Published: 16:27, 29 August 2008
A generations old tradition of lifeboatmen being summoned to a rescue at sea by firing a booming maroon flare will soon vanish.
Ramsgate’s lifeboat station is one of the few remaining to use maroons but the supplier to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution has decided to stop making them. When existing stocks have been used up, the tradition will end.
While volunteer crews have been alerted to man their boat by pager for several years, maroons have sometimes been fired high into the sky at the boathouse when additional rescuers are required for a launch. Before the invention of the pager, maroons were the sole means of contact.
John Ray, press officer for Ramsgate lifeboat said: “Firing maroons was stopped following health and safety fears at some locations. Those who wished to continue had to carry out an assessment, which we did in conjunction with the port authorities and we resumed firing two years ago.
“Ramsgate is something of a rarity nowadays with a large number of the crew still working in and around the harbour, so maroons still have a practical use. In reality though, the main use has been to warn others the lifeboat is about to launch and publicise a launch to the town.”
Internet users who want to know about lifeboat launches and when they happen can go to www.rnli.org.uk where, by following the instructions, they can be alerted on their computer screen soon after the crew’s pagers have been set off.
An RNLI spokesman said: “Our supplier has told us they are no longer going to make the maroons and we have not been able to find anybody else. The specifications are quite tough as they have to explode in the air at the right height and volume to be effective yet safe.
“Pagers are the first means of call and there are mobile phones too of course, but maroons can still be used at individual crews’ discretion.
“If anybody can supply maroons to the RNLI we would like to hear from them.”