Thursday, April 5, 2012

The RNLI around Mounts Bay

Okay, this will be kind of preach-y, so you're warned. We gave Sunday over to visiting coastal sites and lifeboat stations. Each figured in the story of Penlee, the lifeboat that was lost with all hands in 1981. The lifeboats are manned by all-volunteer, unpaid crew, and they go out specifically to save human lives when vessels are in distress. Which is to say, they go out in all manner of weather. The crews tend to be men who know the sea.

You may compare this kind of volunteering to that of the Can-Do in Gloucester during the Blizzard of 78. But I don't. The Can-Do didn't have to go; and while it is admirable that it did go (never to return), there are a good many people who respond to that story by thinking, 'Damn fools.' The crew at Penlee had to go, and knew they had to go. I imagine them each time they launched the boat saying to each other, "This may be it, lads."

In brief, in December 1981, they launched in horrendous seas, with hurricane-force gusts, to save a family and crew aboard the large freighter Union Star. After a number of attempts--including two during which huge waves deposited the lifeboat on the deck of the Union Star--they were able to get four people off, including the mother and children. And soon after, all contact was lost. In the days following, bodies and wreckage washed ashore.

The wreckage of the lifeboat, the Solomon Browne, washed up here, at Lamorna:

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