Rye Harbour to Saltdean, via Hastings, Eastbourne and Newhaven

Day 83  Sat 11 June:  A treat indeed. Thank you so much Patricia and Norman for booking me in to Hayden’s luxury B&B in Rye. Delightful, cheery staff, very welcome complimentary cool beer on arrival, the perfect scalp massaging power shower that reduces me to vertical slumber, i.e. the deepest state of relaxion possible without falling over. Not sure if it was the huge fish supper with a Bottle of Britain Spitfire ale and very generous portion of rhubarb crumble and custard, or the full choir of gently serenading gulls above my dormer window that ensured instant deep sleep. Hence the 24hr blog delay. By 8 a.m., plenty of room for a large breakfast of poached eggs with salmon. The feeling of complete satisfaction with such a high class treat was only slightly deflated by the realisation that not all was well with Fondo. A flat tyre. The first puncture in over 2,000 miles. The previous day’s rough cast sections of concrete roads, stoney tracks and quaint cobbled streets of Rye had taken their toll. No worries. A quick repair and off to Rye Harbour ILB Station just 2 miles down the road. Apologies (for being 20 minutes later than suggested) and thanks (for the still warm welcome and condensed history of the local Lifeboat Station) to Tony (DLA) and Richard (LOM).

The worst disaster for many years occurred on 15 November 1928 when the whole of the Rye Harbour lifeboat crew of 17 were drowned, practically the whole male fishing population of the village.  The lifeboat was launched in a south-west gale with heavy rain squalls and heavy seas to the vessel Alice.  News was received that the crew of the Alice had been rescued by another vessel and the recall signal was fired three times, but apparently the crew of the lifeboat had not seen it.  As the lifeboat was coming into harbour she was seen to capsize and the whole crew perished.

88 years later, as I cycled away from Rye Harbour on this warm early summer’s day it was impossible to comprehend the devastating effect of such a loss to this still small community. Tony and Richard forewarned me that the Hastings Allweather Lifeboat, the next to be visited, had been called out. A quick call to Peter (Hastings LOM) confirmed that this was the case and their boat was already on its way back. I arrived in time to watch the slow, careful ‘recovery’ process. The launch can take just minutes. The recovery takes a lot longer. Thanks Peter (LOM), Steve (Cox’n ) and the rest of the crew for laying on such a fascinating display of care and precision in the gentle handling of 15 tons of Mersey Lifeboat, including its wash-down and refuelling. You needn’t have gone to quite so much trouble. A quick hello over a cup of tea and a signature is all I normally expect.

Another 15 miles along the increasingly hilly, high, white-cliffed Sussex coast line to Eastbourne. As expected, all quiet at the ALB boathouse at this time on a Saturday with the Eastbourne Carnival in full flow but congratulations to Alan (ILB Helmsman) and Brandon (ILB crew) for their perfect timing on arrival at the Old boathouse. Thanks for such positive encouragement and kind concern regarding the next few hills between here and Newhaven with the first long climb up from sea level to the famously precipitous Beachey Head. What a lot of chalk everywhere at the top. There must have been thousands of school trips here over the decades. Such a safe, wide open space (especially looking South) to bring busloads of excited children and setting them loose.

Alas, the slow, punctured start to the day combined with exciting, extended visits, irresistible distractions (like the genuine American Aluminium Airstream caravan converted into a mobile café selling the “The World’s Best Chocolate Brownies”) and the long, hot climbs, all added up to being an hour or more behind schedule by the time I reached Newhaven. Again, expecting an ALB Station to remain open this late on a Saturday is unreaonable. Only 5 more miles to Saltdean. Plan B: return tomorrow to catch the entire crew  mustering for  Sunday morning exercise / crew training session.

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