Day 86 Tues 14 June: Sorry Bill, we never did meet up. I cycled all the way to the end of Selsey Promenade looking for you. Apparently you were there all the time. Oh well, plenty of excitement back up the prom. It’s all happening at Selsey A&ILB Station. Sad news first? The days of walking the planks along the old pier to the boathouse, where one of the few remaining Tyne class All-weather Lifeboats still serves, are numbered. The good news is – they’ve started building the new boathouse at the shore end of the pier, in readiness for a new Shannon. The plans look fantastic. A combined A&ILB Station with modern crew facilities, RNLI shop and Sea Safety Information Centre. Thanks Martin and Phil (Cox’n & Mech) for the full tour of the old and (incomplete) new facilities. The signature arched glue-lam beams, common to most of the big 21st Century boat houses, are already up, but there’s still plenty to do if the November 2016 completion is to be met. The Lifeboat here is historically rooted at the heart of the very supportive local community. Not all Lifeboat Stations are quite so fortunate. Some of the equally essential, strategically placed lifeboats visited over the last 85 days are much more isolated, receiving a much lighter ‘foot-fall’ than the likes of Blackpool, Skegness or Tenby and rely much more heavily upon the central RNLI fund, which is still sourced entirely from voluntary contributions. That’s why I’m still pedalling, even when it seems that some Lifeboat Stations are relatively well off.
A series of straight line, low flying cormorant distances between today’s first three Lifeboat Stations is just 12.2 miles (Selsey to Hayling Island, 8; Hayling Island to Portsmouth, 4.2).
The actual distance via the most direct, safe roads & cycle paths using the well-established, reliable Hayling Island<->Porstmouth passenger/cycle ferry service (still recommended by Google, Garmin and O.S.) is around 30 miles, making the original plan to cycle another 34 to a fourth station at Calshot an achievable 64 target today, despite the continuing strong westerly wind. Alas, according to up-to-date local knowledge, the H.I.<->Pompey ferry is no more. That now makes it 54 just to Portsmouth ILB, at the far eastern tip of Portsea Island. That, plus a couple of miles to find a bed for the night in the Southsea area, sounds enough for today.
What a heart-warming, stomach-filling welcome at Hayling Island ILB Station! The fish & chip lunch was more than enough to stop me grumbling about the demise of a ferry service. Never moan with your mouth full. Especially when someone else is paying. Thank you so much Peter (DLA/duty LOM), Sharon (crew) and Trevor (Paramedic/ex crew/Station comic) for the great welcome, generous treat and sound advice on the route back off the island via Chichester on The Billy Trail, all the way to Portsmouth ILB Station.
Another kind welcome, energy boosting cold drink and useful accommodation contacts, thanks to Jackie (Porstmouth LOM). This busy ILB Station covers much of the eastern half of The Solent and all of the large Langstone Harbour area. For a flavour of a typical local incident, click HERE for a hot-off-the-press report of a response to a call for assistance from this Lifeboat soon after my visit. Not the most dramatic, but certainly a typical and frequent task.