Fowey to Falmouth

Day 95  Mon 4 July:  Still flat calm deep black River Fowey. No movement from the floating bulk of a tall, orange Trent Class Lifeboat at its mooring. A very quiet Monday morning. The Lifeboat Station door is slightly ajar, to the left is a dangling rope. An encouraging voice from behind. That’s the one. Ring the bell and go on up. Carl’s up there.  One sharp tug and the peace is shattered. The sound of an old ship’s bell echoes up the stairs and across the river. Up yer! At least half the crew are up there. A hearty welcome from a mix of locals and not-so-locals,  Thanks Carl (Station Mechanic), Chris (LOM), crew members Malcolm, Jamie, Jan Junior and Jan Snr.(ret’d) for the tea & banter. Interesting but not entirely encouraging to hear views on the current state of the nation from a Cornish perspective. Safer to concentrate more on Lifeboat business and the usual rude but good-humoured messages to & from flanking Stations and the questioning of my own sanity. One of the crew once tried to go for a bike ride west out of Fowey but couldn’t get up the hill. So he took it over on the ferry to go east. Couldn’t get up that hill either. Better by boat. Want a lift ’round to Falmouth? Be there in under an hour. I was tempted, but politely declined.

1904  New lifeboat house constructed at a cost of £850.

1905  Arrangements made to provide horses for exercise for 6/- (six shillings) per horse, day service 10/- per horse, and night service 15/- per horse, drivers included.

2004  New pontoon berth completed at a cost of £63,247.

2008  The trustees of the RNLI voted on 5 November to award Fowey Lifeboat Station an Anniversary Vellum to mark 150 years of service in 2009. 

MEDAL RECORD  Twelve medals have been awarded, one Gold, 10 Silver and one Bronze, the last being voted in 1947

From Fowey via St Austel, continuing south-westerly via many pretty Tre-thises & Pol-thats. Found the Lost Gardens of Heligan in a woody dip just after a big climb along NCR3. Wasn’t difficult. Big brown signs everywhere. Along to the end of the Roseland Peninsula at St Mawes, where the Passenger Ferry from Falmouth was rounding the harbour wall. Just enough time to grab a pasty. At such a low tide, it was a long, slow climb down the slippery granite steps, wearing cycle shoes with metal cleats, carrying Fondo onto the ferry. Thanks to the young chap who kindly carried the panniers, my load was greatly lightened. The ride across the mouth of the Fal, between the imposing Castles of Pendennis and St Mawes reminded me of the last time I was here, six years earlier, with Claire, Sil (aka Jane, sister-in-law) and Mil (aka Linda, mother-in-law). That must have been one of the noisiest holidays ever. The relentless chattering and squawking, day and night. No, that’s not a Les Dawson type comment on my in-laws. I’m talking about the gulls nesting on the roof of our rented Falmouth harbourside holiday home. I’m used to noisy gulls in Bristol and Lowestoft but the Falmouth gulls take the biscuit. Regularly. Fond memories of Mil as I disembark once more at the ferry pier, right next to our old holiday base. She, after all was the incentive to do the original short (400 mile) RNLI fundraising cycling event in 2014.

Falmouth’s new Lifeboat Station is tucked away beyond the National Maritime Museum and behind the Port Pendennis residential development. Thanks Johnny (Station Mechanic) for the cheery welcome and words of encouragement. Currently running a Severn class ALB and a B class ILB, this is another Lifeboat Station with a long, fascinating history and proud record of service. Just a few snippets for now:

1916  Silver Medals awarded to Lt E Badger RE and Lt R Stephens RNR for the rescue in a 12ft dinghy of one man on 3 November 1916 in a whole south-south westerly gale and a very heavy sea from the HM Transport Ponus.  The lifeboat had launched to the vessel three times and rescued 19 men but the second mate was left aboard, before the lifeboat could reach the vessel again he jumped overboard as the vessel was on fire.  It was impossible to get him into the dinghy so he was tied to the stern and rowed ashore.  Very great risk was run in effecting the rescue.

1918  Owing to developments the Council terminated the Institution’s tenancy of the lifeboat house which had to be removed.  Lifeboat was placed afloat.

1940  Silver Medal to Coxswain J C Snell and Bronze Medal to Motor Mechanic C H Williams for the rescue of the crew of 35 from the steamer Kirkpool on 19 January 1940.  A gale was blowing from the south east and a heavy sea was running.  Two tugs were at anchor near the vessel but were unable to get near her and were riding heavily to the gale with seas breaking over them.  The Kirkpool herself was dragging rapidly towards the shore.  She struck the beach and lay there broadside on to the breaking seas.  Her boilers lifted as she struck and the engine room was filled with steam.  The lifeboat was handled by the Coxswain with great skill and daring.

1941  One of the Institution’s travelling mechanics, Thomas Pratt while on duty at Falmouth was killed in an air raid on 13 May 1941.

WAR RECORD -1939-1945    Launches – 25    Lives saved – 11

1993/94  New boathouse constructed at Port Pendennis to accommodate the station’s Atlantic 21 class lifeboat.  It also includes a workshop, store, fuel store, souvenir sales outlet and improved crew facilities.  The building is jointly occupied by the RNLI and HM Coastguard but the two halves of the building are totally independent.

 MEDAL RECORD   Eleven medals have been awarded, two gold, five silver and four bronze, the last being voted in 2006.

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