This is a voyage report with a difference - not on board a passenger vessel but the Dún Laoghaire RNLB ANNA LIVIA whilst undertaking its Monday evening training exercise.
For the experience I am grateful to the Station Honorary Press Officer - Mr. Justin Merrigan and the Honorary Secretary Mr. Stephen Wynn of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution Dún Laoghaire branch.
The ANNA LIVIA is a Trent class all-weather lifeboat - operational number 14-05 built in 1994. She was placed on station on June 29, 1995. The Trent class lifeboat has a top speed of 25 knots and operational range of 250 nautical miles.
I arrived at Dún Laoghaire recently commissioned lifeboat station before 18:00. The station, does not actually house the lifeboat, this is kept afloat in the harbour close by. The building provides accommodation for a Lifeboat Gift Shop, control room and crew meeting room on the first floor level which is just above pavement level at the front. On the ground floor changing and toilet facilities are provided.
As I arrived at the station my father and I were greeted by Stephen Wynn the station honorary secretary and taken up to the crew room. Here over a cup of tea we were shown photographs of recent exercises including one involving the Irish Coastguard Service helicopter.
The training exercise usually commences around at 18:30, shortly before that time gathering clouds suggested that precipitation was imminent and true enough down came the rain.
As the lifeboat is kept afloat in the harbour crew access is by boarding boat. When I first visited the lifeboat to view the vessel in Autumn 1999 the boarding boat had been accessed via steps from just inside the former Stena Line terminal on Carlisle Pier. However, due to asbestos contamination this access is now off-limits and different boarding arrangements are needed which entail boarding via a vertical ladder.
My father has been suffering from a rheumatic ankle for some months and didn't appear particularly keen on climbing down the vertical ladder onto the boarding boat. As a result Stephen arranged for the boat to pick us up at steps on the nearby East Pier.
With the rain continuing to fall as we made our way from the Lifeboat Station to the pier, Stephen took my father and I into the old traditional granite life boat house constructed in 1862 beside the East Pier. This provides a home for the D-Class inflatable inshore lifeboat IRISH DIVER and its equipment. This small boat is launched on a trolley down the granite slipway into the harbour. It was from this slipway that the lifeboat CIVIL SERVICE #7 was launched on Christmas Eve 1895 on its way to assist the Finnish registered SS PALME. Unfortunately CIVIL SERVICE #7 capsized with the loss of her entire crew of 15. A memorial overlooking the harbour and a granite tablet on the station record the tragedy.
With the ANNA LIVIA crewed up she made her way over to the East Pier under the command of Coxswain Ken Robertson where my father, Stephen and myself boarded.
Inside, the main cabin is well laid out with a row of seats, one behind the other, on each side. On the port side is the coxswain's position and the starboard side the navigators position. At the forward end of the cabin are steps which lead down into a cabin used for accommodating survivors.
Aft is the engine room where the vessel's powerful engines are located. Above the cabin is an open bridge area from which the vessel may also be navigated.
ANNA LIVIA moved off slowly across Dún Laoghaire's fine harbour and passed between the ends of the West and East Piers. The East Pier being crowned by its attractive fort - lighthouse structure. Once clear of the harbour the engines were opened up.
I have travelled in small boats before, but these have not had such powerful engines and turns of speed. The sudden acceleration is most impressive much more so than can be experienced on a fast ferry - even the small vessels operated by Red Funnel out of Southampton.
ANNA LIVIA headed off in a generally south easterly direction following the coast, passing Sandy Cove and Bulloch Harbour, heading towards Dalkey Island. During the training exercise man-overboard procedures were practiced.
On the shout of man-overboard a siren would sound, and the vessel rapidly decelerate and swing backwards on its original course. A crewman using a boat hook to retrieve a white float which was the "casualty" . The rapid deceleration was even more impressive than the acceleration. After undertaking a number of over board routines in the vicinity of Dalkey Island we headed back to Dún Laoghaire harbour quiet close to the coast.
On the port side we passed close to Sorrento Terrace at Dalkey. This terrace of large Georgian houses overlooking the sea is noteworthy for the high prices and the occupancy of a well known film producer.
Before the lifeboat returned to base she proceeded to the St. Michael's Pier adjacent to the ramp used by Stena Lines Incat vessels before the arrival of the HSS. It is by the ramp that RNLI fuel tank is situated.
Near the ramp was the stone ship MARI which is operating in the area on harbour works at Dublin and Dún Laoghaire along with the smaller hopper barge VILLE. Both vessels being owned by the Finnish company Sillanpaa OY.
With the ANNA LIVIA topped up, she began to make her way round to the other side of the Carlisle Pier. As we moved off one of the crew spotted that a small sailing boat had gone over in the water on the west side of the harbour, the ANNA LIVIA began to head off in that direction in case any help was needed, however, another boat came to the rescue and we headed back to East Pier.
The trip on the ANNA LIVIA was certainly a most enjoyable experience. Apart from the intermittent heavy rain conditions were fine. There was a strong breeze and slight swell which only became noticeable when the lifeboat had slowed up.
However, on most occasions when a lifeboat is launched conditions are far from ideal. High winds and mountainous waves have to be faced by the gallant crews of these small boats.
Those of us who venture out to sea even on substantial passenger vessels should be ever grateful to the volunteers of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution who are ready to put to sea at a moment's notice in all conditions to render aid should it be needed.
There are many charities competing for our cash, one of the most deserving is the RNLI always remember those crew who willingly put their lives in danger to aid others. All you have to do is dip into your pockets and put some change in the collecting box to help maintain the service, you may just be giving cash, they may give their lives and many have.