Mutiny on the dinghy over St Abbs lifeboat closure
Volunteers at the St Abbs lifeboat station in Berwickshire have handed back their pagers to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and vowed to use their own boats in emergencies.
Crews over the years have saved 226 lives and been awarded bravery medals for their efforts in the North Sea.
But the RNLI wants to close the 104-year-old station later this year following a review on the best use of resources.
The area, which is popular with divers, is set to be served by Eyemouth station, roughly two miles away.
But the 14 volunteers have vowed to continue by using their own fishing boats to rescue those in danger.
Angus Skene was deputy launching authority for the St Abbs station, and has been a volunteer with the RNLI for 35 years.
He said: “We came into work at 9am, and by 9:30 all of our pagers had been handed in.”
He added: “Lives will definitely be lost as a result of this closure. We are inundated with divers in the harbour over summer, and the boat from Eyemouth could take up to 15 minutes to get here if the weather is bad.
“A lot of our crew already have their own fishing boats, and we’ve promised to use them to continue to save people who come into difficulty in the harbour.
“Our boys know the area well and will be able to respond a lot quicker than the boat coming from two miles away.”
He explained that the fishing boats “would be lucky” to reach speeds of 8 knots, compared to the official lifeboat which can travel four times as fast.
“Most of the people who get into trouble are only about 100 yards or so from land,” he added.
“However, it’s a proven fact that there have been times we haven’t been able to reach them on time even in the proper boat.
“People are going to die but we will do the best we can.”
An online petition has been set up to save the lifeboat station, which has already received over 2,000 signatures.
Many have highlighted the danger of a delayed response to call-ins.
Alastair Innes, vice-chair of Kelso Sub Aqua Club, said: “The Eyemouth lifeboat might just be ten minutes away, but that’s a long time if someone is in danger of drowning or a diver is missing. Response time is vital.”
David Fuller-Shapcott, of the Borders Water Rescue Team, said: “The St Abbs area draws a huge number of people, not just divers, but many tourists as well and the closure of this station will be a big blow from the safety cover point of view.”
Over the years, crew members have been awarded five silver and one bronze medal for gallantry.
The most recent medal service was in 2011, when helmsman Darren Crowe was awarded the bronze medal after he swam into a cave and saved an angler who had fallen from rocks.
George Rawlinson, RNLI operations director, said: “The RNLI does not take lightly any decision to close a lifeboat station and we understand that this will be disappointing for our crew, supporters and the community.
““On behalf of everyone at the RNLI I would like to thank the volunteers for their dedication and commitment to saving lives at sea.”