rescue). This was in response to the number of casualties occurring in Southampton Water and the Rivers Hamble, Itchen and Test, which had increased to 19 deaths in one year. The RNLI, who at the time had boats stationed at Yarmouth and Bembridge, were approached but had no boat suitable for the area. The nature of the area meant something fast, powerful and capable of operating in shallow water was needed.
The first boat, St Andrew, was a 17’ Dory with twin Mercury outboards. This boat, although far from ideal, provided good service and attended over 100 incidents in her first year. Since then, our boats have been continually improved, due to the generosity of the public, and we now operate two Halmatic Pacific 32 RIBs with twin inboard diesel engines driving water jets.
We moved to our current site at The Quay, Hamble, in 1974, and built a small boathouse and a slipway. With generous support from the public and Local Authorities, in 2017 we replaced our too-small and dilapidated boathouse with one that will support the Service in the years ahead.
Since 1968, The Service has evolved from having a small dory to having two of the most powerful 10 metre RIBs in service in the UK.
The Service was formed as the Southampton Water Inshore Rescue Service, also known as Hamble Rescue, in response to the increasing number of casualties occurring in Southampton Water and the Rivers Hamble, Itchen and Test.
The first boat, St Andrew, a 17’ Dory with twin mercury outboards, went into service. This boat, although far from ideal, provided a good service and attended over 100 incidents in her first year.
A Company was incorporated called The Inshore Rescue Service Charity Ltd., but Hamble Rescue, or Hamble Inshore Rescue, was kept as the working name. The Service moved from Petter’s Slipway to its current base on Hamble foreshore.
The first St Andrew was replaced by with a larger boat, the St Andrew II, a 21’ Boston Outrage dory. This boat was fitted with better equipment and twin 50hp outboards. This vessel provided excellent service for several years.
The night of the Fastnet Disaster, Hamble Rescue was launched to a yacht aground off Beaulieu in poor weather conditions. In what was arguably her finest hour, St Andrew II was severely damaged while conducting a successful rescue. This showed that something bigger and better was required.
St Andrew II was replaced with a craft far better suited to the job and the forerunner of the boats we use today. That boat, the St Andrew III, was a 30’ Atlantis Eagle. She was a RIB powered by a single 212hp diesel engine and Castoldi 06 water jet. This combination gave high speed (35kts), exceptional manoeuvrability and the ability to operate in very shallow waters. St Andrew III has been our longest serving boat to date and was responsible for the next evolution of our service.
St Andrew III needed a major refit and so came out of service. Hamble Rescue was without a boat for nearly 6 months, a situation which we never wanted to repeat; therefore, it was decided to purchase a reserve boat.
After a year of fitting out, the reserve boat, St Mary, went into service. A 7.4m Humber, she had a single 250hp Iveco engine and Castoldi TD238 water jet. St Mary provided excellent back up but did not have the capabilities of the larger boat. We decided that to provide a full level of service we needed 2 boats of equal size and capability.
St Andrew IV, the first of the current series of boats went into service. As with St Mary, and all subsequent boats, she was purchased as a bare hull and fitted out with all the equipment as funds permitted. This Halmatic Pacific 30 RIB was fitted with twin 250hp Iveco engines and twin TD238 water jets. Complete with radar and GPS navigation systems she was a truly modern lifeboat and was exactly what the service required.
Following the sale of St Andrew III, one of the current boats, the Harry Childs, went into service to serve in tandem with St Andrew IV. Harry Childs is a Halmatic Pacific 32 with twin 330hp Iveco diesel engines and twin Castoldi TD238 water jets. This boat also has radar, GPS plotter and had all the latest safety equipment.
The official organisation name changed to Hamble Lifeboat Limited, and the current working name of Hamble Lifeboat was adopted. With two much larger boats than our 1974 shed was built for, it became clear that we would require a larger boathouse. Initial architects’ drawings were prepared for a boathouse large enough to house a 10m RIB with space to work around it, and space to stow equipment and do crew training. Fundraising began for a new building.
St Andrew IV was sold, and is now operating as a Coast Guard rescue boat in New Zealand. Later that year, our latest boat, the John & Violet Hurrell, went into service. This was the same hull as the Harry Childs, and it was fitted with the same twin Iveco diesel engines and Castoldi water jets, but was built with the enhancements to comply with the then draft MCA Rescue Boat Code of Practice.
