Support the RNLI and Eat More Fish:
We often take the bravery, dedication and selflessness of others for granted. All around us, day and night are people dedicating their lives to making sure we are safe. On hand if we should ever get into difficulty on land or at sea. Some of these people are public servants, ambulance and fire services and others do it not as a job but for charity. The RNLI is just one of those institutions whose volunteers are always there.
So what makes this organisation, and the people who run it, so much more special when compared to others? Perhaps it’s because the RNLI is run by volunteers and funded by donations. It is a shining example of the selflessness people are capable of.
For almost 200 years. 24 hours a day. Seven days a week. At 236 lifeboat stations. On 200 lifeguarded beaches, from 444 lifeboats and with an army of 40,000 volunteers, the RNLI is an all weather, 24/7 lifesaving machine. Whenever someone gets into trouble at sea in the waters around the British Isles, the RNLI is on hand to provide help, assistance and if necessary to save lives.
The 236 active RNLI stations (manned by 4,600 volunteer crew and 3000 more support volunteers) provide coverage across the UK, Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and Isle of Man and are ready to go at a moment’s notice – as I found out when I had to get into full RNLI gear in the middle of a meal.
This week I was invited by the RNLI to visit their fantastic training college in Poole, Dorset and get a glimpse of the new boat building facilities which will, for the first time give the RNLI the ability to care for a boat from the design stage to building, deployment and maintenance without external partners.
When I arrived at the RNLI College and maintance campus sitting on the edge of Poole harbour, much larger and more modern than you might expect for a charitable organisation; I was impressed not just by its size and scope, but also by the wonderful view out into the world’s second largest natural harbour.
First off I was given a tour of the modern facility. As well as being the RNLI’s primary training facility it also happens to have Poole’s top rated place to stay (as voted for on TripAdvisor) and one of the best places to eat in town too. What TripAdvisor reviews don’t prepare you for is the fantastic view out over the water from the Harbour view bar and restaurant.
Though I visited on a grey and overcast day (perhaps not the best time) it was still a gorgeous view to take in. Given a warm summers evening, a glorious sunset over the harbour and cold glass of beer, it would be absolutely perfect.
Whilst both the hotel rooms and restaurant are there to cater to tired and hungry lifeboat crew, both those working in Poole and the ones there to train, they are also open to the public. The RNLI college facility opens its doors to diners, holidaymakers, corporate events and even weddings in an attempt to offset some of the £4m annual cost of running the facility. In the height of summer I could see the restaurant and bar spaces, along with their (covered) balconies being a wonderful place for a wedding ceremony and reception.
After the tour, and between seeing the state of the art wave test pool and a having a go in a lifeboat bridge simulator I, and another journalist were treated to our own three course fish supper, served up with talks by representatives from the RNLI, both who have served time (and still do) out on the water.
A meal interrupted
We started with a delicious fish stew/ soup. A soup might not sound like anything special. Maybe the average, everyday fish soup isn’t but this wasn’t your average, everyday soup. A beautiful tomato and vegetable base with huge king prawns, salmon, smoked fish, calamari rings and shell on mussels. The soup was thick and hearty but also tasted fantastic. The rich tomato sauce and mix of fish and seafood was complemented with a well balanced mix of herbs and just a little spice in the background. This was probably my favourite part of the meal. It perfectly captured the essence of what food on the South coast should be, uncomplicated yet bursting with flavour.
On to the main course, dressed crab. I had hoped eating down on the Dorset coast we’d have some shellfish. After the fantastic and very filling starter, a lighter main was an ideal follow on. The crab was served with light vegetables and potatoes. It all felt very traditional. The crab was light, soft and well flavoured. There was just a scattering of herbs to enhance the crab. Drizzle it with a little juice from the accompanying lemon and you have a great dish.
On to dessert. This one didn’t have a fishy theme, thank goodness really as seafood doesn’t go well in a pudding!I was treated to a trio of lemon flavoured desserts; a cheesecake, a tart and sorbet.
Why was I, a landlubber invited here? Well there is a link back to food somewhere in here. If you are one of those 4,600 volunteer crew then at any moment, day or night, work or family time wherever you are; when your pager goes off – it’s a call to action. When on call volunteer crew have to be ready at a moment’s notice – even even if they’ve just cooked a romantic dinner for their partner. Every minute is precious and could be the difference between life and death for someone in distress at sea.
Between 9-11 October the RNLI will be running a fundraising campaign called the ‘Fish supper’. The idea behind it is simple. Invite a few friends around for dinner, cook up a delicious fish supper – think a comforting fish pie to stave off a cold Autumnal evening and ask your guests to make a donation towards the RNLI. You can find more information on the Fish Supper evening, including how to get your pack with ideas for fish supper recipes and games you can play with your guests.