Exciting new era for Wicklow RNLI
Plenty of heads were turned as a new arrival appeared in Wicklow town on Sunday afternoon.
A large crowd of friends and supporters of Wicklow RNLI lined the harbour walls as the Shannon-class relief lifeboat 'Jock and Annie Slater' arrived at its temporary home after travelling from RNLI headquarters in Poole, Dorset.
The Wicklow all-weather lifeboat Annie Blaker and the inshore lifeboat escorted the relief vessel into the harbour, while a lone piper on the East pier played a musical tribute. Staff Coxswain Pete Hanscombe accompanied the crew on the training passage, but Coxswain Nick Keogh had the honour of bringing the relief vessel into Wicklow harbour.
A short impressive display of the boats speed and agility was greeted with applause from the crowd, before it came alongside the pier.
The Tyne-class Annie Blaker is to be retired in the coming weeks after serving the RNLI for 30 years. The Jock and Annie Slater will remain at Wicklow lifeboat station until 2022, when the local RNLI crew will be provided with their own Shannon-class vessel.
While the loss of the Annie Blaker is a bittersweet moment for the local RNLI volunteers, press officer at Wicklow RNLI Tommy Dover said there is great excitement about the changes ahead.
'The arrival of the relief Shannon today marks the end of an era at Wicklow, as Annie will be retired soon and naturally, we will miss her. She has been the busiest all-weather boat since our station opened in 1857, rescuing 400 people during the 30 years on station,' said Mr Dover.
'But we are all excited with the arrival of the relief Shannon. The crew is now focused on the transition to a jet-propelled lifeboat, which began with familiarisation training on Monday and continues for the next few weeks.'
Once the crew completes its training with the Shannon-class vessel in a few weeks, the Jock and Annie Slater will officially take over from the Annie Blaker.
As the Shannon-class is very different from the Tyne-class, temporary mooring facilities are being placed on South Quay for the lifeboat.
Major work will need to be carried out at the lifeboat station and slipway ahead of the arrival of Wicklow's permanent Shannon-class vessel in 2022.
The Shannon lifeboat is the first jet propelled lifeboat to go into service with the RNLI. With two Scania engines, it has a speed of 25knots.
It is self-righting and can endure up to 10 hours in extreme sea conditions. The Shannon-class is highly manoeuvrable even in shallower waters, and its Systems and Information Management System (SIMs) lets crew monitor, control and operate many of the boat's systems from their seats. These seats have impressive suspension to make arduous sea voyages in the worst conditions more comfortable and safer.