Swanage Lifeboat & Station

Swanage Lifeboat Station has been a central part of the seaside town and community of Swanage since its inception in 1875.

Situated at the southern end of the Bay, close to Swanage Pier, the current lifeboat station is built on the original boathouse  site and is home to two lifeboats – a Shannon class all-weather lifeboat and a smaller, inshore lifeboat.

Together with other RNLI stations, coastguard teams and emergency services across the Dorset coast, the Swanage lifeboat crew help keep the seas around Purbeck safe throughout the year.

Dorset is also proudly home to the RNLI HQ and training college in nearby Poole, which you can also visit. The centre has a restaurant, bar and shop and regularly hosts events and conferences.

The Swanage branch of the RNLI is an active community group, which holds regular fundraising events, from its annual fish & chip supper to a week-long Lifeboat Week event every summer.

This year’s Swanage Lifeboat Week is Friday 12 – Sunday 21 August 2022 – a fun-filled week of activities and events, with great food, live music and the ever-popular build-a-boat competition and raft race in the bay.

Visit Swanage Lifeboat Station

The Lifeboat Station in Swanage is just a short walk from the southern end of town – combine your visit with a stroll along Swanage Pier, where there’s a lovely little café and small museum and & gift shop.

Continue walking along the shoreline from the boathouse and you’ll reach Peveril Point, above which the Swanage Coastguard hut is situated. Walk back along the cliff and down through The Downs to town for a pleasant ramble.

The long-stay Broad Road car park is ideal for an explore around this southern end of town.

The boathouse

Swanage’s all-weather lifeboat in the boathouse

The station boathouse is typically open to the public every day from 12pm – 4pm.

You can explore the history of Swanage’s lifeboats through interactive exhibits and – unless the crew are on a callout – you can get up close and personal to the lifeboats themselves.

There may also be a volunteer guide to answer any questions.

Entrance to the boathouse is free, but visitors are welcome to leave a donation.

🐾 Swanage Lifeboat Station is dog-friendly

The lifeboats

George Thomas Lacy – Shannon class

The George Thomas Lacy is Swanage’s all-weather Shannon-class lifeboat, and is named after George Lacy, who left a generous gift to the charity in Dorset upon his death.

Propelled by water jets, the Shannon-class is a modern and highly-manoeuvrable design that is taking over from older lifeboats in the RNLI fleet. This versatile vessel can be launched both from a beach or a slipway and is capable of reaching 25 knots, making her even faster in a rescue situation.

The George Thomas Lacy, with Old Harry Rocks in the background

The safety of RNLI crew is always paramount, and the Shannon comes equipped with shock-absorbing seats, self-righting capabilities, and a special hull designed to better-withstand rough waters.

Shannon class lifeboats are named after the River Shannon in Ireland – at 240 miles, it’s the longest river in the British Isles.

Phil & Jack – D class

The Phyl & Jack D-class inshore lifeboat at Swanage has been part of the team since 2012 and is named after local couple Phyl and Jack Cleare, who supported the RNLI in Swanage for some 30 years.

She’s an inflatable vessel which is easy to manoeuvre – vital for getting closer to the shoreline or to tricky areas, such as caves and cliffs. These reliable D-class vessels have been serving the RNLI since 1963.

D-class ‘Phyl & Jack’ inshore lifeboat

With speeds of up to 25-knots, this nippy lifeboat can join search-and-rescue efforts for three hours at at a time, and can deal with relatively large surf.

As crews are exposed to the elements in a D-class, their protective clothing and equipment become all the more important. As such, in addition to life-saving medical supplies for rescue operations, the Phyl & Jack has various essential on-board supplies for the crew including flares, searchlights and night-vision equipment.

Swanage Lifeboat news & media

Follow local lifeboat news as it happens, keep up-to-date with the latest events, or look back to past rescue operations by following the wide-ranging media coverage of the RNLI’s life-saving work.

