A piece written recently for Carmarthenshire Life.
There has been a lifeboat stationed in Ferryside for 175 years, and it is believed to be one of the oldest stations in Wales and the UK, the R.N.L.I having been formed 11 years previously. They provided the first of a succession of boats from 1835 until 1960 when the demise of commercial shipping in the Towy negated the need for a lifeboat in Ferryside.
However what had not been considered was the increase in boating leisure activity, so by the mid 1960s a beach patrol had expanded to having a small inflatable rescue boat. This was upgraded over the years up to the current boat a 5.8 meter Rib, which is due for replacement this year having come to the end of its ten year life. They continue today as one of the fifty or so lifeboats in the U.K. independent of the R.N.L.I. but operating in the same role as a ‘declared facility’ within HM Coastguard search and rescue organisation, responding to 999 calls and distress calls on VHF CH16.
The huge tidal range of the Bristol channel (the second largest in the world) make these waters very hostile, consequently the boat responds to some 20 – 30 shouts per year. The boat is available 24/7 365 days a year, staffed entirely by local volunteers who along side crewing have to spend many hours fund raising, much of which is reliant on the generosity of the people of Ferryside and the surrounding towns and villages. Unfortunately for them Carmarthenshire unlike many counties does not assist their local lifeboat with grants from its leisure and tourism budget, and nor do they enjoy the luxury of a vast army of fund raisers inland, as the whole operation is run on a shoestring budget, it means however that their administrative costs are so small as to be insignificant. It is their proud boast ‘that if a pound is given, that pound goes to the boat’.
Coming as they do under the umbrella of St Johns Ambulance (the only St Johns lifeboat in the world) it means they get some help in the form of insurance, grants, first aid training etc, but as St Johns have a policy of each division self funding it would be unfair of them to expect preferential treatment.
So when you see the lads from the crew trying to flog raffle tickets, or throwing themselves into the Towy on a freezing New Years day, spare a thought for the essential service they provide on a ripple of charity.