Lights out for the families of Britain’s loneliest lifeboat station: UK’s only full-time crew prepare to leave remote peninsula which has been their home for 200 years
Lifeboatmen and their families have lived on Spurn Point, at the mouth of the Humber Estuary, since the early 19th century
But erosion caused by winds and tides has damaged roads and left the current crew increasingly isolated
By Rob Preece
PUBLISHED: 13:27, 29 July 2012 | UPDATED: 16:08, 29 July 2012
It is a tradition which began more than 200 years ago, when George III was on the throne and Britain was at war with France.
But living on Spurn Point is no longer possible for the families of the brave lifeboatmen who have helped stricken sailors in and around the Humber Estuary.
Life on this remote peninsula in East Yorkshire, buffeted by winds and tides, has become so isolated that the families of Britain’s only full-time lifeboat crew will leave their homes and move inland later this year.
The lifeboat crew will then begin a new shift system with five members working six days on and six days off.
Families have lived in houses on the remote 20,000ft spit of land since the early 19th century.
The lifeboat station was founded in 1810. It now keeps one of the busiest of the RNLI’s all-weather vessels, dealing with more than 50 incidents a year.
But increased erosion has caused the road leading to the peninsula’s tip to become impassable at times as the wind blows sand across.
High tides frequently make it impossible for children to get to school and two families had to stay in a hotel last year when a sea surge cut off the road.
The lifeboat crew must be available for call-out 24 hours a day, which makes life difficult for spouses who must plan ahead for even the simplest of tasks.
The nearest shop is a 16-mile round trip from their homes.
Humber lifeboat coxswain Dave Steenvoorden, 54, said: ‘I am going to be gutted when I leave. I think they have made the absolutely right decision to move the families but I have been here 21 years and love it.’
His wife Karen said: ‘The wives have taken it really hard. If you could bottle what Spurn is and sell it you’d be a millionaire.
‘It’s very laid back. We don’t lock doors. We are going to find it so strange going out into the big wide world.’
Six families are on the move, and the last is due to leave Spurn Point on August 20.
Their homes will be converted into dormitories and offices.
Andy Clift, the RNLI’s divisional inspector, said the station was so remote that it was difficult to staff with volunteers.
The lifeboat will remain with a fully professional crew and the RNLI has recruited four new members to work the shift system.
An RNLI spokesman said: ‘Our crew make many sacrifices to enable them to save lives at sea – a role they would be unable to carry out without the full support of their families – and the RNLI has a duty of care to both its crew members and to the families.
‘We want to ensure our crew members have a satisfactory work-life balance, with appropriate time off from operational duty and their place of work.
‘The current way of working means this is impossible to achieve.
‘It has also become increasingly clear that the continuous erosion of Spurn Point and regular breaching of the road will make it difficult to sustain community life for much longer.
‘Travel for the crew members’ families to and from work, school, the shops et cetera can be difficult and sometimes dangerous.
‘As the RNLI can no longer guarantee the safety and comfort of the families living on the Point, it has become imperative that we progress plans to move them away from the lifeboat station.’