There are changes afoot in the RNLI network. A dynamic programme of modernising boats and boathouses all around our coastline.
It’s exciting to see as I travel from station-to-station, including regular visits to the headquarters in Poole.
The mighty Severn Class now has a 50 year working life thanks to meticulous refits. Atlantic 75 inshore lifeboats are swiftly being replaced by their larger, more powerful counterpart, the Atlantic 85.
The Shannon Class is the newest addition, representing the cutting edge of All Weather Lifeboat technology. The introduction of these highly capable craft is perhaps the most obvious sign of the RNLI’s advancement.
Have a read of this post I wrote back in September to see how a Shannon sits within a coastal town.
Simply put, it’s impressive.
WILL YOU MAKE IT TO SELSEY IN TIME?
As the Project gained momentum last year, I received an increasing number of messages asking if I’d be visiting Selsey.
Why? Because the RNLI’s modernisation programme has hit this southern seaside town. The inshore lifeboat station and museum have recently been demolished. The offshore lifeboat station is next, a structure that’s much-loved by locals and RNLI fans alike.
I was flattered that followers of the Project felt it would be fitting for me to photograph the 1950s station before its replacement.
A photograph of this special lifeboat station would surely look spectacular and timeless on glass with the Victorian process that I’m using.
Selsey has a very distinctive setup, you see — a boathouse at the end of a long gangway with a 47 foot Tyne Class sitting at the top of the slipway.
It’s a classic scenario, the kind that sparks the imagination. There are few things more exciting (to me) than a 26 tonne boat careering down a slipway, making a big splash on entry into the sea.
It’s like real-life Thunderbirds and almost hard to believe that it’s allowed!
So, it’s quite easy to understand why the locals will find it hard seeing their beloved lifeboat station being dismantled.
With that in mind, I’m pleased to report that I was able to incorporate Selsey into Mission No.7. You can see the photographs below and they are now available to buy as prints on the West Sussex page.
LAST PLATE OF THE DAY
There’s a tradition emerging on the Project, that the last plate of the day tends to be special. This certainly held true for the view of the gangway and boathouse from the beach.
As the light dwindled, I had to judge the exposure, observing how the light shifted over the scene.
Exposure meters are of little use with Wet Plate Collodion in these situations, so I rely heavily on listening to my heart.
I listened carefully and placed the cap back on the lens after 2m45s. Perfection. A glorious glass plate of this iconic structure.
Throughout the day, I also photographed Coxswain Martin Rudwick and his crew. Of course, as the heavens opened, I made a plate of the view from the top of the slipway too — the artefacts of the process becoming more evident, telling the story of the long walk along the gangway between camera and darkroom.
All-in-all, a set of four images with which I’m very proud, wonderful new pieces in this giant coastal jigsaw.
50 LIMITED EDITION PRINTS
50 limited edition prints from each of the Selsey plates are now available to buy.
Remember, the prints are all made by me and limited to just 50. A unique record of this historical piece of RNLI history.
A NEW ERA
The old offshore boathouse is going. However, I’m sure the residents and crew of Selsey are excited to see the arrival of their brand new Shannon Class, a new era of lifesaving at sea.
Expect scenes at Selsey similar to this when Dungeness took delivery of their new boat!
WANT TO HELP?
As the Project enters its second year, your support is as vital as ever to help it succeed.
Although the RNLI are supporting me logistically, I’m currently raising the funding under my own steam — in essence, my own form of crowdfunding.
I’d like to thank the crew and staff at Selsey Lifeboat Station for hosting the Project with such generosity and warmth, with special thanks to Martin the Coxswain and Phil the Mechanic.
My deepest gratitude also lies with my old pal, Hen, for volunteering his help on this first leg of Mission No.7.