The inshore rescue service which operates around Guernsey’s coastline and the smaller adjacent islands of the Bailiwick is provided by St John.
Two inshore boats, on call 24 hours a day, are housed at St John Headquarters on the outskirts of Guernsey’s main town of St Peter Port, ready to be despatched overland to the launching slipway’s nearest to any reported incident. St John also maintains a small inflatable boat for despatch to inland flooded areas or water-filled quarries.
St John inshore rescue boats are called to rescue people trapped by rising tide, to small boats and other craft, or to evacuate injured casualties from the base of cliffs. Sometimes this involves operating in hazardous conditions amongst dangerous rocks in the hours of darkness with the St John Cliff Rescue team.
Inshore Rescue Boat Technical Details
Length: 4.95m 16′ 3″
Beam: 2.00m 6′ 7″
Draught: (at rest) 0.53m 21″
Weight (excl.crew): 338 kg 745 lbs
Fuel tanks (x2): 27.5 lts 6 gallons
Endurance (full speed): 3 hours
Maximum speed: 20 knots
Number of crew: 3
The St John inshore rescue boats have a volunteer crew of three; a Helmsman and two crew. Some of the crew are Emergency Medical Technicians or Paramedics, who have undergone additional training in boat handling, marine navigation and water rescue techniques. Other volunteers are selected from Guernsey’s local boating community.
The crew wear dry suits and helmets, with divers knife, strobe light and life jackets for their own protection; the helmets have built-in intercom and radio headsets to enable communication between the members and with ships or shore stations.
The boats are ‘D’ Class EA-16 lifeboats, manufactured by Avon Inflatable’s and powers by a single 40hp 4 stroke outboard engine giving a maximum speed of about 20 knots.
They are built to the same standard as those used by Britain’s Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
Their small size enables them to be towed through the Island’s narrow road system to a launch site near an incident, and their pliant structure makes them suitable for work amongst the rocks at the base of Guernsey’s cliffs or in shallow water.
Both boats are fitted with a marine VHF radio, emergency ambulance communications, and GPS satellite navigation equipment. Handheld spotlights and illuminating flares are carried on board for night searches.
They carry a medical kit and can accommodate a floating basket stretcher or a special stretcher which can be heated in water and rolled out to form a rigid splint for hypothermic injured casualties.
Other equipment includes charts, pyrotechnics (flares), heaving line, compass, navigation lights, a sea anchor (drogue) anchor and chain, bilge pump and a toolkit for the engine.
As with other St John rescue services, such as the cliff rescue team and marine ambulance, the inshore rescue boats are funded entirely by donations and rely on public generosity to continue operating.
St John in the Bailiwick of Guernsey pioneered the use of inflatable boats for inshore rescue work before Britain’s Royal national Lifeboat Institution adopted the craft.
Inflatable dinghies launched from rigid boats were used in the late 1940’s and 50’s, paddled by hand. During the 1950’s St John assisted the designers with research into the requirements of craft for inshore rescue work, and in 1961 introduced Guernsey’s first powered inflatable inshore rescue boat.
Experiments with rigid keels and wider boats have been conducted, and for a time the Service maintained a 17-feet Beachcraft with a double-skinned fibreglass hull at a mooring in the main Island Port, St. Peter Port harbour. This was powered by twin 40hp outboard motors giving a speed of 30 knots. In 1992 the Service also purchased an all-aluminium craft, as used in some parts of New Zealand, and conducted extensive trials in its use in local waters.
Over 50 years experience has resulted in St John having a preference for inflatable boats which can be nosed against sharp granite rocks at the base of cliffs or driven into shallow surf in gullies. The boats are mounted on trailers built to the St John Inshore Rescue’s own design, and are narrow enough to be towed through the Island’s road system to a selected launch site nearest to any incident.