Lyme lifeboat crew swap boat for tractor

RNLI trains two more crew members to drive the seven-ton launch and recovery vehicle

LIFEBOAT crew members at Lyme Regis put up their L plates today as they swapped their boat for a seven-ton tractor.

The four-wheel drive vehicle is used to launch the rescue craft and recover it later to the slipway, and finally the boathouse.

The tractor, with ten gears, requires skilled handling and the RNLI must ensure enough crew members are trained to use it.

Now two more of them – Rob Crabbe and John Cable – are having lessons, complete with ‘L’ plates, under the guidance of volunteer mechanic and tractor driver Mark Gage.

The type of tractor used by the RNLI is converted from its agricultural specifications for its vital work with lifeboats.

The huge tyres are filled with 85 per cent water to ensure the unit stays firmly on the seabed during operational use.

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The Lyme tractor is 15-years-old and has a hydraulic winch at the rear so that it can be recovered if it becomes stranded in the water.

The tractor, its Do Do (Drive on, Drive off carriage) and the lifeboat together weigh in at around 11 tons.

Mr Gage, who is conducting the tractor handling sessions, said: “We need as many people as possible qualified to drive the tractor because some of our crew find themselves out of town when we get an emergency call.

“We have to be sure we have at least one tractor driver available for launching and recovery of the lifeboat.”

The two new ‘students’ will also be attending a week-long course run by the RNLI.

RNLI tractor driver Mark Gage (left) with his two ‘students’, Rob Crabbe and John Cable with the tractor. Photo: Richard Horobin