Twenty years of service for Whitby lifeboat

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Whitby’s all-weather lifeboat sailed back into action this week - 20 years after she first arrived in port.

The George and Mary Webb was put on active service on April 10 1996 and has since completed almost 500 call outs.

The first job for the Trent class vessel, which nowadays would cost around £3 million to replace, is simply logged as “escorted craft”.

And while much of the work of The George and Mary and her crew is recovering stricken vessels the catalogue of incidents is hugely varied.

Some which spring to mind for coxswain Mike Russell and full time mechanic Richard Dowson include a plane crash in 2008 where the boat was tasked to help find the pilot and a job off Robin Hood’s Bay last summer.

A dad and his daughter were caught out by a riptide and were in the water for almost an hour by the time the alarm had been raised and the lifeboat had made its way to the scene.

Richard recalls that the crew were bracing themselves for dealing with fatalities but the duo were picked up by the crew and were suffering from the effects of the cold and made a full recovery.

He said: “Obviously it is always a good outcome when you save somebody’s life.”

Unfortunately it is not always the same result and Mike still recalls the day in 2007 when three people were drowned just outside the pier ends.

They had set sail in a pleasure cruiser, the Last Call, in horrendous weather conditions.

Realising the severity of the sea they attempted to return to the harbour, but were battered by massive waves and the boat capsized.

The crew had seen the drama unfold, alerted the coastguard and within ten minutes had recovered two bodies using the offshore lifeboat.

A woman was recovered by RAF Sea King helicopter.

On less dramatic days, the lifeboat is being kept in top condition and has to be ready for action at all times.

Two years ago Richard became the full time mechanic, taking over from the retiring Glen Goodberry.

He said: “A few people said you will get bored but it is great, I love it.

“Every day is different. The boat remains the same, but other than that, every day is different.

“We do exercise on Sunday mornings. I have a set maintenance plan drawn up by the RNLI and after each job I disappear down into the engine room and make sure everything is alright and oil is topped up.

“If we have used equipment like first aid I will replace it.

“I just know the boat, I will notice strange sounds, when something smells too warm.

“When she goes we will be sad to see the back of her.”