Oakley-class lifeboat

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Sheringham Lifeboat ON960 Manchest Unity of Oddfellows.JPG
RNLB Manchester Unity of Oddfellows (ON 960)
Class overview
Builders: William Osborne, Littlehampton
J. Samuel White, Cowes
Groves and Guttridge, Cowes
Operators: Royal National Lifeboat Institution
Preceded by: Liverpool/Watson
Succeeded by: Rother/Solent
Cost:
37ft: £27,000-£38,000
48ft 6in: £40,000-£72,000
Built: 1958–1971
In service: 1958–1993
Completed: 37ft: 26
48ft 6in: 5
Retired: 31
Preserved: 10
General characteristics
Displacement: 37ft: 12 long tons (12 t)
48ft 6in: 30 long tons (30 t)
Length: 37 ft (11 m) and 48 ft 6 in (14.78 m)
Beam: 11 ft 6 in (3.51 m) and 14 ft 0 in (4.27 m)
Draught: 3 ft 4 in (1.02 m) and 4 ft 4 in (1.32 m)
Propulsion: 37ft: Two 43hp Perkins P4M/52hp Ford Thorneycroft/Parsons Porbeagle
48ft 6in: Two 110bhp Gardner 6LX
Speed: 8 knots (9.2 mph)
Complement: 7/8

The Oakley-class lifeboat refers to two types of self-righting lifeboat operated by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution around the coast of the United Kingdom and Ireland between 1958 and 1993. The 37ft Oakley was designed for carriage launching, while the larger 48ft 6in version was designed for slipway launching or to lie afloat. During their service they saved a combined total of 1,456 lives in 3,734 rescue launches.

The class is known by the name of its designer, RNLI naval architect Richard A. Oakley.

History[edit]

During the first half of the twentieth century the RNLI had equipped its lifeboat stations with motor lifeboats designed by G L Watson and, later, J R Barnett. Both these men had designed boats that were generally stable, but unlike the earlier Peake-class boats, were not self-righting. Part of the problem was that motor lifeboats were much heavier than pulling and sailing boats which could be packed with cork to make them buoyant. Richard Oakley worked out how to use shifting water ballast to create a self-righting motor lifeboat.[1][2]

Oakley's 37 feet (11 m) prototype was launched in 1958 and placed in service at Scarborough. Production boats started to be built in 1961 and in 1963 the prototype 48 feet 6 inches (14.78 m) boat was launched and sent to Yarmouth. The last Barnett-class was built in 1960 and the final Watson-class in 1963, after which Oakleys were the only all-weather lifeboats put into service for the next four years.[3]

Design[edit]

The Oakley was designed as a self-righting boat. The design combined great stability with the ability to self-right in the event of it capsizing. This was achieved by a system of shifting water ballast. The system worked by the lifeboat taking on one and half tons of sea water at launching in to a tank built into the base of the hull. If the lifeboat then reached a crucial point of capsize the ballast water would transfer through valves to a righting tank built into the port side. If the capsize was to the starboard side of the lifeboat, the water shift started when an angle of 165° was reached. This would push the boat into completing a full 360° roll. If the capsize was to the port side, the water transfer started at 110°. In this case the weight of water combined with the weight of machinery aboard the lifeboat usually managed to stop the roll and allow the lifeboat to bounce back to upright.[citation needed] The water was discharged from the tank when the ship was taken out of the sea after each launch. A problem emerged with damp sand left in the tank after the water was drained. This caused a weak electrolytic action that eroded the copper nails which held the wooden hulls together.[4]

The hull of the Oakley class was constructed from two wooden skins with a layer of calico between. After several years it was found that the calico absorbed water which caused softening of the wood around the copper nails. This led to a series of surveys in the late 1980s and the withdrawal of some boats, or replanking of others.[4] The skins were made from diagonally laid African Mahogany planks. The outer one was 0.375 inches (9.5 mm) thick with the inner 0.25 inches (6.4 mm). The keel was iron and weighed 1.154 tons. The hull was divided into eleven watertight compartments.[citation needed] Two sizes were built. Most boats were 37 feet (11 m) in length and 11 feet 6 inches (3.51 m) in beam. It displaced 12.05 tons when fully laden with crew and gear. Five larger boats were built that were 48 feet 6 inches (14.78 m) long and 14 feet (4.3 m) wide.

