For many years, following the custom in many seaside towns, Weston-super-Mare RNLI Lifeboat volunteers have towed a lifeboat along the sea front promenade to raise funds for the charity’s work of saving lives at sea. This year the Lifeboat Pull will take place at midday on the Bank Holiday Monday 5th May along Weston-super-Mare promenade.
It is a constant battle to raise the funds needed to keep the lifeboats, their volunteer crews and their lifeboat stations working. Last year the Lifeboat Pull raised £1,141.78 from generous tourists and townsfolk who recognise the value of the local lifeboat services.
Pulling a Lifeboat through the town has been happening as long as there have been lifeboats. It shows the public what a lifeboat looks like and gives them the opportunity to throw coins into the boat as a means of showing their support for the volunteers who give their time for the sake of others. It is also a reflection of some of the impressive feats of RNLI volunteers over the years.
During the RNLI’s long history there have been several notable incidents where a lifeboat has been pulled. In 1899, the Louisa, the Lynmouth Lifeboat, was pulled through the streets and then over Exmoor to rescue the Forrest Hall, a 1,900 ton ship with a crew of 13 men and 5 apprentices, on its way from Bristol to Liverpool. The storm force winds prevented any launch at Lynmouth itself. This meant using whatever horses and men could be obtained to haul the boat and its carriage (which together weighed about 10 tons) the distance of 13 miles, including climbing up the 1 in 4½ Countisbury Hill, reaching a height of 1,423 feet above sea level, and later taking it down the 1 in 4 Porlock Hill. The lifeboat was pulled over the moors, launched at Porlock Harbour, and all the crew of the vessel in distress were saved.
These days the Pull is done in less strenuous circumstances. On Bank Holiday Monday 5th May a “D” Class inshore lifeboat (the type which carries out 60% of all RNLI rescues) will be pulled by volunteers along the promenade.
The Pull will start at the RNLI Shop and Heritage Centre at Anchor Head at midday. The boat will be pulled as far as the Tropicana then back to Anchor Head,
Following the Lynmouth Pull in 1899 four of the horses died from their exertions. Let’s hope the volunteers pulling the Weston lifeboat fare better!
At Anchor Head the Lifeboat Shop will be open displaying the History of Weston-super-Mare lifeboats and selling souvenirs until 4 pm. Before and after the Pull the lifeboat will be available for inspection.