Revised architects’ plans were drawn up for a building that incorporated public toilets, to replace those that were reaching the end of their life. Lengthy discussions took place with the planning authorities on the height of the building, which needed to be tall enough to take the lifeboat on its trailer without removing the gantry.
Planning approval was granted, but cost estimates for the new Boathouse design were over £450,000. This was to be a major project!
An agreement was signed between Hamble Lifeboat and Hamble Parish Council permitting a new Boathouse with Public toilets to be built on the existing foreshore site. This was a major milestone; now all we needed was enough money.
After several years of work to secure a 99 year lease and planning permission, fund raising was now underway to build a new lifeboat station on our current site.
Discussions had taken place with a development company on how the cost of the building could be reduced. Further discussions with the Local Authorities on the specification for the building led to grants being made towards the cost. With the cost reductions, grants, and money raised by the Service, the project was at last looking feasible, but we had to re-apply for planning approval.
During a storm over the Christmas period, the lifeboat John & Violet Hurrell took on water and sank while on a river mooring. The Marina were quick to help lift the boat into the boatyard, but the engines were unsalvageable. These engines were no longer made, and the hull needed modifications to allow new modern engines to be fitted. The Service re-located temporarily to Hamble Point Marina while the site for the new Boathouse was prepared, and the new building constructed.
The new Boathouse structure was finally finished! Now it was up to our volunteers to fit it out to make it into a Lifeboat Station. The Lifeboat John & Violet Hurrell was then able to be pulled into the new Boathouse to complete the refit.
The John & Violet Hurrell refit was completed, and launched, and the Harry Childs took her place in the Boathouse. Volunteers from M&S Hedge End decorated the crew room, fixed shelving, provided furniture, and added the finishing touches to our new Lifeboat Station. Finally, 14 years after the start of the project, the Service now has the infrastructure to support a full service going forward. The Service reverted from weekend only, to the previous 365-day per year operation.
The new Boathouse, having been completed in 2017, provides a much-improved facility for training our crews, and maintaining our boats.
We are currently conducting a major refit on the older of our two boats, the Harry Childs, and when that is finished, we will bring the other boat ashore for maintenance. With that, both boats will have been brought into line with the MCA Rescue Boat Code of Practice, introduced in 2013. Thereafter, we aim to run the boats in six-month shifts; one afloat in service and one in the station for maintenance. Each boat will likely require a refit every 5th year.
The crew is made up of volunteers who give their time and effort with the very vital support of their families. Apart from the time spent conducting Search and Rescue (SAR) Operations, crew spend their time training on SAR techniques; Training with and maintaining various key pieces of equipment that we carry; giving educational presentations to schools, sailing clubs, and other groups; and taking part in the fund-raising activities organised by our fund-raising team.
In 2018 Hamble Lifeboat celebrates its 50th anniversary. Things have changed dramatically since we were formed; water-based activities are more popular than ever, the waters of the Solent are more congested, and the beaches busier, which of course means that by the laws of probability, there is more scope for injury. Only by the continued education efforts by the Emergency Services, including ourselves, are incident numbers prevented from increasing in proportion.
With this, and the increases in the regulations that apply to our crew and lifeboats, our crew numbers have doubled in the past 5 years. There will always be challenges ahead, but we are now well placed to continue our life-saving work in the UK’s busiest waterway.
Cost of Running the Service
The cost of running our service has risen over time not only due to expected cost increases, but also due to the progression in our capabilities as a search and rescue asset. We carry additional and more sophisticated equipment, which requires both maintenance and specialist crew training.
Each year our costs will vary due to our schedule for refit activities and equipment replacement. On average, over the past few years it has cost £35,000 per annum to run the service, which will include repairs, servicing, fuel, emergency pager service, slipway maintenance and repair, external training (such as specialised first aid training) along with the expected overheads that come with maintaining a lifeboat station.
To equip a crew member with the required lifejacket, helmet, radio, survival suit and boots costs £1,000 with the equipment life expectancy standing at 3 years. We minimise our costs where available by using volunteer labour, often with the crew undertaking this work.
The trustees and crew at Hamble Lifeboat are always extremely grateful for donations received by:
- Fundraising events
- Donation of services such as maintenance parts and/or labour
- Local watering holes and retailers in the villages flanking the River Hamble
- Subscription to our Lifeboat Lotto
Since its inception, the service has attended on average 100 incidents per year. We respond to tasking by the UK Coastguard during weekends, Bank Holidays and pager availability 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in all weather conditions.