Save us! Independent lifeboat service issues plea to stay afloat

Members of the Sea Palling Independent lifeboat station crew. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Members of the Sea Palling Independent lifeboat station crew. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

The coxswain of an independent lifeboat has issued an urgent 'plea for help' – to help ensure it continues to save lives at sea and along the coast.

Craig Spence, coxswain of Sea Palling Lifeboat on the north Norfolk coast, said they were 'desperately looking for support to keep our lifeboat on service.'

It comes just a fortnight after a man died as two swimmers got into trouble in a rip tide at Sea Palling, while coastguard figures have shown a marked increase in call outs across the region.

On July 23, the crew were involved in a major incident as two swimmers got into trouble in a rip tide at Sea Palling. They were on the scene within three minutes and gave CPR to the casualties.

Leszek Puchala, 52, was pulled unconscious from the waves and could not be revived, while a second man, in his 20s, was taken to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and was understood to be in a stable condition.

Mr Spence said: 'We are an independent lifeboat serving the public for our area between Eccles-on-Sea and Winterton-on-Sea.'

As one independent lifeboat of around 70 which operate around the shore of the UK – including others at Caister, Hemsby and Mundesley in Norfolk which are crewed and administered by local volunteers – it is a stark contrast to more than 230 lifeboat stations that the RNLI runs around the British Isles, with more than 31,500 volunteers.

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With the independent services usually funded privately – and some are registered charities – they mostly operate 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Mr Spence said: 'We are all unpaid volunteers, who provide a rescue service at sea for anyone in distress 24-7. We are a declared rescue service by HM Coastguard and are paged by them when needed in the same way RNLI lifeboats are tasked.

'Unlike the RNLI we do not have pots of money. They do a fantastic job, but they are a charity. We do not get funding from any sources and the crew have to fund-raise to keep this service in operation. The normal running cost is £20,000 per year to remain on service.

'We are woefully short of that this year and we are in desperate need of funding. This year we had to replace our launch vehicle at a cost of £8,000, which is making things very tight. We raise our own funds and we are now back on full service – so if any of you run a business or work for a company who would be interested in sponsoring us, please get in touch as we rely solely on the generosity of donations.'

He added: 'The crew give up their own free time to protect the public and the coastline around here is protected by independent lifeboats – so we hope someone can come to our rescue.'

? To pledge support to the Sea Palling Lifeboat, you can donate by texting PVRS01 followed by a donation amount (£2, £5, £10 etc) to 70070. Alternatively you can send cheques payable to PVRS at the Sea Palling Boatshed, Beach Road, Sea Palling NR12 0AL or visit

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