Dutch lifeboat training in rough seas

Unusual weather for this time of the year give the Dutch lifeboat service KNRM a change to train their crews in handling their boats in rough seas:

Very special weather for this time of year. The seas were very high because of stormy winds from the Northwest. A lot of breaking seas battling the grounds north of the Dutch isles. The lifeboats ARIE VISSER from Terschelling and DORUS RIJKERS from Vlieland both sailed out this evening for practicing heavy weather sailing. We could barely photograph them while showers with snow or hail came over. We were again impressed by the quality of the KNRM lifeboats!

Photo’s : Flying Focus Aerial Photography www.flyingfocus.nl ©


That is the Doggersbank area. The sea floor is raised 13 meters there and therefore the water depth is very shallow. Ground seas arise when waves are slowed down by a shallower seabed, while the top of the wave wants to continue. The wave is “crocheted”, as it were. Also these are heavy seas, saturated with sand. Many ships were suddenly capsized by those ground swells. By the way these ships are self righting.

The Royal Dutch Rescue Company (KNRM) is a private foundation for providing assistance to people and ships in need along the Dutch coast. They solely rely on gifts, donations and heritages but do not receive government support.

Personally I have the feeling that their days are over as search and rescue helicopters have more and more taken over their traditional lifesaving roll. These days they mainly have to deal with yachts, swimmers, kite surfers and the like that got into trouble. Although useful it isn’t the kind of thing they were founded for.

The Rescue Companies were founded in 1824 and are part of the Dutch rescue system. The cause was a shipping disaster off the coast of Huisduinen in October of that year in which three shipwrecked people and six rescuers lost their lives.

How it was in the old days. Stunning difference!

These 8.50 meter long lifeboats were built “smooth”, which means that the skin was smooth on the outside. Two layers of wood had been laid diagonally on top of each other with burlap in between. There are also lifeboats that are riveted clinkers, but these are of a later date.

The bow and stern were the same. These sloops therefore did not have a rudder, but were steered with a steering belt. In rough seas, there was therefore no need to turn around with the risk of capsizing. The man at the steering oar just went to the other side with his oar and the rowers turned.

The sloops were rowed with ten men. The boats were self-draining by means of a double bottom. There was also extra buoyancy due to air boxes in the bow and stern and along the edges.

Shipwrecked people were “herded” under the rowing boards on which the rowers sat. An uncomfortable and wet position. By means of a chute the boat could be lowered from the shed into the water of the harbor.

In the summer there were demonstrations in which the rowing rescue boat is driven on a launch car with Friesian horses over the beach, to be launched into the sea when the weather was good. Quite a spectacle!