The Bembridge Crew
Since the founding of Bembridge Lifeboat, over 900 lives have been saved by generations of volunteer lifeboat crews. The station and successive crews have been awarded by the RNLI two Silver Medals, one Bronze Medal, one ‘Testimonial of Thanks, on Vellum’ and seven ‘Letters of Thanks’.
The current lifeboat crew is headed by the coxswain, Steve Simmonds, helped by two permanent members of staff and approximately 23 local volunteers from a variety of professions, ranging from builders and electricians to a policeman and a property developer. For some of the men, being on the crew is a family tradition that has been passed from father to son since the 1860s.
In addition to the crew there are ten volunteer shorehelpers who launch and recover the lifeboats whenever they go out on a shout or the weekly training exercise.
If you ask any of these volunteers why they give up their spare time to man the lifeboat, dropping everything at a moments notice - whatever the time of day or night - they will all say the same: they just want to give something back to their community.
A recent example of a sea rescue by the Bembridge lifeboat crew took place in the early hours of the 10th March 2008. The 11,000 tonne Swedish tanker Astral, got into difficulties near the Isle of Wight after Force 11 gale force winds dragged her from her anchorage. The tanker, carrying 9,000 tonnes of fuel oil to the Fawley refinery near Southampton, ended up drifting towards the Bembridge shore where she finally ran aground on a shoal and suffered severe damage to her steering.
On reaching the helpless tanker, the Max Aitken III and her crew stood by while towing lines were attached to Astral and tugs towed the ship to Fawley - a long and slow process in such severe weather conditions.