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Freshwater Independent Lifeboat - History (1972-Present Day)

Freshwater Lifeboat was formed in 1972 under the auspices of the Isle of Wight Council. The first boat operated by Freshwater Lifeboat was an RFD 'D' Class inshore lifeboat, seen here during an exercise off the Needles. The boathouse that this was kept in, is still used to house the current 'D' class (the Berry B), but has been extensively built around to form the station that can be seen today.

As operational demands grew Freshwater Lifeboat acquired a second RFD 'D' class ILB thanks largely to the generous fundraising efforts of the local holiday centre The Savoy Country Club in Yarmouth. This second 'D' class (the Miss Savoy) was kept in the same boathouse as the first boat suspended from the ceiling. Once the first boat was launched, the trailer would return for the second boat.

As the use of pleasure craft steadily increased in and around the Solent, it became obvious to the crew that a larger boat was required, with increased duration at sea and the capability to undertake tow jobs. The 6m Avon Searider proved to be a very capable boat and served us well from 1981 to 1991. After which it continued to serve the mariners around the Isle of Wight with Sandown and Shanklin Inshore Lifeboat Service. Shortly after this boat was put into operation, it was decided to that two 'D' Class were no longer required, so the original 'D' Class wassold while the Miss Savoy was kept for crew training and working close into the cliffs, where the 6m could not get in, to work in conjunction with the H.M. Coastguard cliff rescue team

In 1988, after many years of good service, the Miss Savoy was retired and replaced with a new Avon 'D' Class, purchased from the RNLI. The new boat proved to be as popular and successful with the crew as the Miss Savoy and continued to fill the same role for 17 years, finally being replaced in 2005.

In 1991 the 6m Avon Searider was replaced by a 7.4m Searider. The boat was bought in 1988 as a bare hull without engines and over a period of 2½ years, members of the crew stripped the boat down, and rebuilt it, as well as designing and building the watertight cabin required to house the new array of electronics. The 7.4m Avon Searider was equipped with, what at the time, was a very comprehensive list of electronic aids for a RIB. This included Furuno radar, Philips GPS, Stowe Robertson Chartplotter and Apelco RDF. It also carried 2 VHF radio and a loudhailer/intercom system. Originally powered by twin 90hp Yamaha engines, it was decided after about 4 years to upgrade to twin 115hp Yamaha engines.

In 1998 it was decided that the time was upon us to replace the main Lifeboat again, and whilst looking into what was available on the market we came across the 8.8m Barbarian RIB from IOW company Island Plastics. Having limited funds at the time, the opportunity to purchase this ex-demonstrator was ideal. After taking delivery of the Barbarian, the crew again took the approach that this boat needed a complete overhaul before entering service, and so over a period of 1½ years the boat was stripped out, the interior arrangements adjusted, and a new suite of electronics fitted. The Cabin was then repainted in traditional Lifeboat colours, and the boat was officially launched in 2000. Again the boathouse was extended - this time upwards - to gain the clearance required through the door. After the first 3 years of service, and with increasing fuel costs, it was decided to re-engine, replacing the twin 225hp Mercury 2-strokes with twin 225hp Yamaha 4-strokes. This decision has increased the range of Freshwater Lifeboat, and now means we are often responding to incidents over 30 miles out to sea.

2005 saw the replacement of the 17 year old 'D' Class Freshwater ILB with a brand new 'D' Class again supplied by the RNLI via their Inshore Lifeboat Centre at East Cowes, Isle of Wight. The Boat was launched in May of 2005 with a dedication service, when it was officially named the Berry B, after a substantial bequest from a Mr Baldwin made the replacement possible.