The team on a callout in Swanage Bay in the inshore lifeboat

Via social media

The best way to keep up-to-date with the team’s news, call-outs, media appearances and latest opportunities follow Swanage Lifeboat Station on Facebook: www.facebook.com/swanagelifeboat/

The team posts interesting station information as well as photos and video footage of their callouts and rescue operations in and around Purbeck.

Via the station’s webcam

You can also watch live callouts as they happen via the Swanage Lifeboat webcam, which has a great view of the slipway.

Or simply check in to get a glimpse of the weather in Swanage today, the sea state, or just for a view across Swanage Bay toward Ballard Down and Old Harry Rocks.

Click on this link to view the webcam.

Webcam showing Swanage Bay from Swanage Lifeboat Station

Swanage Lifeboat webcam

By radio

You can also tune in to the station’s monthly slot on local radio station Purbeck Coast FM, which features stories from crew members and volunteers, and keeps the public up to date with RNLI Swanage’s latest events.

Tune in to 101.2FM at 8.30am on the last Wednesday of every month for a Lifeboat Station special.

RNLI Swanage on TV

The team and lifeboat station at Swanage has featured on the television, including on BBC’s Saving Lives at Sea, several times over the years.

Saving Lives at Sea

This BBC Two series documents and celebrates the vital lifesaving endeavours of the RNLI around our coastline. It’s always a gripping and fascinating watch, so keep an eye out for future episodes featuring our local crews.

Some of Swanage’s more memorable features on the show include the team coming to the aid of a pair of walkers trapped in a cave in 2020, and in 2021 the show featured Swanage Lifeboat as it followed the rescue of a walker who fell 90ft from Old Harry Rocks.

Watch one of the Swanage lifesaving crew talking about his experiences and what being part of the RNLI means to him, following the 2020 episode of Saving Lives at Sea:

TV news special

In 1992, BBC South Today followed the Swanage team for a week of Lifeboat stories on their evening news programme.

It followed the progress of the then new Mersey class lifeboat, exploring her construction, self-righting trial, crew training and arrival at the station.

Fandom on Youtube

It’s no secret that those who risk their own lives to save others’ lives at sea are an inspiration to many – but perhaps the most unique, creative and truly local nod to the crew is this ingenious video by then 11-year-old Christian – a keen animator and Lego fan.

Inspired by a real-life rescue operation crewed by his cousin in the summer of 2020, Christian’s video portrays well how local RNLI volunteers abandon whatever they’re doing to head straight to the lifeboat when their pager goes off (disclaimer: the shark is a bit of artistic license for dramatic effect!)

Christian’s animation was picked up by the local media and has been viewed over 100, 000 times in total.

Get involved with the RNLI

There are many ways to get involved in this life-saving charity, both locally and nationally, from hands-on support such as volunteering and educational roles, and of course being part of the call-out crew, to more behind-the-scenes roles such as digital and promotional opportunities.

There are also paid opportunities with many of the charity’s jobs based at the RNLI headquarters in Poole.

Fun & friendly fundraising

Lifeboat fundraisers holding a book stall on Shore Road

Get involved with the Swanage Lifeboat Fundraising Branch for a fun way to give back to the community and meet some like-minded people.

Some of the events the fundraising team have organised in recent years include a croquet tournament, quiz nights, traditional barn dance and even the Great Swanage Bake-Off.

New members are always welcome. To find out more get in touch by emailing: chair@slbf.org.uk

Seasonal lifeguarding in Swanage

In the summer months there are often opportunities to join the RNLI lifeguards who have a dedicated area of Swanage Central Beach to help keep swimmers safe in this busy season.

Keep an eye on the station’s Facebook page for the latest opportunities or visit the RNLI’s summer jobs website: summerjobs.rnli.org/become-a-lifeguard

Lifeguard and safe safe swimming area at Swanage beach

To become a lifeguard you’ll need to have a National Vocational Beach Lifeguard Qualification (NVBLQ) qualification or ILS Beach/Surf Lifeguard, or be registered to start the course, as well as being of school-leaving age, of reasonable fitness and a confident swimmer.