The 48ft 6in Oakley[edit]

48-12 Charles Henry in private use (Exeter, 2007)

After five years production of the 37ft boat, the RNLI decided to extend the water ballast self-righting principal to a larger boat suitable for slipway launching and lying afloat. In 1962 a prototype boat was built, 48-01 Earl and Countess Howe (ON 968) and in appearance it resembled an extended 42ft Watson-class with a long tapering superstructure running forward from an aft cockpit which was covered, but open to the stern. The boat's water ballast system used 234 tons of water compared to 112 tons in the smaller boats. Power came from two 110 bhp Gardner 6LX six cylinder diesel engines, the redesigned and uprated version of the engine fitted to the last ten 52ft Barnett class boats. Displacing 29 tons and built at a cost of £40,000, RNLB The Earl and Countess Howe (ON 968) was the first RNLI lifeboat to be built with radar installed and went on station at Yarmouth in February 1963. It was four years before further examples were built, by which time a major redesign of the superstructure had resulted in the Mk. II version. In this an enclosed wheelhouse was positioned amidships, accessed by sliding doors on either side at the forward end. Behind the wheelhouse was an aft cabin which could accommodate a loaded stretcher. Initially, radio aerials were rigged between the foremast and a bipod mast at the back of the aft cabin, on the roof of which the radar scanner was mounted on a pylon. Later, the masts were removed and twin pole aerials fitted to the aft cabin just behind the wheelhouse with a small tripod mast fitted to the wheelhouse roof. RNLB Ruby and Arthur Reed (ON 990) went on station at Cromer in March 1967, followed by RNLB James and Catherine Macfarlane (ON 989) which took up duties at Padstow in July 1967.

Attention now turned to a steel hulled development of the 48ft 6in Oakley which would dispense with the complex water ballast system and achieve its self-righting capability from a watertight superstructure. This emerged as the Solent class and initial orders for eight boats were placed with Operational Numbers following on from the Oakleys (48-004 to 48-011, the three digit second part of the number indicating a metal hull). Two final Oakleys were then ordered, taking Operational Numbers 48-12 and 48-13. The first of these, 48-12 Charles Henry (ON 1015) went on station at Selsey in January 1969, a few months before the first Solent. 48-13 Princess Marina (ON 1016) began service at Wick in July 1970.

Like the smaller boats, the 48ft 6in Oakleys were prone to hull deterioration through electrolysis and were not considered for sale for further use. Initially, all five boats were put on display at various locations, but two, 48-01 and 48-13 were subsequently broken up. After ten years on display, 48-12 was sold to a private owner who removed the water ballast system and put the boat back on the water, leaving 48-02 and 48-03 on public display at Lands End and Hythe Marina respectively.

Fleet[edit]

37 foot boats[edit]

