A boatiful end to a wonderful week for Swanage RNLI

There was a splashing finale to Swanage RNLI’s Lifeboat Week when the annual build a boat competition and race drew a crowd of thousands to town.

Prince Albert Gardens became a hive of activity on Saturday 19th August 2023 as ten teams were given just four hours to build seaworthy boats and then to paddle them round a course in Swanage Bay.


Building a boat from scratch with basic tools in just four hours

The project requires close inspection to make sure it will be seaworthy

On their own and against the clock

The teams were each given three sheets of timber and plywood, a tube of quick drying glue, 30 nails, 30 screws and a roll of cloth tape to make their boats and a broom handle to use as a paddle.

They were allowed to use their own tools, including rechargeable power tools, and templates for the craft, but other than that they were on their own and against the clock.

All the boats were checked for safety by RNLI personnel before crews set off from the Stone Quay, where one sank in the shallows and another took on water near the starting line, with the brave captain having to be rescued by Swanage inshore lifeboat which was standing by.


Ready, set … paddle! The surviving eight teams set out on a race across the bay

And after a hotly contested race, Sea Squad just crossed the finish line ahead of Pier Pressure

Live music well into the evening

A hotly contested race followed, during which there may have been a little more contact than boating competitions normally allow, but eventually the Sea Squad paddled across the finishing line just ahead of Pier Presure.

The afternoon at Prince Albert Gardens allowed members of the public to meet the staff and volunteers behind Swanage’s wonderful lifeboat station and help raise money for the essential work they carry out along the coast.

There were also extra fundraisers, including a well supported raffle, arts and crafts for sale, local food and drink and live music well into the evening from Love Soul Choir, Celtic Confusion and The Reptiles.

Swanage artist Madelaine Devenay was one of those selling her original works at the event and said she was delighted to support such a vital local volunteer group as the lifeboat crew.

Lifeboat crew member Becky Mack by the main stage in Prince Albert Gardens

The Love Soul Choir filled the amphitheatre with song

“Really pleased with Lifeboat Week 2023”

Swanage lifeboat crew member Becky Mack said:

“We have been really pleased with the way that Lifeboat Week 2023 has gone, despite it not being the best weather, but the community has been so supportive of us and we are hoping for a record amount raised.

“The duck race was sold out – all 2,300 of them – an hour before the race began, and the popular quiz at the Royal British Legion raised £1,200 alone for RNLI funds, a record for that event.”

Handheld tools are allowed to help put the boats together…

… although some teams take the definition of handheld to a whole new level!

“The seafront is always packed with crowds”

Becky added:

“We had a huge crowd for the outdoor cinema showing of Top Gun: Maverick, and even with the intermittent bad weather though the week we only had to cancel one planned lifeboat launch – but then the pagers went off for that time, anyway.

“And the build a boat competition is an amazing event, a highlight of the week for many – the teams all get so invested in the building project and the seafront is always packed with crowds wanting to see how they get on in the water and hoping that not too many of them sink!”


Comperes for the main event were delighted to see how well supported it was


Ready for The Reptiles on the main stage to round off a fantastic day

Church service on the pier

The final event of Lifeboat Week is the church service, to be held on Swanage Pier from 4pm on Sunday 20th August, when lifeboats will moor up alongside the Pier.

The service is to be conducted by the Reverend Tony Higgins, who used to be on the lifeboat himself, and all are welcome to attend.

Swanage lifeboat crews rescue a capsized entrant before the race begins

The team from Swanage Pier were first to finish building with just three hours on the clock

Another boat is finished off with sticky cloth tape

Local artist Madelaine Devenay supported the work of the RNLI from her stall

Swanage Coastwatch and the RNLI work together to make the local coastline as safe as possible

Celtic connection perform for Lifeboat week 2023

Celtic Confusion take to the stage as crowds stay on for an evening of entertainment

The Reptiles perform at Swanage Lifeboat week 2023

The Reptiles perform the last set of the evening to a delighted crowd

Celtic connection perform for Lifeboat week 2023

Another packed crowd gives an appreciative send off to Lifeboat Week 2023

Further information

Follow the work of Swanage RNLI on its website

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