Holidaying in Blakeney, Norfolk, just after the war, we used to make almost daily trips, depending on the tide, in Stratton Long’s motorboat ferries out to the Blakeney Point, an unspoilt bird sanctuary. It still is to this day.
In those days the channels and quayside were still reasonably deep from when the harbours of The Wash were regularly dredged for the grain ships to sail up there, as late as the 1930s. Not having been dredged for over half a century now, time on the Point is limited to about an hour and a half either side of ‘high’ water.
For reasons that take too long to tell, we were favourites of Stratton and he used to let us steer his boats out there. As a small child, I had to stand on the stern counter with the tiller arm between my knees. The counter’s height afforded me the view of the ‘cut’ and its winding channels. More than once I put the clinker hull aground with much barracking from the other passengers who were somewhat amazed that I had been given such a responsible duty.
I think that I was the only person onboard the craft that was at all interested in its workings and so much so that I was always asking questions about the engine and could I start it. Starting handles and decompression levers were nothing new to those who lived on a farm with old tractors. So I guessed that if Stratton had had a heart attack as we crossed the ‘pit’ to get to the old lifeboat station, I could have got the boat safely back to its quayside home.
Chatting to our illustrious Ed’ the other day, he said that he always made a point that any newcomer to his current RIB, would be given a full introduction to its workings so that in an emergency where the normal helmsman is incapacitated, they could operate it reasonably safely.
My point is that we should all get to know how RIBs operate. Relying on others to step in is not always the answer. ‘Pilot dies at controls of light aircraft.’ Think about it and sooner the better!
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