Many of the piles are in place for the new slipway. (Credit RNLI)
Author: Tim Ash, Divisional Media Relations Manager
Progress towards the new RNLI lifeboat station for Cowes has been ‘ramped up’ this month after builders started work on constructing the new slipway for the crew’s all important rescue missions.
Work has started on the foundations for the slipway at the home of the new lifeboat station, the Old Custom House in Cowes. So far, Hampshire-based contractors Raymond Brown Construction Ltd have begun ‘piling’ work – creating the foundations for the slipway that will enable the lifeboat to launch.
The news brings the volunteer crew of the lifeboat station one step nearer to an improved home for the lifeboat station, which currently resides at facilities in Shepards Wharf marina. The £1M public appeal for funds for the refurbishment of the Old Custom House still continues, with volunteer fundraisers on the island beavering away to spread the word and gain support.
Bob Gerrard, RNLI Shoreworks Divisional Manager East, explained what exactly people can see in terms of building work at the moment: ‘Piling forms the very basis of construction; it’s the essential support needed for any kind of structure. Put simply, it involves setting into the ground a lightweight steel structure which will support the ramp into the sea, This ramp will be the slipway down which a wheeled carriage will descend, in order to launch the lifeboat into the River Medina and out to the Solent.’
When complete, the slipway will bridge the gap between the concrete flooring in front of the boathouse down to the lowest point of the sea bed at low water. Contractors are currently using a public slipway as their working platform, and will construct the new lifeboat slipway parallel to that.
‘Working off the public slipway is not only cheaper’, said Bob, ‘which is great as the RNLI relies on charitable donations – and is less disruptive to others. The alternative of working from a barge moored up in the River would have had a wider impact on others.’
It is anticipated that the new slipway will be completed early in the New Year. Meanwhile, the RNLI is currently deciding which contractor will be employed to carry out the refurbishment of the main building to create the new lifeboat station.
The current Cowes RNLI lifeboat station is a small, temporary facility within Shepards Wharf marina, but the RNLI is soon to refurbish the old Custom House building, near the mouth of the River Medina, to create a new lifeboat station. This location will bring the lifeboat crew four minutes closer to the open sea, which in turn could prove crucial in saving lives out at sea.