44ft Motor Lifeboats
By Stan Gorton

This article first appeared in the Narooma News on the 28th April 2011

Photos from Narooma News
After serving the port of Narooma for more than 10 years, the lifeboat Strathmore was lifted into a flatbed truck to start a third life.
The Waveney-class lifeboat is being shipped to Western Australia where she will be refurbished to work in Fremantle harbour as a service vessel taking out mooring lines and other duties.

A large crane on Monday afternoon lifted her 20-tonne mass onto the truck for the long journey.

“She never let us down,” boat crew Jim Greenshields said.

“It was by far the best lifeboat we’ve had and I can’t recall a time when we couldn’t get across the bar,” crew Dennis Cox said.

“One night we got across for a rescue when they said we would never make it; getting back though was another story.”

“We had to go down to Bermagui and wait out the storm.”

The volunteers worked hard to repair the vessel so she could travel to the slipway under her own power last week and then spent the weekend scraping clean her hull.

Marine Rescue Narooma boat crew gathered and reminisced about the amazing sea handling capabilities of the vessel that saved hundreds of lives in the rough Atlantic Ocean around Britain before coming to Australia late in her life to save dozens of others off Narooma.

She was one of seven Waveney-class lifeboats secured by the then Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

In the United States, the vessels were known as 44' Motor Lifeboats, "a boat in which her crew always had the confidence that she would bring them safely back to port."

Final trip for the Strathmore

So, at 2030, Coxswain Cannon steered close to the south of the trawler and then, turning to starboard, brought the lifeboat up to her port quarter. The trawler was lying head west and pounding forward, the stern appearing to be fast aground. As the two vessels closed Crew Member Michael Petts leapt from the lifeboat and, with the help of the trawler's crew, was pulled aboard.

With proper communications now established Petts could confirm that the trawler was still seaworthy with main engines available. Neither her master nor his two sons would consider leaving their ship which was less than a year old. The coxswain held the lifeboat head to sea and eased astern, judging the right moment to make a second approach and to put a second crew member on board. Heavy seas made the first three attempts impossible, but at the fourth Crew Member Nigel Stephens was safely transferred.

The lifeboat crew then passed a 60-fathom towline aboard the trawler which was led to her bow. The coxswain began the very skilful task of turning the trawler's bow to the south, while trying to keep his own vessel's head to sea. There was a serious danger of the tow pulling the lifeboat over on her side and the line had to be watched closely by the crew who were ready to cut it instantly if necessary.

Just as the trawler's bow came on to a south-easterly heading a huge breaking sea, some 20 feet high, lifted the lifeboat's bow and threw her astern, instantly slackening the towline. As her bow fell into the following trough the line brought up, veering it around the towline post and causing severe burning. Coxswain Cannon dropped the lifeboat astern so that the tow could be re-secured clear of the damaged section; he then resumed the towing manoeuvre.

Among those on board for the final trip to the Narooma bridge on Monday were boat crew Jim Greenshields and Dennis Cox, who brought the vessel down from Sydney in 1999.

Other crew at the time were Jeff Constable, Ian Scott, John Johansen and Keith Dingley.

They then had to travel back up the coast for the official commissioning of the seven Waveney-class lifeboats on Sydney Harbour.

The boat crew grew very fond of the Strathmore over the years, even though they admit she was in pretty bad shape when delivered from overseas.

Graham Brown recalled one bar crossing with Ross Constable at the helm.

“There were two to three metre swells and we went over the first one, under the second one and over the third one,” Mr Brown said.

While she could handle any sea head on, her one weakness was coming back through the bar with a following sea where without careful guidance she could broach to one side to the other.

Former boat crew Dusty Orford recalled one such occasion.

“We came across the bar sideways one day,” he said.

“It could scare the hell out of you and make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.”

The Strathmore has been out of commission for more than a year with mechanical problems.

Marine Rescue Narooma division commander Graham Brown in June last year was attempting to dock the 44-year-old Strathmore at the Narooma wharf when his starboard engine failed and word came up from the engine room that its gearbox had blown a seal and had drained dry.

The vessel has been out of service ever since with the Narooma division using Merimbula’s old boat in the meantime.

Rather than scrapping the vessel, Marine Rescue NSW was able to sell the Strathmore to Harbour Services Australia in Fremantle.

Marine Rescue NSW has ordered a new rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) for the Narooma division that is due to arrive as soon as next month.

Strathmore history:

The Narooma lifeboat Strathmore was named after P&O Royal Mail Ship Strathmore.

The Narooma Lifeboat, ex RNLI lifeboat 44-004, Faithful Forester, was generously transported from UK to Sydney by P&O Nedlloyd at no cost to the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol and renamed the "P&O Nedlloyd Strathmore".

It is a Waveney-class lifeboat. The Waveney class lifeboat was the first class of lifeboats operated by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) capable of operating at speeds in excess of 10 knots.

Based on an American hull design, 22 were in operation between 1964 and 1999 at the RNLI's stations around the coast of the United Kingdom and Ireland. After being superseded by faster boats in the 1990s many were sold for further use with lifeboat services abroad, notably in Australia and New Zealand.
Built: 1967 at Brooke Marine, Lowestoft. UK Cost: 35,000

Donor: Ancient Order of Foresters

Engines: 2 x 215hp Cummins V6

1982 - 2 x 203hp Caterpillar D3208

Dover UK 26.7.1967-2.10.1979

Launches 202, Lives saved 140

Relief 7.10.1979-11.6.1984

Launches 49, Lives saved 18

Holyhead UK12.6.1984-14.9.1985

Launches 25, Lives saved 26

Relief 14.9.1985-27.6.1997

Launches 98, Lives saved 28
In the United States, the vessels were known as 44' Motor Lifeboats, "a boat in which her crew always had the confidence that she would bring them safely back to port."

The 44' MLB was designed by the U.S. Coast Guard, with work starting on the prototype (USCG 44300) in April 1961, which was completed on March 9, 1962.

A total of 110, 44' MLB's were built for the U.S. Coast Guard, with the last boat (USCG 44409) being completed in 1972.
My thanks go to the Narooma News for allowing me to use this material.
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