The Tamar class lifeboat SPIRIT OF PADSTOW was placed on service on July 17th 2006. This lifeboat was provided by MISS H.B. ALLEN and is the second Padstow Lifeboat donated by Miss Allen.

Tamar represents the culmination of many years of hard work by her combined design team from the RNLI engineering office and from Devonport Management Ltd in Plymouth.

The hull is composite (glass and epoxy resin - with a foam core sandwich structure above the water).  Although lightweight, it is incredibly strong, with one square metre able to withstand a force of 68 tonnes.  It is built in 2 halves, which are then stuck together, and her deck and wheelhouse are a single moulding, which is made upside down and then flipped over and stuck on top of the hull - just like putting the lid on the box.

Tamar’s power comes from her 2 Caterpillar C18 marine diesel engines.  Each of these engines generates 1,000 hp (that’s a bit more than a formula 1 racing car), and driving her 2 propellers they give Tamar a top speed of 25 knots.  They also provide her with a towing capability of up to 7 tonnes, which means that she can tow most boats or even hold a coaster off the shore while other help arrives.

The top speed of 25 knots can be maintained for up to 10 hours, giving her a range of 125 miles and to achieve this she carries 1000 gallons of fuel.

As you have seen she is designed to operate from a slipway.  This means that she needs specially designed keels to not only support her on the slip, but also to take the considerable impact loads she experiences in that transition from sea to land.  The 3 keels are steel lined, and the main keel strut at the aft end is designed toaccommodate loads of up to 90 tonnes.  Also to make sure she can get into the boathouse, her mast folds down on hydraulic rams.

Launching down the slipway is easy thanks to the forces of gravity but recovering is less so.  Apart from the immense skill of her Coxswain, Tamar is assisted in aligning with the slipway thanks to a powerful bow thruster.

The Tamar also has a small inflatable powered boat, which allows the crew to perform rescues in very shallow areas, close to rocks or caves and transfer personnel. This is stowed under the deck at the stern of the boat and can be ready to go in less than 2 minutes.
The boat can be helmed from 2 positions in the wheelhouse, with full electronic throttle and helm control at these seats – this means that actually there is no wheel in the wheelhouse but we still use that term.

5 seats in the wheelhouse are fitted with flat screens.  These screens form the interface for the integrated electronic Systems and Information Management System (SIMS) that provide access to all the boats systems and allows the crew to operate the boat from the safety of their seats.

Why has the RNLI decided to design a new lifeboat?
This represents another stage of the continuous improvement of our fleet which is necessary because of changing needs and requirements of the work our lifeboat crews undertake. We provide, on call, the 24-hour service necessary to cover search and rescue requirements to 100 nautical miles out from the coast of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. It is important to remember that we require a range of different lifeboats to cope with the diverse geographical conditions found around our coastline; the Tamar is a slipway launched lifeboat and replaces the Tyne class, which is coming towards the end of its useful life.

What are the main features and benefits of the new design?

The features and benefits, when compared to the Tyne class, can be summarised as follows:

  1. It is bigger: 16 metres as opposed to 14 metres for the Tyne.
  2. It is faster: travelling at a top speed of 25 knots, rather than 17 knots.
  3. It provides more safety features: research shows that some accidents could be prevented if crew remain sitting, rather than moving around the lifeboat, during rough weather. Part of the reason for installing the computerised ‘Systems and Information Management System’ (SIMS) is to allow the crew to control many of the on-board functions without leaving their seats.
  4. It has improved ergonomics: a faster speed means greater physical loadings on the crew as the lifeboat crashes through waves; the new seat design will significantly reduce the impact of these loadings on the crew.
  5. It is better equipped: the Tamar class carries a powered ‘Y boat’, which is a larger and more powerful inflatable than the manually propelled ‘X boat’ carried on board a Tyne. The Y-boat is stored behind a transom door which allows immediate deployment whereas the X-boat was stowed below in a deflated state.

What is the future build programme for the Tamar and how many will be in the RNLI fleet?

It is intended to build 4 Tamar class boats per year, to a total of approximately 32 lifeboats.

How much does each Tamar cost?

The current estimate is around £2.4m for each Tamar class lifeboat. The design team has worked hard to keep to this cost by making efficiencies and reducing waste. For example, when previous lifeboats have been fitted the RNLI has taken on the responsibility for purchasing and supplying many of the parts used by the fitters. With the Tamar build the boatyard has agreed to use their greater buying power to obtain the necessary parts, thus we can make savings in this area.

Facts and figures:

Length:     16m
Breadth:   5m
Draught:      1.35m
Weight:  31.5 tonnes
Crew:       7 (including doctor)
Material:   Fibre reinforced plastic
Endurance:   10 hours at 25 knots
Speed:    25 knots
Power:     2 X 1000HP turbo charged diesels
Propulsion:   2 X fixed pitch 5 bladed propellers
Fuel:   3.75 tonnes/4,300 litres