Ax important development in Motor Life-boat construction has been decided upon. The aim of the Institution in the design and construction of Motor Lifeboats and their engines, suitable,for the work of rescuing life from shipwreck under all conditions, has been, not high speed, but a great reserve of power. It is this reserve of power, enabling the Life-boat to maintain her speed in face of the worst conditions of weather, which may make all the difference between success and disaster at that critical moment when a Life-boat is mano3uvring to get alongside or to get away from a wreck.
There is no intention of departing from this as the general policy of construction. It has, however, been felt that the present conditions of cross-Channel traffic point to the desirability of providing a special and faster type of Motor Life-boat in the Straits of Dover. In addition to the very heavy passenger-steamer traffic across the Straits, there is now a considerable daily traffic by aeroplane, maintained in all but the worst weather. The time during which an aeroplane is exposed to the risk of coming down while over the sea is very short. On the other hand, once an aeroplane is down in anything but a calm sea, the time during which she will remain afloat is generally so short that the ordinary Motor Life-boat could scarcely hope to reach the casualty soon enough to rescue those on board. In the case of a vessel the time between first being in distress and being in imminent danger of destruction may be many hours, and even two or three days. In the case of an aeroplane it may be only a matter of minutes.
The original proposal considered was for the provision of a very fast Motor Boat, able to travel between 25 and 30 knots, but an examination of this proposal resulted in the decision to build a boat with a speed of 17 to 18 knots, this being the fastest speed obtainable with- out sacrificing the essential qualities of a Life-boat.
Such a Life-boat has been laid down.
She will be 64 feet by 14 feet, with nine main water-tight compartments and eighty air cases. Like the Harriett type of Motor Life-boat, she will have two cabins, with room in them for about fifty people, will be lighted with electricity, and will have an electrically driven capstan, a searchlight and linethrowing gun. Whereas the most powerful Life-boats at present on the coast have two 80-h.p. engines, this new type will have two engines of 375 h.p. each.
Another departure which is being made with this boat is that she will be fitted with wireless telephony, which will enable her to take and send messages over a distance of fifty miles. Both boat and engines have been designed and are being built by Messrs. Thornycroft, the engines being of the type which has been used on coastal motor boats.
This new boat will be capable of going to sea in any weather not too heavy for j the cross-Channel passenger service, but ! she will not be suitable for work inshore or on the Goodwin Sands. Casualties inshore and on the Sands are provided for by the Life-boats stationed at Ramsgate, Deal, "VValmer and Folkestone, and a further defence in this direction is under consideration. The new Boat will be stationed at Dover, with a Crew of whom some will be permanently employed by the Institution. The Boat will cost "between £17,000 and £18,000 and the cost of upkeep will be some £1,750 a year.
A Keel of Kentish Oak.
The boat is being built at the Hampton Launch Works, on an island in the Thames, Platt's Eyot at Hampton-on- Thames, and the keel and hog of this new boat for the Kentish coast have, most fittingly, been cut from a Kentish oak. The tree was grown on the Tongues Wood Estate at Hawkhurst, and was felled in 1921. Its length was 48 feet, and its girth over 9 feet. It was then approximately 130 years old.
That is to say, the acorn, from which the keel of this latest Life-boat has been grown, took root just two years after the first Life-boat, Original, was launched at Tvnemouth in 1789..