ON[a] Op. No.[b] Name Built Builder In service Principal stations Further use[3]
942 37-01 J.G. Graves of Sheffield 1958 William Osborne,
Littlehampton
1958–1978
1979–1988
1988–1991
1992–1993
Scarborough
Relief fleet
Clogher Head
Newcastle
Preserved at Chatham Historic Dockyard
960 37-02 Manchester Unity of Oddfellows 1961 William Osborne,
Littlehampton
1961–1990 Sheringham Sold April 1991. Preserved at Sheringham
961 37-03 Calouste Gulbenkian 1961 J. Samuel White,
Cowes
1962–1969
1970–1990
1990–1991
Weston Super Mare
Relief fleet
New Quay
Sold November 1991. Under restoration at Donaghadee
966 37-04 Robert and Dorothy Hardcastle 1962 Groves and Guttridge,
Cowes
1962–1968
1968–1991
1991–1993
Boulmer
Filey
Relief fleet
Sold April 1993. Preserved at Hartlepool
972 37-05 The Will and Fanny Kirby 1963 William Osborne,
Littlehamton
1963–1979
1979–1983
1983–1993
Seaham
Relief fleet
Flamborough
Preserved at Chatham Historic Dockyard
973 37-06 Fairlight 1964 William Osborne,
Littlehampton
1964–1988
1988–1989
1989–1990
1991–1992
Hastings
Relief fleet
St Ives
New Quay
Sold October 1994. Pleasure boat at Blakeney Harbour
974 37-07 Jane Hay 1964 William Osborne,
Littlehampton
1964–1974
1974–1980
1980–1992
St Abbs
Relief fleet
Newcastle
Broken up at Arklow 1995
975 37-08 Sir James Knott 1963 Groves and Guttridge,
Cowes
1963–1969
1969–1972
1972–1985
1985–1990
Cullercoats
Relief fleet
Redcar
Relief fleet
Sold 1990. Preserved at Redcar
976 37-09 Lilly Wainwright 1964 Groves and Guttridge,
Cowes
1964–1990
1990–1992
Llandudno
Kilmore Quay
Sold September 1993. Pleasure boat at Cobh
977 37-10 Charles Fred Grantham 1964 Groves and Guttridge,
Cowes
1964–1990
1990–1991
1991–1992
Skegness
Scarborough
Relief fleet
Broken up 1993
978 37-11 The Royal Thames 1964 J. Samuel White,
Cowes
1964–1969
1970–1978
1979–1991
1991–1993
Caister
Runswick
Pwllheli
Clogher Head
Sold 1994
979 37-12 James and Catherine Macfarlane (1964-1967)
Amelia (1967-1991)
1964 J. Samuel White,
Cowes
1964–1978
1978–1991
Relief fleet
Scarborough
Sold February 1992. Preserved at Charlestown
980 37-13 William Henry and Mary King 1964 J. Samuel White,
Cowes
1964–1967
1967–1988
1989–1990
Cromer No.2
Bridlington
North Sunderland
Children's playground, Highbury, London
981 37-14 Mary Pullman 1964 William Osborne,
Littlehampton
1965–1989 Kirkcudbright Hull on display at Spalding
982 37-15 Ernest Tom Nethercoat 1965 William Osborne,
Littlehampton
1965–1990
1990–1991
Wells
North Sunderland
Under restoration
983 37-16 The Doctors 1965 William Osborne,
Littlehampton
1965–1991
1991–1993
Anstruther
Relief fleet
Sold 1993. Under restoration at Donaghadee
984 37-17 Mary Joicey 1966 Herd and McKenzie,
Buckie
1966–1981
1981–1989
Newbiggin
Relief fleet
Under restoration for display at Newbiggin
985 37-18 Valentine Wyndham-Quin 1967 Herd and McKenzie,
Buckie
1968–1984
1984–1988
Clacton-on-Sea
Clogher Head
Preserved at Harwich
986 37-19 Lloyds II 1966 Morris and Lorimer,
Sandbanks
1966–1990
1990–1992
Ilfracombe
Sheringham
Broken up 1993
991 37-20 Edward and Mary Lester 1967 William Osborne,
Littlehampton
1967–1989 North Sunderland Broken up 1989
992 37-21 Frank Penfold Marshall 1968 William Osborne,
Littlehampton
1968–1989 St Ives Broken up 1989
993 37-22 Har Lil 1968 William Osborne,
Littlehampton
1968–1990 Rhyl Sold December 1991. Under restoration at South Ferriby
994 37-23 The Vincent Nesfield 1969 William Osborne,
Littlehampton
1969–1972
1972–1973
1973–1989
1989–1991
1991–1993
Relief fleet
Port Erin
Relief fleet
Kilmore Quay
Relief fleet
Broken up by 1995
995 37-24 James Ball Ritchie 1970 William Osborne,
Littlehampton
1970–1991 Ramsey Broken up 1992
996 37-25 Birds Eye 1970 William Osborne,
Littlehampton
1970–1990 New Quay Preserved at Moelfre
997 37-26 Lady Murphy 1971 William Osborne,
Littlehampton
1972–1988 Kilmore Quay Broken up 1995

48 foot 6 inch boats[edit]

All built by William Osborne, Littlehampton except ON 989, Berthon Boat Co., Lymington

ON[a] Op. No.[b] Name Built In service Principal stations Further use[3]
968 48-01 The Earl and Countess Howe 1963 1963–1977
1977–1984
Yarmouth
Walton and Frinton
Displayed at RNLI Depot, Poole 1984-2004. Broken up 2004
989 48-02 James and Catherine Macfarlane 1967 1967–1983
1983–1987
Padstow
The Lizard
On display at Land's End
990 48-03 Ruby and Arthur Reed 1966 1967–1984
1985–1988
Cromer
St Davids
On display at Hythe
1015 48-12 Charles Henry 1968 1969–1984
1984–1987
Selsey
Baltimore
Displayed at Merry Hill, Dudley 1989-1999. Pleasure boat at Exeter
1016 48-13 Princess Marina 1970 1970–1988 Wick Displayed at National Lifeboat Museum, Pitsea. Broken up 2003
  1. ^ a b ON is the RNLI's Official Number of the boat.
  2. ^ a b Op. No. is the RNLI's Operational Number of the boat carried on the hull.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Leach, Nicholas (2003). Oakley Class Lifeboats: an Illustrated History of the RNLI's Oakley and Rother Lifeboats. Stroud: Tempus. ISBN 978-0-7524-2784-3. 
  2. ^ Wake-Walker, Edward; Deane, Heather and Purches, Georgette (1989). Lifeboat! Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Shepperton: Ian Allan. ISBN 0-7110-1835-9. 
  3. ^ a b c Denton, Tony (2009). Handbook 2009. Shrewsbury: Lifeboat Enthusiasts Society. pp. 22–27. 
  4. ^ a b Kipling, Ray; Kipling, Susannah (2006). Never Turn Back. Stroud: Sutton Publishing. pp. 87–88. ISBN 0-7509-4307-6. 

External links[edit]