Our man goes out with Severn rescue lifeboat
ALL ABOARD: David, right, with crew members, from left, Mark Carwardine, coxswain, Kevin Caster, Ian Blaney and Richard Dainty
Manned by volunteers, the Severn Area Rescue Association (SARA) helps the emergency services rescue people across the Severn Estuary. DAVID DEANS ventured on one of its training exercises to find out more about the organisation.
I AM NOT what you would call a boat person and it doesn’t help that I can’t swim, so I’m probably not the best person you’d send to rescue someone stricken in the Usk or the Wye.
But my evening out on training with SARA – the second largest lifeboat group in the UK – made me realise how extraordinary this organisation is.
SARA provides lifeboat, land rescue, swiftwater rescue and flooding support services across the Severn Estuary and the surrounding area including the rivers Usk and Wye, as well as the Monnow, Avon and Severn rivers.
Volunteers save lives – and recover bodies. And despite its vital role, apart from the odd grant, the organisation receives little in government support.
Yet each station costs £25,000 a year to run – £100,000 a year to keep its four stations going.
The organisation has stations at Beachley, Sharpness, Tewkesbury and Wyre Forest and celebrates it due to celebrate its 40th anniversary next year.
At the exercise, after some initial safety words from Mervyn Fleming, SARA’s area commander west, I sat at the back of SARA 1, a fast rigid inflatable rescue boat, with a top speed of 43 to 44 mph.
We sped to the bottom of the Wye where we met volunteer Chris Taylor, a SARA cox, who had offered his boat so it could be rescued by the crews.
The crews performed two types of tow to bring the boat back to a mooring – a long tow and a tow which attaches the boat bow to bow and stern to stern.
With the second tow, the boat was eased gently back to a mooring in Chepstow.
The exercise showed how the group may help a boat that has lost power or is in trouble – and stop them from being pulled out into the estuary by the tide.
As well as the three crew members on SARA 1 a team of trainees on SARA 3, a boat purchased with the help of Free Press readers, took part in the exercise.
“Everyone does everything,” said Mr Fleming. “We don’t have some people that are boat and some people on land. It makes SARA unique.”