PETERHEAD’s Lifeboat has welcomed a new full time mechanic into the fold at the West Pier’s RNLI station.
Falkirk born Alistair Wilson (36) joins the 20 strong group of volunteers who risk their lives to ensure the safety of Buchan seafarers.
A life long boating enthusiast, Ali had always wanted to join RNLI but his previous home on Orkney was too far from the nearest lifeboat station, so his new role at Peterhead fulfils a lifelong ambition.
“I have always loved boats,” says Ali, “and have always been a supporter of RNLI. They’re definitely a handy mob to be with. I’d met a good few of the lifeboat crew up in Orkney and they’d always waxed on about how it was a great thing. I’m delighted to be in a job that I really enjoy.”
Clad in the instantly recognisable yellow RNLI boiler suit, Ali explains the ins and outs of the vitally important mechanic’s position.
“The main aim is to get the place into a state of organisation so that it basically runs itself,” says Ali, “It’s all a series of routines - daily, weekly, monthly, three-monthly, six monthly and yearly checks of equipment, to make sure everything is working, strip it back, check the condition.”
The £2.5 million Tamar class lifeboat is state of the art and allows Ali to control everything from fuel gages and engines, to CCTV, from an impressive spaceship-esque seat behind the Coxswain.
The lifeboat is usually called to sea about once a fortnight, sometimes more depending on weather conditions so it is vital that everything is in order. That’s where Ali comes in.
“It can be pretty rough out there,” he says, “so you have to put your faith in the equipment. The lifeboat is the best the RNLI can afford. You can get pitched and tossed about out at sea but you never feel unsafe. Although it can be slightly unpleasant. Anyone who says they’ve never been sea-sick has never experienced the sea as we experience it on the lifeboat.”
A member of the Scouts since he was a boy, Ali has always been involved with boats in one way or another and his enthusiasm for the lifeboat and his new position in Peterhead is evident as he takes The Buchanie on a tour of ‘The Misses Robertson of Kintail.’
“I’ve had my own boat for years,” says the mechanic, “and have always been involved with the Scouts. I was never in the Cubs or Beavers as they weren’t around in my day but have always done different bits and bobs for the Scouts and Venturers.”
The lifeboat is much larger inside that it looks from the outside. Able to hold up to 100 survivors, the lower decks of the boat seems like a mass of machinery and wires, and Ali describes the importance of each with fervour.
The mechanic, who was schooled in Clackmannan and served his time in Grangemouth, says coming to Peterhead has been like coming back to the “big smoke.”
After six years as a Technician for the Lighthouse Board on Orkney, Ali was looking for a new challenge.
“It was lovely up on Orkney,” he says, “dead quiet and peaceful. There were beautiful places and I’d had a few shots in a helicopter and things like that. But I was looking for something different.”
Ali, whose Inverurie born wife Gemma will join him in Peterhead as soon as their home in Orkney is sold, looks forward to settling into the town and getting stuck in to the task at hand - keeping the lifeboat in tip top condition so that it can continue to assist those in need along the Buchan coast.