Yarmouth Drama

Courtesy of Yarmouth RNLI

Scroll this

As a boy, the Yarmouth lifeboat was one of my absolute favourites in the RNLI fleet.

She was RNLB Joy and John Wade (52-08), an Arun Class all-weather lifeboat, the predecessor to the modern day Severn Class.

I was captivated every Christmas when I saw the crew on the local news transferring a tree and supplies to The Needles lighthouse keepers by breeches buoy.

It was amazing to see a Christmas tree being hauled over the rolling waves from a lifeboat to a lighthouse. It really sparked my imagination — one of the annual events that would cement my early passion for the RNLI.

During my research, I was chuffed to have stumbled across some footage from 1993. That alone was worthy of the internet’s invention. But now it’s sadly ‘unavailable’, so here’s a photograph in its place of RNLB Joy & John Wade, the lifeboat that I adored as a child:

Yarmouth Lifeboat RNLB Joy and John Wade
Yarmouth Arun Class Lifeboat, RNLB Joy & John Wade, Courtesy of Ship Photos

Those times are now long gone but I enjoyed the email conversation with Coxswain Howard Lester as we planned the visit. I told him about those memories and how I even went as far as starting a scratch model of 52-08 with my Dad using plans obtained from RNLI HQ.

We never finished the model and I never got to see RNLB Joy and John Wade in the flesh. However, as an adult, those childhood memories still drew me to the station.

On Saturday 23rd January 2016, we arrived at Yarmouth lifeboat station following a fantastic time at Cowes over the previous couple of days.

Many people who follow the Project have wondered when the photography would be interrupted by a shout for the first time. At Yarmouth, that’s exactly what happened.

Just as I was briefing the crew, their pagers sounded in unison.

There wasn’t a moment to lose — out in the Solent, two teenage sailors were unable to right their capsized dinghy. They’d already been in the water for a long time.

Thankfully, the crew saved some seven minutes on their usual launch time by being fully kitted up right beside the boat for their photograph.

Before we knew it, the engines of the mighty Severn class lifeboat were fired up and she was hard astern, slipping away from her mooring.

The rescue was a joint effort, the Yarmouth crew working alongside Lymington RNLI to save the two boys.

You may remember I’d visited the Lymington crew at their station on the mainland just a few days beforehand — see the BBC South Today footage of our day together.

Not knowing the context, I think Lymington were rather surprised that Yarmouth had mobilised so quickly!

Whilst the crew were at sea, we made a portrait of Vicky Tribe, the station’s first ever female crew member. She loves being on the crew and her portrait has become a wonderful addition to the Galleries.

The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
Vicky Tribe, Yarmouth RNLI volunteer crew member — click to view in the Galleries…
The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
How wonderful to have the approval of Vicky’s parents!

About an hour later, the crew returned with the young boys saved. They’d been transferred safely to Southampton General Hospital for further treatment and observation.

Howard kindly agreed to spin the lifeboat around as I felt it would look better in the photograph. Of course, it was also a good excuse to see his deft handling of the 17 metre, 42 tonne vessel — the largest in the RNLI fleet.

With the lifeboat safely tied up, the crew stepped back onto the quay, happy enough to pick up where we’d left off when the emergency call came.

Thanks to their kindness and patience, the Project now has two more prized plates — a photograph of a lifeboat crew and a Coxswain’s portrait fresh from a rescue:

The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
Howard Lester, Yarmouth RNLI Coxswain — click to browse Isle of Wight prints…
The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
Yarmouth RNLI Crew — click to browse Isle of Wight prints…

All in a day’s work and a wonderful piece in this huge jigsaw. To add an extra dimension to the story, I’ve put together this short video of the events as they unfolded:

By the way, the recording you can hear at the beginning and end? I made that once we’d packed up.

It’s the sound of the menacing wind whistling in Yarmouth Harbour, the halyards slapping against the masts of boats moored on the pontoons…


50 Limited Edition Prints from each of the Isle of Wight 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.



UPDATE (26TH FEBRUARY): Look what arrived in today’s post…

I stumbled across this whilst hunting for the vintage news clip and simply couldn’t resist adding it to my collection of memorabilia:

The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
Yarmouth RNLI Memorabilia: RNLB Joy and John Wade, First Day Cover, 25th July 1977


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 Yarmouth RNLI, with special thanks to Howard Lester and Richard Hemming.

My thanks also to Jonny Kemp who kindly helped on the Isle of Wight and made sure I recorded those halyards! Thank you, Jonny!

The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
Courtesy of Yarmouth RNLI — click to read their press release…


  1. Every time I see a Lifeboat, I get goosebumps! It may seem odd but, watching your video, I silently thanked each and every one of those brave people. I have never needed a rescue, and I hope I never do, but it’s so encouraging to know that there are many awesome people willing to put their lives on the line, every day all around our shoreline. And thank you, Jack, for bringing this project to life so beautifully. The sea can be so dangerous, but it has an exhilaration about it like nothing else on Earth. You’ve captured that perfectly! Beautiful photos as always. Well done.

  2. Do you know when you are doing the station at ramsgate harbour.

    • I don’t think it’ll be for a while yet, Carol. Looking forward to it though as I lived on a boat in a harbour there when I was a toddler. Remember to follow the Project on the usual social media channels (if you don’t already) and check the Mission Map for the latest information. Thank you of your interest, Jack.

      • Hi Jack, I am currently working on a large scale scratch RC build of the 52-08. I’d love to share with you the build. Do you know the current status of 52-08? I would really like to get some photos on the flybridge and internals.

        • Hello David, Sounds amazing! As a young boy, I started building a scratch model of the very same vessel with my Dad. We never did complete it but we did get to float the hull, which was a very exciting moment. We even got a copy of the original drawings from Poole but they have sadly been long lost. I believe 52-08 is now called ‘Proteus’ and is operating with Tender & Marine Service in Scheveningen, Holland. Best of luck and keep me updated! Jack

Share your thoughts: