Lifesaving charity’s own battle to survive showcased in new short film
We have sent up a distress flare before for the admirable charity that is SARA, but now there is a much better vehicle for drawing attention to its plight.
Earlier this year the group of volunteers who set sail in all conditions to save the lives of those in peril on our treacherous River Severn launched a lifesaving campaign for themselves.
We wrote about it here on The Raikes Journal, flagging up not just SARA’s efforts on the water over the years but also that it is the first port of call for all of our emergency services wherever someone goes missing – on water or on land.
The mighty RNLI which patrols our coastal waters does not venture north of the Severn Bridge and it is left to these intrepid individuals of the Severn Area Rescue Association to seek, find and save us.
But the pandemic has delivered a perfect storm threatening its headquarters – withserious consequences for its operations now firmly on its radar.
Which brings us to the video, filmed by Gloucestershire videographer and photographer Matt Bigwood, which lays out the crisis.
“The Old Dock House at SARA Sharpness Lifeboat Station is home to three lifeboats and our hovercraft, as well as being the base for the 28-strong crew.
“Despite our best efforts over the years, it now needs urgent specialist repair work. We estimate that the total cost of repairs is in the region of £25,000, and are essential to keep our lifesaving boats and kit in good condition.
“Covid-19 has dramatically reduced our face-to-face fundraising efforts this year,” said a spokesman for the charity, which has relied heavily on street collections to raise the bulk of its funds. The pandemic, of course, torpedoed those efforts, sinking them instantly.
“It needs new windows as water ingress is causing damage to the station interior. Most interior walls facing the front of the building require major damp proofing and re-plastering due to damp, the external render on boathouse wall requires repair as significant areas of which have blown and fallen off, and the exterior walls need repair.
“In additional the sliding doors on the station boat storage area, and on the station garage area require repair or replacement, and the garage area requires a new roof.
“Over the years the volunteer crew members have made running repairs to the building (Grade II listed), but specialist help is now required as the repairs needed to maintain the building to a suitable standard are outside the skills of the crew.”
The Old Dock House has been SARA’s headquarters since 1996 and is home to two small lifeboats, a hovercraft and the operations room for the team, called out 20-30 times per year.
Funds not only make good the upkeep of its kit – from servicing the engines of its boats to its Land Rover and a crane which winches the rescue boats straight down to the river. The first SARA station was established at Chepstow in 1973.