Volunteering opportunities

The RNLI relies on its many dedicated volunteers for its crews, emergency callouts and fundraising activities across Dorset, the UK and Ireland, as well as the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

To explore the current range of opportunities within the local RNLI visit their website: rnli.org/support-us/volunteer/how-you-can-volunteer

Job opportunities with the RNLI

Vacancies at the RNLI can be found on the usual national search databases, such as Indeed.com and Guardian Jobs, as well as the RNLI website itself: jobs.rnli.org/vacancies

Roles include marketing, web & digital roles, media engagement and data analysis, amongst others.

Donate

To find out more about the RNLI’s work, how to make a donation, or for information on other lifeboat stations across the UK visit the RNLI’s main website: rnli.org

Where to find the RNLI lifeboat station

📍Peveril Point Road, Swanage, BH19 2AY

The closest car park for visiting the lifeboat station is Broad Road long-stay car park at the southern end of town.

You can walk along the road from here toward the bay‘s boat park, or stroll down a path and along from the beach toward Peveril Point, but be mindful that some of the rockier areas here can be slippery when wet.

📞 Contact number for Swanage Lifeboat Station: 01929 423237

RNLI Swanage location in Swanage Bay

Location Swanage Lifeboat Station in relation to town & bay (credit: Google Maps)

Visit the Swanage RNLI shop

The volunteer-run RNLI shop in Swanage is located in the centre of town, close to the main shopping area.

Swanage's RNLI shop in the Square

Show your support for the life-saving charity by picking up a souvenir here.

You’ll find RNLI-branded clothing, books, stationery, children’s toys and gifts.

Opening times

The RNLI shop is open daily throughout the year as follows:

  • Winter hours: 11am – 3pm (November – March)
  • Summer hours: 10am – 4pm (April – October)

The RNLI shop’s location in town

  • 📍7 The Square, Swanage, BH19 2LJ

You’ll find the RNLI shop just opposite Curiosity and the White Swan pub, on the bend just past The Anchor pub.

There is some on-street parking nearby on High Street, just past Love Cake and up toward The Black Swan pub, as well as some options on nearby residential streets, but the main town car parks aren’t too far away – Co-Op and Mermond Place are close short-stay car parks.

📞 Get in touch with the shop by calling: 01929 426777

RNLI top coastal safety tips

In an emergency call 999 and ask for the coastguard.

To fully enjoy the cliff walks, beaches and rivers on our beautiful Jurassic Coast, it’s best to familiarise yourself with the RNLI’s safety advice before heading out for a fun day on the coast to keep yourself and your family safe.

In all cases, checking weather conditions, sea state and any local warnings before going out is advisable, however the weather conditions in the UK can be unpredictable and change with little warning.

Cliffs

Dangerous cliff warning sign at the Downs in Swanage

  • Be aware of cliff edges, drops and loose or falling rocks
  • Keep to pathways, with children under close supervision
  • Keep dogs on a lead and under control
  • Take notice of any warning signs
  • Always take a mobile phone out with you. If you know you’ll be on a part of the coastline with little signal, tell someone where you are going, and check for emergency telephone points before you go

At the beach & on the water

Swanage beach safety and coastguard information sign with strand behind

  • Check tide times so you don’t get cut off
  • Stay away from the water’s edge, especially if there are strong waves
  • Don’t swim out past your capabilities
  • Learn about rip currents – the sea may look calm and safe from the beach but underneath there could be strong currents that can pull you out of your depth
  • Do not enter the water if the temperature if very cold
  • Agree a meeting point in case of children becoming separated. Use any beach safety scheme, such as wristbands if present
  • Learn how to ‘Float to Live’ – the RNLI’s life-saving campaign advises you to keep calm, lean back and extend your arms and legs out before gently moving them around if need be to help you float. Try to control your breathing and then call for help or swim to safety.

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