On 18th October 34 members of the Deganwy History Group visited the impressive new RNLI lifeboat station in Llandudno. It was a dry, calm evening so we were hopeful to see the boat inside the building and not have our visit curtailed by an emergency.
Our guide for the evening, Alun Pari Huws and his Visitor Team, showed us around the station and exhibits pointing out objects of interest. Since this is an operational station, our visit started with a Health and Safety briefing, warning us of sensitive (expensive!) equipment, low headroom in some areas, and greasy machinery.
Previously, the old boathouse had the unique label of being the only boathouse in the UK to be located in the middle of the town, rather than next to the shore. When the original Llandudno boathouse was built in 1903 the position allowed for the lifeboat to be towed equally quickly to either the West shore or the North shore for launching. With the advent of more capable and larger lifeboats a decision was taken to build a new boathouse on the South end of the promenade at Craig-y-Don. The new Shannon class boat, “William F Yates”, arrived at the new station on 24th September 2017.
The first of the Shannon class boats was introduced in 2014, with a fibre reinforced composite hull, powered by twin water jets rather than propellers. The water jets provide excellent manoeuvrability in all weather conditions, allowing the boat to be accurately positioned for rescue operations and can provide a top speed of 25 knots (29mph). The crew of 6 seated in their shock absorbing seats have access to a wide range of technical systems including radar, searchlight, night vision equipment, VHF radios and machinery monitoring systems to ensure the integrity of the lifeboat.
The signage of this lifeboat “13-18” translates as the length of the boat (approximately 13 metres) and the Llandudno vessel is the 18th member of this class. During launch the lifeboat is transported from the boathouse to the shoreline on its complex tractor and trailer combination. The trailer enters the water first and at a suitable point the boat is released to slide down the trailer into the water. The tractor unit is also water tight and can launch in severe weather if necessary.
It should also be noted that the boathouse also contains a smaller, D-Class lifeboat, the “Dr Barbara Saunderson” which is used for inshore rescues. This inflatable boat is suitable for operation in shallow water, near to rocks and cliffs, providing the full search and rescue capability in the waters around North Wales.
We should remember that all the members of the RNLI Llandudno are volunteers, living and working around Llandudno ready to answer the pager request when called by the Coastguard. They provide an excellent service to people who need their support, putting their own lives at risk when they answer the call to rescue.
Thankfully the lifeboat and crew were not called upon during our visit and everyone had a chance to see the equipment in the station. Our thanks to Alun and his staff for making us all welcome and explaining the history and capability of the lifeboats here in Llandudno.
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