Photographs of the RNLI Atlantic 75 lifeboat “Donald and Ethel Macrae” returning to Hawes Peir at South Queensferry, between the Forth Rail Bridge and the Forth Road Bridge..The public perception of lifeboats may be that they assist shipping on trouble on high seas. This would be correct but they also play a major role in saving the lives of more ordinary people who have got into difficulty around the coastal waters and along shores. This includes yachts, dingies or other leisure craft that perhaps lose power or start taking on water. It can also affect land-lubbers too. For example people that get cut off by the tide on tidal islands, sandbanks, remote cliffs or perhaps get into difficulty swimming.
What is impressive is that the service is a charity and is staffed by extremely dedicated volunteers. The crew of the lifeboats obviously risk their lives every time they take to the water and they can never tell what dangers they may face. Fuel spills/leaks, chemicals and myriad of hazardous cargoes turned to floatsam as well as the angry sea are the obvious ones. Clearly they are well trained for the role and will quickly gain valuable experience in service, but every launch will be different. What could prepare anyone to pull someone from the water not knowing whether they may be revived or not? The feelings of elation must be immense when they do and an indescribable reward in itself, but not every trip will have a happy ending.
Even on a sunny summer’s day with clear blue skies it was obvious when these photographs were taken that there was a considerable swell. After the crew returned from their mission they disembarked, pushed the boat trailer unit into the water amid crashing and rolling waves ready to haul the lifeboat ashore.
Under the shadow of the Forth Railway Bridge as waves crash over the breakwater, they align the trailer for the boat amid waves that would sweep a lot of people off their feet. This must be hard, physically demanding work, especially after a rescue mission.
Outside the Lifeboat Station, opposite the Hawes Inn, the crew wash everything down with clean water and prepare the boat for storage in readiness for the next mission.As well as the lifeboat crews who take to the water, the entire staff of a lifeboat station give up considerable amounts of time and effort to provide the service. The fact that it is all done charitably is an amazing commitment.
Every time you see a yacht marina full of pleasure craft that individually cost £10,000s, £100,000s and even £millions each. Every time you step on board a ferry, a short trip afloat or a cruise, you hope never to need to be rescued. But remember that it costs a lot of money to fund the purchase of these lifeboats, the stations and maintain the service.
Even if you never set foot on watercraft you never know when your next trip to the beach for a swim or a leisurely walk along the shore to an idyllic sandy cove might require the services of the RNLI.
Next time you pass a lifeboat station, pop at least £1 in the little boat shaped collection boxes. Try and pass one at least once a year. It’s only the cost of a lottery ticket and less than some newspapers.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is a registered charity that saves lives at sea. Read more about the Queensferry Lifeboat.
These photographs were taken in July 2009 using a Fujifilm S5 DSLR. Shot in RAW format and processed in Photoshop CS2 ACR2.4
All the photographs were taken by Scottish photographer Norman Young and are copyright ©. Please respect copyright. Thank you.