On Saturday 24th October, I made my way to Cromer for the third time.
On this occasion, there was not a vintage camera in sight, no apron nor whiff of collodion. After two visits earlier in the year — one in January and the other in March — the time had come to fulfil a very special invitation from the station.
The next morning, I’d be heading down the slipway on exercise with the crew in their Tamar Class All-weather Lifeboat, RNLB Lester (16-07).
My fingers were firmly crossed as the exercise would be weather-dependent, not for the launch but for the recovery…
On the Sunday morning, I woke up like a kid at Christmas and went for an early morning walk along the pier. It looked to me as though the weather couldn’t be more perfect.
Thankfully, I was right. Before too long, I was stepping onto the deck of RNLB Lester fully kitted with the rest of the crew. Ady Barker, 2nd Coxswain, would be in charge of the day’s exercise and he directed me to a prime position — the helm’s seat.
With a low tide (meaning a longer run into the sea) the stage couldn’t have been set more perfectly. I realised my heart was beating with excitement as it dawned on me that this 32 ton vessel was about to career down the slipway, a structure that seemed like such a long way below.
“Tip us up, please” came Ady’s request to the shore crew. Lester slowly tipped forward on the cradle, ready to be released. I lurched forward in the seat and, at this point, felt a sudden affinity with Gordon Tracy, Aquanaut on Thunderbird 4.
“Starting engines” Ady announced on firing up the two Caterpillar C18s, which roared gloriously into life.
“All holding on?”
The klaxon sounded as we flew down the slipway, crashing into the open embrace of the North Sea.
In short, awesome and a memory that will live long in the ol’ brain box, that’s for sure.
The purpose of my visit was two-fold — we’d also arranged to present the Project’s gift to the station, print No.1 from the Limited Editons of these four photographs:
UNIQUE, SPECIAL CHRISTMAS GIFTS: 50 LIMITED EDITION PRINTS
Place your Christmas print orders now to guarantee availability and delivery!
Limited edition prints from each of the plates on this page are available to buy here:
THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO!
I couldn’t resist…
ONE MORE THING…
There was another wonderful element to this visit courtesy of my friend Duncan Davis. You can read it on my Instagram feed by clicking the image below:
As ever, I’d like to thank the entire crew and staff at Cromer Lifeboat Station for being so generous, accommodating and for making me feel at home.
Special thanks on this occasion to Ady Barker, Paul Russell, Audrey Smith and Richard Leeds. Rose Syer must receive a mention too for providing my first slice of birthday cake (as I saw it, anyway).
Thank you also for the wonderful birthday card that came winging its way to me — what a memento.
As ever, my thanks to Duncan not only for patiently tagging along but for recording the occasion and ringing the Cromer Church Lifeboat Bell.
As I’ve said before…Cromer, I’ll be back!