“Clovelly Lifeboat Station”, Stephen Perham’s blog

 It’s not everyone’s idea of fun, some may even wonder why! Downing the tools, dinners left to go cold on the table, half started conversations interrupted by the excited bleep of the pager, the running stumbling out of doors, uncombed hair, and that odd sock moment.

The call, the shout, the lifeboat requested on service, the reason for the training, the endless training, the heavy booted stomp of the hurried, unlaced feet.

Clattering keys and the sliding of rumbling doors, a boat quickly made ready, the rush, the adrenalin, the fear, the buzz; anxious glances across the bay, the weather, the wind, the sea, the half-heard growl of the dragging waves on the shore.

Questions…What? Where? People gathering, a telephone silence, answers, charts handled and checked, co-ordinates jotted down, a rough estimate of passage and time, a plan, a course to steer, a direction to head for.

Noise, it all becomes about the noise, as each piece fits comfortably into the whole, launching tractor coughing into life, a squeal of metal tracks on cold concrete, the launch sets off down the well-worn slipway. Lifeboat engines growl hungrily as the lifeboat crew put their helmets on, and the final checks are done, switches, controls, VHF radio, crew lists, ropes released, everyone aware, everyone focused and everyone ready.

Once again it is time, commitment, dedication and training, alongside the will and passion to serve, concentrating the mind to one single aim, the job in hand, the shout, the rescue.

I come from a long line of lifeboat men. From the station’s earliest memories of 1870 there has been some member of my family serving the institution in one capacity or another, either pulling on the tired oars of the “Alexander and Matilda Boetfeur”, as signalman in the “Elinor Roget I” and “II”, or standing steady on the deck of our first motored lifeboat the “City of Nottingham”, to operating as emergency mechanic (my brother) or Bowman (my father), on board the Liverpool class “William Cantrell Ashley”.

When the shore station was closed in 1968 my brother was the first Clovelly man to sail on board the 70ft Clyde Class “Charles H Barrett”. Cousins continued until the station was finally closed in 1988 and the 70ft “City of Bristol” was withdrawn. But undaunted we took up the challenge of the “Independent lifeboat trust” and helped to man the18ft “Pride of Clovelly” in a variety of different ways from assisting to raise the funds, heading out to sea or firing the maroon to alert the crew.

Onwards and forwards helping keep things together until the RNLI re-established the station once more, with an Atlantic 21 lifeboat and a refurbished boathouse. Once again friends and family stood together, cried together as the reason we do this job suddenly became all too real with the loss at sea while fishing of our Senior Helmsman and his crewman. But again together we continued, as sons and daughters, wives and nephews first joined the Atlantic 75 “Spirit of Clovelly”, and continue today aboard the new Atlantic 85 “Toby Rundle”, taking up the cause and answering the call.

The station, the lifeboat, the history belongs to you, belongs to our village, to each and every one that stops just for a second to look when the pager calls, as the people run and the boat is launched. The station relies on you, for its crew, for support, for encouragement, and now as much as ever the lifeboat looks to you to keep it serving anyone in need. So if anyone ever feels that they would like to be a part of 147 years of Clovelly’s history and serve in whatever capacity they feel able, from crewing the lifeboat, manning the house, driving the tractor or raising the funds to keep it all afloat, don’t ever be afraid to ask just simply drop into the station and say hello.

Remember it’s your Lifeboat station, it’s your history, and it’s your shout!

Clovelly Maritime Festival

Sunday 21st July 2024

Watch the exciting Clovelly Cup yacht rally against a backdrop of live music, street entertainment, activities and games for the whole family. Join us for a day full of fun, all in aid of The Mission to Seafarers.