Situated at the eastern end of Wells beach, Wells Lifeboat Station is one of 236 operated by the RNLI around the UK's coast, providing emergency life-saving cover up to 50 miles off-shore. The station has two lifeboats; a Mersey-class all-weather lifeboat which can operate in all conditions with a range of over 100 miles and a small, fast inshore lifeboat.
Wells-next-the-Sea is a historic commercial port and former ship-building centre and is now the only major harbour along the North Norfolk coast. It retains a small fishing fleet and is an active base for windfarm and work vessels as well as home to a good many leisure and private boats and yachts. The town and local coastline is also a popular holiday and tourist destination and busy in summer with swimmers, windsurfers, kayakers and walkers around the harbour, beaches and marshes.
The RNLI has kept a lifeboat at Wells for over 140 years.
The all-weather lifeboat is kept on a launching carriage propelled by a Talus tractor. If there is sufficient tide in the harbour when the lifeboat needs to launch, the lifeboat is simply pushed down the boathouse ramp straight into the channel. When necessary, the lifeboat can be launched and on its way in around 8-10 minutes.
If the tide is out, the Talus, which is fully submersible and has tank-like tracks, will tow the boat and its crew to a suitable launch site on Holkham Beach (or rarely across the channel in front of the boathouse to launch from the sands near East Hills). This can mean a trip of up to two miles before the boat can launch, one of the longest beach launches of any UK lifeboat station, and can add 20 minutes or more to the launch time.
Wells has had a D-class inshore lifeboat since the early 1960s when this immensely successful type of lifeboat was first introduced. The D-class is able to operate close to the shore, in shallow water and surf and right onto the beach if necessary, as well as covering the many winding creeks within local harbours and marshes.
The D-class is ideal for rescuing people cut off by the tide, swimmers in difficulty, injured windsurfers or sailors and for locating lost children or people missing on the beach or marshes. Although described as an inshore boat, the ILB is entirely seaworthy and may launch to incidents along the coast from Brancaster to Blakeney or operate several miles offshore. It will often launch alongside the Mersey lifeboat to assist in searches, to help recover persons or equipment from the water or to act as back-up or provide assistance as vessels are brought into harbour.
The ILB is launched by its two or three man crew pushing the boat on its trolley into the water. With the tide in, the boat can launch in front of the boathouse in a matter of minutes from being required. With the tide out, the boat and crew can be towed to Holkham beach by the station's Softrak vehicle.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is a charity that exists to save lives at sea. It is unusual among emergency services in that it is funded entirely from public donations and that almost all its lifeboat crews and shore helpers are unpaid local volunteers... a tradition that has worked successfully for over 150 years.
At Wells, the station's full-time mechanic is the only paid position. The rest of the team; some 22 crew members, 8 shore helpers and six committee members and station officers as well as the local fund-raising Guild, are all volunteers. They give up much of their time not only to do the job but also for in-depth training and regular exercises that allow them to operate safely and effectively.
Wells Lifeboat crew and helpers are on stand-by 24 hours a day, every day of the year. If required they are summoned by radio pager and will quickly make their way to the boathouse, usually driving just over a mile to the end of the beach road and then running across the beach.
Our next scheduled exercise launches are shown below. You are welcome to come and watch the lifeboats launch on the beach at the front of the lifeboat house... but please ensure you keep well to one side and that children are supervised. Exercises may be cancelled or rescheduled at short notice due to operational reasons.
Sunday 29 September 09:00
Low water launch in Holkham Bay