OK, I confess: the title was a blatant attempt to draw readership but this blog has nothing to do with the phrase’s racier overtones. Having been a longtime RNLI supporter, I have discovered that my local station has a twitter presence (@NBRNLI) as well as a Facebook page. Just recently, they set a series of picture puzzlers taken from the boat and asked locals to identify where they were.
Now, having bounced around the waters off North Berwick in various boats, I thought I would be well qualified to ace these but, out of four, got only two right and I’m still stumped where the fourth could be. All of this set me thinking. One of the joys of said bouncing around in boats is to see the place from an entirely new angle. North Berwick and its coastline are pretty enough from terra firma. But to get out on the water and see the town’s streets serried up the hill in ranks or acres of turquoise shading off a gently sloping beach like Broadsands can be rare magic. Just like a holiday elsewhere, I find being offshore throws me a whole new perspective not just on the place but, because it isn’t everyday, on myself and on life.
I also realised that several of the RNLI shots were from places that I’ve only ever been by sea kayak. No way would I take a hard boat or even a rib into the channel between the Lamb and its North Dog—and especially not with passengers aboard. Even the fishermen who could find their way anywhere along our coast blindfold at night don’t risk their boats in corners like that.
But, of necessity, our RNLI crews not only have to risk their necks in such tight places but go there often just to practice their skills—because these are exactly the kind of places where mastless yachts, engineless boats and exhausted kite surfers wind up. And the conditions change massively with wind, with tide, with sea state; they’re never the same.
In summer, the rocks on either side would be thick with guillemots and razorbills (both look like mini-penguins) and the RNLI would would normally take care not do this for fear of disturbing the nesting birds. From a picture like this, you can also appreciate why the RNLI run these small ILB (inshore lifeboat) ribs to access such difficult places. By contrast, Dunbar RNLI is equipped with a Trent-class seagoing boat John Neville Taylor which is excellent for blue water operations or heavy storms but could not access places such as shown above.
It is from such intimate knowledge—not just to ken their neukies but also how to maneuver their tough little rib in and out of such tight spaces under all conditions—that my hat is off to the all-volunteer crews that man these boats 24/365 to keep the rest of us safe.