Leverburgh RNLI has welcomed its brand-new Shannon Class Lifeboat, RNLB Stella and Humfrey Berkeley to the station.
The state-of-the-art, £2.1m vessel arrived in Leverburgh on Saturday afternoon at 1.35pm, timed in recognition of the boat’s side number 13-25.
All Shannons are given the number 13, as they are 13m in length. The “25” in Leverburgh’s side number shows that their boat is the 25th Shannon to be built by the RNLI.
The arrival of the Shannon at Leverburgh RNLI brings with it a whole host of benefits to the life-saving capabilities of the station.
She’s the first modern all-weather lifeboat to be propelled by waterjets instead of traditional propellers, making her the RNLI’s most agile and manoeuvrable all-weather lifeboat yet, a feature which will be particularly beneficial when working in the challenging waters of the Sound of Harris.
Furthermore, the Shannon is almost 50% faster than Leverburgh’s current Mersey Class Lifeboat, RNLB The Royal Thames, with a top speed of 25 knots – a crucial factor when lives are at risk.
A vast amount of work has been undertaken by the volunteer crew at the station in order to train and prepare for the arrival of the new Shannon.
Various crew members have spent time at the RNLI’s college in Poole, Dorset, familiarising themselves with the new, more advanced systems on board the boat.
Several crew members have also spent the last fortnight on a long journey by sea, from Poole, taking the RNLB Stella and Humfrey Berkeley home to Leverburgh.
This journey – which has contributed to their training - has comprised of many stop-offs along the way and the whole station would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who showed them such warm hospitality as the crew sailed north.
Chris Ross, Leverburgh Lifeboat Operations Manager commented: “The arrival of the Shannon in Leverburgh is a momentous occasion in the history of our station and indeed our village.
“It has taken a lot of effort get to this stage but in many ways the hard work has only just begun.
“All crew members will now undertake an intensive period of training in order to qualify in the various roles required for working the Shannon.
“While this training is happening, our Mersey class boat, RNLB The Royal Thames, will remain on station, ready for any operational duties which may be required of her.
“Most roles within the Lifeboat are undertaken on a voluntary basis.
“The time, commitment and diligence shown by our crew here in Leverburgh, while juggling work/family commitments, is to be admired.
“These people are a credit to themselves, their families, and our island.”
The build of Leverburgh’s Shannon Class Lifeboat has been made possible through several very generous donations.
One of which is from the estate of Humfrey Berkeley and his wife Stella.
Mrs and Mrs Berkeley were joint governors of the RNLI and asked that a new Lifeboat – to be stationed in Scotland – be named after them, in memory of the times they spent sailing there.
The branch would also like to further acknowledge the sum of money left by the estate of the late Mary Aida (Maida) MacLeod MacAskill (Morningside, Edinburgh but formerly Berneray, Harris).
This money will go towards the construction of a new fixed pontoon. The current pontoon is a temporary, modular structure and presents crew with sometimes challenging underfoot conditions.
Leverburgh RNLI’s Honorary President, Hamish Taylor said: “The Arrival of the Shannon Class Lifeboat is a very significant enhancement of the Leverburgh station’s operational effectiveness, especially in terms of speed and range. “Furthermore, in addition to its capabilities in the deep-water areas of the Minch and the Western seaboards of Harris and Uist, the Shannon is also ideal for operating in the maze of shallow and reef-strewn lochs and channels on the east of the islands.
“Once again, we would like to express our deep appreciation of the magnificent support of the communities of Harris and Uist; without this backing, we would not be where we are today.”
The RNLB Stella and Humfrey Berkeley will be officially “named” at a special ceremony, which will be held at Leverburgh Pier on Saturday 14th July.