B-794 Joan Bate officially went on service at Dart RNLI on 26 October 2018 for a two year trial. This showed that the sea and weather conditions that the Dart lifeboat has to operate in, as well as the size of the casualties that they are called to, justified the RNLI in placing a B class lifeboat in Dartmouth permanently alongside the D class.
B-825, Norma Ethel Vinall, an Atlantic 85, was brought from the Relief Fleet at Poole to Dartmouth on 18 August 2020.
Specifications of the RNLI Atlantic 85 lifeboat.
There are two types of B class lifeboat – the Atlantic 75 and the Atlantic 85 – named after Atlantic College in Wales where these rigid inflatable lifeboats (RIBs) were first developed. 75 and 85 represent the lengths of the lifeboats – nearly 7.5m and 8.5m respectively.
Introduced into the fleet in 2005, the Atlantic 85 is the third generation of B class lifeboat and is gradually replacing the Atlantic 75.
When it comes to racing to the scene, the B class Atlantic 85 lifeboat is one of the fastest in the fleet; her top speed is 35 knots powered by two 115hp 4-stroke engines.
Although she’s an inshore lifeboat, designed to operate in shallower water, the B class can handle fairly challenging open sea conditions too – force 7 near gale winds in daylight and force 6 at night.
The B class lifeboat is ideal for rescues close to shore, near cliffs and rocks – areas inaccessible to our all-weather lifeboats.
The Atlantic 85 is also capable of being beached in an emergency without sustaining damage to her engines.
Most B class lifeboats are launched into the sea from a carriage, with the help of a launch and recovery vehicle such as a tractor. The Dart lifeboat is berthed on an aquadock attached to a pontoon in Dartmouth harbour.
With no wheelhouse on the B class lifeboat, the crew are exposed to the elements at all times and rely on their protective kit to keep them safe and warm.
Many rescues take place at night and can involve being close to dangerous cliffs and manmade structures, or searching caves and crevices.
In addition to night vision equipment, the B class lifeboat carries a searchlight and parachute illuminating flares to light up the surrounding area, helping to keep crew members safe as well as locate those in need of help.
The Atlantic 85 has room for more kit and four crew members compared to three on the Atlantic 75, but both have space for a high number of survivors.
The medical equipment stowed aboard includes oxygen and full resuscitation kit, responder bag and multi-purpose ambulance pouch. The Atlantic 85 also carries a stretcher
The B class has a manually operated righting mechanism in the event of a capsize which involves inflating a bag on top of the roll bar.
Her engines are inversion-proofed so that they shut down should she capsize and can be restarted after she has been righted.
The RNLI B class lifeboats are built and maintained at the RNLI Inshore Lifeboat Centre at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight It is planned that a new Atlantic 85 lifeboat will be built there in the autumn of 2021 for the Dart station.