12m Mersey Class Boat Kingdom of Fife
Anstruther ILB D500
Launch & Recovery
Anstruther boathouse and slipway are situated within the harbour area (see picture on Station Page) which itself dries out at low tide, i.e. twice per day. Launching, therefore, cannot be a big slipway splash! Since this station opened in 1865, it has always been the case that lifeboats are launched from, recovered to and housed on, a carriage (of one type or another). Anstruther presently has the only carriage launched all weather lifeboat in Scotland.
Nevertheless, at low water with a SE'ly gale driving a heavy breaking swell across the harbour entrance, releasing boat from carriage (which requires four crew on deck to free the stopper chains) is an operation calling on experience and fine judgement.
Lanuching the Mersey Class Allweather and
D Class Inshore Lifeboats
The TALUS launching / recovery tractor (illustrated below) weighs 18 tonnes and is powered by a 210 h.p. Caterpillar V8 non turbo charged diesel engine. Its cab and engine compartment are totally enclosed and water tight when the doors and ventilation hatches are shut.( See Photo Gallery)
The Carriage (specifically designed for the purpose by M.A. Bigland Ltd., in conjunction with the Institution's technical staff) is defined in TWO parts:
FIRSTLY, the main axle twin tracked backbone section surmounted by the keelway and bilge support frame (carrying the lifeboat - the "tipping" element referred to below).
SECONDLY, connected to the backbone, the tyre mounted single axle steering section with tow frame - which connects to the tractor.
Initially, the lifeboat is secured to the carriage by two preventer chains (one forward, one aft, rove through ruffle holes in the keel) and four stopper chains (two port, two starboard, held on release hooks on the boat deck). During launch, the tipping element is locked, horizontally, to the backbone. This whole assembly conveys the boat to a suitable launch position. The launch position may be anywhere between slipway and harbour entrance, as dictated by tide, harbour bottom and weather conditions.
Launching is NOT Tide Dependent
Launching - on Carriage ..... radio, DF, Decca and radar antennas are erected on leaving the confines of the shed. Initially, the tractor drives the carriage and boat forward to the waters edge where bow and stern preventer chains are removed. Two launching falls are connected. The tractor cab and engine casing are made water tight. Boat twin engines are started once the launching team are clear. All is now ready to go.....
.....with a push to the launching position where, on command of the coxswain, the carriage is released from the tractor. On a second command, the four stopper chains are let go, and, having released the carriage, the tractor retreats shoreward as fast as possible. This latter move hauls the lifeboat out along the top of the carriage by means of two launching falls, rove from the boats hull, fed to sheaves at the seaward end of the carriage, fed back to sheaves on the tractor and then hooked to the shore end of the carriage. The falls automatically release from the lifeboat as it clears seaward. Once clear of the carriage, propellers are engaged and the coxswain drives the boat ahead.
Ready to Proceed to Sea..... here, the carriage is at the launch position, submerged in a suitable depth of water. The four stopper chain release hooks are manned, ready to let go on command from the coxswain (after the tractor has released the carriage).
VHF radio communication assists between lifeboat, tractor and launching team. The coxswain also uses a whistle for specific commands.
From the pager alert, the whole launch operation may take from 5 to 15 minutes depending on tide conditions, etc. For those in need, minutes (and team training) count.
Slipway Recovery/Rehousing IS Tide Dependent
Recovery to slipway... once there is sufficient water at the slipway, recovery can take place. The tricky manoeuvre is driving the boat astern to place the keel in the slipway centre channel. When this is achieved, a bridle is attached to the stern bollards and to the tractor winch wire, laid over the carriage keelway. The boat is now hauled clear of the water. At this point the bridle is replaced by a hauling chain rove through a ruffle hole in the boat's keel.
Recovery to Carriage..... the boat is now winched gently towards and on to the carriage, positioned tipped, at the slipway head. Shortly before the balance point is reached the stern preventer chain is rigged. A further easy pull allows the tipping element to level, and a snap action locking mechanism to engage. All remaining chains will now be reconnected and adjusted tight as necessary. The boat is washed and the antennas and screen folded down before entry to the boathouse, where refuelling will take place.
Horses provided the pushing/pulling power in the early days, sometimes taking the boat to launch from a remote beach. Before "Tipping's Plates" (wide plates around the wheel rims) were fitted, there were often difficulties with carriage wheels sticking in the harbour mud or sand, and even on rutted roads if a longer journey to a launch site was necessary! (In pulling and sailing times such a journey, in severe weather conditions, would have proven more speedy and certainly less exhausting for the crew).
The TALUS tractor and the carriage were part of the overall package (together with shed and slipway alterations) agreed by the RNLI prior to the Mersey class lifeboat Kingdom of Fife taking up station in 1991
D Class Inshore Lifeboat
D Class Lifeboat is carried on a trolley and launched by a New Holland superstear
The lifeboat is currently hosed in a container on the harbour while awiting the extension to the station.
tractor has great manouverability and is suitable for launching off the slip
The crew enter the boat from the water, not from the carrage.
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