THE LIFE OF A BOAT
The ‘nautobiography’ of a 90-year-old lifesaver
by Graeme Ewens
This is the story of a remarkable boat that served the RNLI for 40 years before entering a new life as a pleasure cruiser. The 45ft 6ins Watson Cabin class boat W&S (ON736) was named after the benefactors Winifred Coode and Capt Sydney Webb. She spent her first three decades at Penlee in Cornwall, responding to more than 100 shouts, often in the most extreme weather and including harrowing wartime conditions, before she was replaced in 1960 by the ill-fated Solomon Browne. She later spent a further 10 years in Scotland as part of the Reserve fleet, saving another six lives during her final service. One of the RNLI’s longest-serving lifeboats, she saved a total of 108 lives. The story begins with profiles and nautical interests of Winifred and Sydney whose bequests funded the build of the boat, designed by the legendary firm of G L Watson Ltd, and built at the Cowes yard of J Samuel White. In retirement, the boat was converted to a long-range cruiser in Ireland, voyaging to the Mediterranean before eventually returning to Cornwall. After years of neglect, she was rediscovered in a sad condition near Falmouth by retired sea captain Rod Shaw, who took the boat to Harwich on a prolonged labour of love to bring it back into use, realising that the superb quality of the hull would see it safely through into its next century. Rod Shaw’s own maritime history, from lobsterman to navigating officer of the world’s biggest ship and surveyor of the Royal barge, makes fascinating reading.
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