Launch & Recovery

The crew of the Sidmouth Lifeboat are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The crew are alerted via pager by HM Coastguard, when a Lifeboat launch is required.

After being paged the crew proceed to the Lifeboat Station where they don their Personal Protective Equipment, consisting of thermal undersuit (If required), drysuit, lifejacket, safety helmet and gloves.

A crew member contacts Portland Coastguard via telephone and receives the incident details. These are recorded on a waterproof slate next to the telephone and taken onboard the Lifeboat.

The Coxswain, Crew & Tractor Driver prepare the Lifeboat for launch. The Lifeboat is then taken along the Esplanade, to Clifton Walkway and down onto Clifton Beach for launching.

The Lifeboat is reversed into the water and when deep enough for the Lifeboat to float in the trailer, it drives out and proceeds to the incident.

The engines of the Lifeboat are water cooled. They are started prior to water entry, with cooling water being supplied from a water reservoir located in the tractor ‘ Dozer Blade’. When the Lifeboat leaves the trailer, the cooling water hoses are automatically disconnected.

The tyres of the tractor are filled with water. This reduces buoyancy when the tractor is in the water and provides better traction for the tractor when it is on the beach.

The trailer can be lifted hydraulically, to enable the Lifeboat to pass over ridges in the beach without damaging it. It also allows the Lifeboat lifted onto the turntable so that the Lifeboat can be rotated ready for it’s next launch.

The ‘Dozer Blade’ can be used to grade the beach, making launch & recovery easier.

Once the Lifeboat has been launched, the tractor & trailer are recovered to the beach, where they are rigged for recovery of the Lifeboat.

Two stanchions are raised on the sides of the trailer and a net is fitted between them. The tractor & trailer are then reversed into the water. The tractor driver signals the Lifeboat that he is ready for recovery by switching off the flashing lights on the tractor. The Lifeboat then drives into the trailer and is ‘caught’ by the net.

This is a very quick and safe method of recovering the Lifeboat and saves invaluable time when casualties are embarked.

Once in the net, the trailer is raised using the hydraulics and the Lifeboat is lifted from the water and recovered up the beach.


To prepare the Lifeboat for service, it is necessary to remove it from the trailer and turn it around. This is done by using a small turntable. With the trailer in the raised position, the Lifeboat is reversed over the turn table and once in position, the Lifeboat is lowered onto the turn table.

The tractor then pulls forward and the Lifeboat is rotated by hand. The tractor then reverses back and the trailer is then raised, lifting the Lifeboat off of the turn table. The Lifeboat is then re-fuelled, washed down with fresh water and any expended equipment replaced. The Lifeboat is then “Ready For Service” and Portland Coastguard are informed.

The Lifeboat is then reversed into the Lifeboat Station and connected to battery chargers, ready for the next launch.