Burnham Area Rescue Boat

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Burnham Area Rescue Boat
Independent lifeboat station
Spirit of Lelania
Country United Kingdom
County Somerset
Town Burnham-on-Sea
Location The Esplanade, TA8 1BB
 - coordinates 51°13′59″N 3°00′00″W / 51.2331°N 2.9999°W / 51.2331; -2.9999Coordinates: 51°13′59″N 3°00′00″W / 51.2331°N 2.9999°W / 51.2331; -2.9999
Founded 1994
Burnham Area Rescue Boat is located in Somerset
Burnham Area Rescue Boat

BARB Search & Rescue (based in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset) formed in 1992 as Burnham Area Rescue Boat and is a voluntary search and rescue service that operates two rescue hovercrafts and an inshore rescue boat in the Bridgwater Bay area. It is also a registered charity.

It mainly operates BBV hovercrafts, which have been used to rescue people, animals and vehicles from the mudflats of the Bristol Channel,[1] but also has a small inshore rescue boat. The construction of its boathouse on the seafront in 1994 was the subject of a television programme and took just three days.


Mud danger signs on Bridgwater Bay near the mouth of the River Parrett are necessary because fast, high-amplitude tides here have led to drownings on the extensive mud flats.

Burnham-on-Sea is on the shore of the Bristol Channel and has a long sandy beach, but nearby mudflats and sandbanks have claimed several lives over the years. At low tide, large parts of the area become mudflats up to 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) wide due to the tidal range of 15 metres (49 ft),[2] second only to Bay of Fundy in Eastern Canada.[3][4]

A lifeboat had been provided in the town from 1836, but this was withdrawn in 1930 leaving coverage for the area to the Weston-super-Mare lifeboat.[5]

A charity appeal was established in 1992 by members of the local sailing community, to equip the town with its own inshore rescue boat. In June 1994, the boathouse was built in the space of three days by Anneka Rice and a team of builders for the BBC TV series Challenge Anneka.[6]

The site and technical support was provided by Sedgemoor District Council.[7]

In June 2002, a five-year-old holidaymaker, Lelaina Hall, was drowned on the mudflats at Berrow, north of the town.[8][9][10]

A new appeal was launched in association with the Association of Search and Rescue Hovercraft (since renamed Hovercraft Search and Rescue UK) and with the backing of the Western Daily Press.[11] This raised £115,000 to buy a rescue hovercraft, which could operate on mud and in shallow water that was unapproachable for the inshore rescue boat.[1] It arrived on 22 March 2003,[12] and during its first year of operation up to 50 people were rescued.[13]

BARB asked the Royal National Lifeboat Institution to take over inshore rescue boat work on the coast, which it did on 23 December 2003. It operates an B-class (Atlantic 75) Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) and a D-class (IB1) inflatable boat from Burnham-on-Sea Lifeboat Station which is a short distance from the BARB boathouse and complements their hovercraft.[14]


The BARB boathouse

The BARB headquarters are in a single-storey block building that matches the adjacent tourist information centre and public conveniences. The boathouse is at the north end and the Coastguard have facilities at the other end of the building.


Inshore rescue boat[edit]

The inshore rescue boat is an Jeanneau Rigiflex boat that can operate in calm waters.

Spirit of Lelania[edit]

The Spirit of Lelania is a six-seat BBV-6 hovercraft designed by Bill Baker Vehicles and built by Ivanoff Hovercraft AB, in Sweden in 2003.[11]

It is 5.25 metres (17 ft 3 in) long and 2.5 metres (8 ft 2 in) wide. Initially powered by a 110 hp (82 kW) engine, it has a cruising speed of 20 knots (37 km/h) over water.[15]

In November 2010, the engine was replaced with a new 135 hp (101 kW) unit from a MG TF sports car, donated by the manufacturer MG Motor.[16][17]

Light of Elzabeth[edit]

The Light Of Elizabeth is a four-seat BBV craft intended for training and to reach sites on the River Parrett where the larger hovercraft cannot operate. It entered service in August 2006.[18][19]

A new larger Italian-designed hovercraft replaced Light Of Elizabeth in 2013. It was funded by donations from local individuals and groups[20] and is made of kevlar rather than fibreglass to make it more resiliant.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Jamieson, Alastair (18 April 2009). "Massive rescue operation to save herd of cows trapped in mud". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 December 2010. 
  2. ^ "Severn Estuary Barrage". UK Environment Agency. 31 May 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 3 September 2007. 
  3. ^ Chan, Marjorie A.; Archer, Allen William (2003). Extreme Depositional Environments: Mega End Members in Geologic Time. Boulder, Colorado: Geological Society of America. p. 151. ISBN 0-8137-2370-1. 
  4. ^ "Coast: Bristol Channel". BBC. Retrieved 27 August 2007. 
  5. ^ Denton, Tony (2009). Handbook 2009. Shrewsbury: Lifeboat Enthusiasts Society. p. 60. 
  6. ^ "Challenge Anneka and Anneka Rice to the rescue!". burnham-on-sea.com. 2010. Retrieved 12 December 2010. 
  7. ^ "Safety at Sea". Burnham on Sea and Highbridge Town Council. Retrieved 7 December 2010. 
  8. ^ Alleyne, Richard; Martin, Nicole (25 June 2002). "Rescuers tell of desperate fight to save mud flats girl". Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 7 December 2010. 
  9. ^ "'Sad, tragic' case of girl's drowning". BBC News. 24 October 2002. Retrieved 7 December 2010. 
  10. ^ "Earl of Wessex to unveil Lelaina plaque at BARB". This is Somerset. Retrieved 7 December 2010. 
  11. ^ a b "Such a Perfect Day as Thousands Pay Tribute to Lelaina and Celebrate Her Enduring Spirit" (PDF). Hovercraft Bulletin. Hovercraft Museum. Winter 2002/3 (49): 9. ISSN 0144-3755. Retrieved 7 December 2010. 
  12. ^ "Spirit of Lelaina lives on". BBC News. 22 March 2003. Retrieved 7 December 2010. 
  13. ^ "BARB". BARB. Retrieved 19 November 2010. 
  14. ^ "Burnham-on-Sea History". RNLI. Archived from the original on 7 October 2008. Retrieved 19 November 2010. 
  15. ^ "BBV-6". Ivanoff Hovercraft AB. Retrieved 7 December 2010. 
  16. ^ "Rescue Hovercraft Fitted with New MG Engine". MG Motor. 29 November 2010. 
  17. ^ "New engine gives old hovercraft new lease of life". Mid Somerset Series. 16 August 2010. Retrieved 7 December 2010. 
  18. ^ "Second Hovercraft". BARB. 23 August 2006. Retrieved 19 November 2010. 
  19. ^ "Second Hovercraft". BARB. Retrieved 19 November 2010. 
  20. ^ "New hovercraft for Burnham-on-Sea rescue charity". BBC. 2 August 2010. Retrieved 7 December 2010. 

External links[edit]