The new 13m Shannon-class Stella and Humfrey Berkeley (ON-1332) arrived at her station of Leverburgh in the Outer Hebrides on 21 April, 2018, to be welcomed by hundreds of people who lined the small pier eager to see the new lifeboat, reports Nicholas Leach.

The Shannon was led into Leverburgh by the 12m Mersey, Royal Thames, with all the local fishing boats putting out to form a small flotilla to escort the new boat home.

The passage north has been the longest yet undertaken by a new Shannon on her delivery to station, and saw the boat leave the RNLI headquarters in Poole on 11 April, and head to Brixham on the first leg. After an overnight there, she went to Newlyn on 12 April, Kilmore Quay on 13 April, Dún Laoghaire on 14 April and to Girvan on 15 April. There was a change of crew at Girvan, and a spare day on 16 April before the second part of the passage began.

The local fleet of creel boats turned out to welcome the Leverburgh lifeboat.

The local fleet of creel boats turned out to welcome the Leverburgh lifeboat.

This part of the journey began on Tuesday, 17 April, with the boat leaving Girvan and heading to Oban. On 18 April, she went from Oban to Tobermory, where an exercise with the Tobermory lifeboat was undertaken. After an overnight on Mull, she headed to Mallaig on 19 April, and from there to Scalpay on Harris on 20 April, prior to her making her entrance at Leverburgh.

The arrival of the Shannon at Leverburgh RNLI brings many benefits to the life-saving capabilities of the station. She is the first modern all-weather lifeboat to be propelled by waterjets instead of traditional propellers, making her the RNLI’s most agile and manoeuvrable all-weather lifeboat yet, a feature which will be particularly beneficial when working in the challenging waters of the Sound of Harris. She is much faster than the Mersey-class lifeboat Royal Thames, which has been on station since 2012, with a top speed of 25 knots.

The volunteer crew at the station have worked hard to train and prepare for the arrival of the new Shannon, spending time at the RNLI’s college in Poole, Dorset, familiarising themselves with the new systems on the boat and then undertaking the long journey by sea.

Chris Ross, Leverburgh lifeboat operations manager, commented: “The arrival of the Shannon in Leverburgh is a momentous occasion in the history of our station, and indeed our village. It has taken a lot of effort to get to this stage, but in many ways, the hard work has only just begun. All crew members will now undertake an intensive period of training in order to qualify in the various roles required for working the Shannon. The time, commitment and diligence shown by our crew here in Leverburgh, while juggling work and family commitments, is to be admired. These people are a credit to themselves, their families, and our island.”

The 13m Shannon lifeboat Stella and Humfrey Berkeley approaches Leverburgh for the first time

The 13m Shannon lifeboat Stella and Humfrey Berkeley approaches Leverburgh for the first time

The new lifeboat was funded through several very generous donations, one of which came from the estate of Humfrey Berkeley and his wife, Stella. Mrs and Mrs Berkeley were joint governors of the RNLI and asked that a new lifeboat, to be stationed in Scotland, be named after them, in memory of the times they spent sailing there. The Leverburgh branch also acknowledges the money left by the estate of the late Mary Aida (Maida) MacLeod MacAskill, of Edinburgh but formerly from Berneray, Harris. This will go towards the construction of a new, fixed pontoon. The current pontoon is a temporary, modular structure, and presents crew with sometimes challenging underfoot conditions.

Leverburgh RNLI’s honorary president, Hamish Taylor, said: “The arrival of the Shannon-class lifeboat is a very significant enhancement of the Leverburgh station’s operational effectiveness, especially in terms of speed and range. Furthermore, in addition to its capabilities in the deep-water areas of the Minch and the western seaboards of Harris and Uist, the Shannon is also ideal for operating in the maze of shallow and reef-strewn lochs and channels on the east of the islands. Once again, we would like to express our deep appreciation of the magnificent support of the communities of Harris and Uist; without this backing, we would not be where we are today.”

Stella and Humfrey Berkeley will be officially named at a special ceremony to be held at Leverburgh Pier on Saturday 14 July.


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