A shore thing hero

A Shore Thing

Ryde Inshore Rescue is an independent lifeboat station based at Appley on the Isle of Wight. Ryde operates two Inshore lifeboats crewed by volunteers, which are on standby to His Majesty’s Coast Guard 365 days a year.

When a call comes in, every second counts. Once the lifeboat crew is ready, the shore crew must transport the manned boat, sat on a trailer, weighing a combined 3 tons across soft sand into the sea. The biggest issue faced when launching the rescue vessel is submersing the trailer deep enough to enable the boat to float.

Finding an alternative to tractors
In the late 90s Richard Bateman had designed and built a specialist towing vehicle but this had to be retired when in 2017 a much larger heavier boat was introduced at the station. From then towing duties were carried out by a modified tractor. However even after fitting larger tyres and axles, complex electronics on modern tractors don’t lend themselves to driving into deep water!

The Ryde Inshore Rescue Lifeboat
The original lifeboat machine

Ryde approached long term engineering partner Sureweld Engineering and asked if there was an alternative. Step forwards once again Bateman. A Bateman fitted the brief perfectly – high ground clearance, plenty of power, reliable, compact and simple to maintain.

The search for a Bateman
Sam Frampton of Sureweld Engineering contacted Bateman Technical Sales Manager Carl Goff, who recommended the most suitable models and guided Sam through the Bateman Preowned Machines web page. During December 2023, Sam found an RB15 listed on behalf of a customer in Kent. A deal was done and the machine was soon bound for the Isle of Wight and its next chapter.

First run on the beach
Before any conversion work commenced, Sam suggested they carry out a trial run on the beach. At first it wasn’t plain sailing. Sam takes up the story…

“We coupled the Bateman, still with sprayer on the back to the tractor, which was hitched to the launch trailer and boat. I took up the strain in the Bateman, we moved about 4 feet before it dug itself in the sand! We tried the motors in fast up front and slow behind, but still to no avail. Wondering if the Bateman had got the power but not enough traction, I went to speak to the chap in the tractor and discovered… he’d left the handbrake on!

“Second attempt, the Bateman roared into action and pulled both tractor and boat up and down the beach with ease. It was pulling around 8-tons rolling. It was clear the RB15 was going to be the perfect machine. So we removed the sprayer pack, which was in good working order and advertised it on the Bateman Appreciation Facebook page. It was quickly snapped up.”

The first run out on the beach

A Bateman makes it easy
Another reason that Sureweld chose a Bateman sprayer was the simplicity of the design, which allows for easy access. Repair and conversion work commenced, Sam again…

“We weren’t sure how to fix a few things and phoned Bateman’s tech support. We spoke to Dave Spargo, who really knew his stuff, he helped us no end. Repair work completed; we then created 2 inspection hatches before fitting a platform to the rear of the machine. This platform would carry the crew and potential casualties. Ryde also required a hydraulic pick-up hitch for quick attachment of the launch trailer.

The original RB15 chassis
The upgraded chassis
The new pick up hitch

“For the hydraulic pick up hitch, we came up with a simple idea of a centre-mounted double acting ram, with two 100x100x10mm thick box section and doubler guide rails either side. We plumbed this into the existing hydraulics of the Bateman, which is operated from a single lever in the cab.

“Midway through the build it dawned on us that if the Bateman broke down out at sea, the brakes would automatically engage, it would be stuck and at the mercy of the tide. We built a small portable manual hydraulic pump that you couple into the brake line via a quick coupler and then pump it up to around 20bar. This releases the brakes to enable safe towing.”

Primed and ready for delivery
Potential disaster averted; it was time to protect the RB15 against saltwater corrosion. All hydraulic fittings were wrapped in anti-corrosion tape, the air compressor tank was moved up and the machine received a thorough coat of underseal.

The RB15 was delivered to Ryde for familiarisation and training.

Summing up the project Sam Frampton commented: “We carry out lots of alterations to farm machinery throughout the year, however, this was a bit different. The RB15 was a joy to work on, I’m sure it’s going to be a huge success. These guys risk their lives for the sake of others day and night, they deserve the very best equipment.”

Ady Farrell, Coxswain on the Ryde lifeboat added: “Since we retired our Bateman in 2017 we’ve been through a few tractors. Once we decided we needed an alternative, a Bateman was our preferred option because we know how reliable they are. It’s great to have a Bateman back on the run.”

About Ryde Inshore Rescue
Ryde Inshore Rescue are an Independent Lifeboat station based on the Isle of Wight.

On call to HMCG 365 days a year, Ryde operate two Inshore lifeboats. The service is not RNLI funded and survives solely on the generosity of the public to meet running costs of around £40,000 per year. If you would like to make a donation please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/rydeinshorerescue