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August 11, 2005
Burnham's lifeboat and hovercraft stations welcome RNLI VIPs

RNLI Operations Director Michael Vlasto and Divisional Inspector Simon Pryce on Burnham Beach after their time onboard the Staines Whitfield lifeboat

Burnham's lifeboat and hovercraft stations opened their doors to two VIPs from the Poole headquarters of the RNLI this week when Operations Director Michael Vlasto and Divisional Inspector Simon Pryce visited the town.

The pair, pictured above, took part in an hour-long operational trip onboard the Staines Whitfield lifeboat to observe areas of difficulty along the local shoreline and then discussed latest advances in life-saving with the crew.

They also spent time with Burnham's lifeboat operations manager Martin Cox and lifeboat chairman Tony Winterburn.

Earlier in the afternoon, they visited the BARB hovercraft station and got a close-up view of the Spirit Of Lelaina hovercraft and discussed mud rescues with chairman Alan Miller, BARB President Cllr Neville Jones and pilot Pete Emery.

The RNLI's Michael Vlasto seated on the starboard (right hand) side of the Burnham lifeboatThe event ended up at Burnham-On-Sea Sailing Club with a buffet where Mr Vlasto gave an upbeat speech praising the work of all the sea rescue services in Burnham.

During the after-buffet speeches, Mr Winterburn also praised the success of Jendy Weekes and Catriona Newman in co-ordinating the newly formed Supporters' Group, which has continued to raise the public profile of the station.

Mr Cox referred to the superb team skills of the 45 well-trained volunteers at the station, the Web site maintained by Mark Newman, and the welcome interest shown by the various media groups thanks to the work of press officer Mike Lang.

Cllr Jones gave a short speech, concurring with the previous two speakers, and making reference to the previous lifeboat station which was abandoned by the RNLI when it left Burnham in 1930. He also reminded everyone that donations from the public continue to be so vital to the livelihoods of Burnham's rescue services.

Michael Vlasto, having done his homework, followed on with the information that the original station had been built in 1906 at a cost to the RNLI of only £600.

He also talked about how the RNLI had changed since he joined the organisation in 1974 when boats were sparsely equipped and the service was financially stretched, causing great concern.

He said; "Now, the service has made great advances, with bigger and faster boats kitted out with modern equipment."

"The RNLI provides the best kit available for crew, because you can’t go second-best where people’s lives are at risk."

Michael added: "The innovative spirit exists at Burnham-On-Sea. The whole group feels more like a traditional lifeboat station with a large proficient shore crew and every member of the station is a credit to the service."

He closed with the words: "The lifeblood of this institution are the volunteers. Thank you for your support, you do it brilliantly, and best wishes for the future!"

RNLI Operations Director Michael Vlasto and Divisional Inspector Simon Pryce with Alan Miller, Pete Emery and Neville Jones at the hovercraft station


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