The 1993 Salcombe Lifeboat Documentary: Lifesavers on the South Devon Coast

It’s amazing what turns up on YouTube! Some dear soul uploaded every episode of the acclaimed 1993 documentary Lifeboat. 

Being a youngster at the time the original weekly screenings on ITV passed me by, but now, decades later, this 6-part series is now on heavy rotation in my home. It gives a unique insight into life on (and off) a working lifeboat on the South Devon coast which is great as we love to take a look at the lifeboats of Brixham, Salcombe, and further afield. 

About the Lifeboat 1993 mini-series

This documentary produced by the Central Television team ‘went native’ with the men and lone woman of the Salcombe lifeboat crew, documenting a year of shouts, rescues, and their personal lives. The people of Salcombe did a great job of allowing the crew to have the run of the town, during the recession years of the 1990s which I am sure many remember as challenging. 

The show was narrated by Michael Wood, but directed by the incredibly nosy producer/director Graham Wood, who never shied from ensuring that dirty laundry was aired. 

Salcombe before it was trendy

Salcombe has always been a desirable part of South Devon, but Lifeboat really captures the ordinary Salcombe people and working lives that keep the town going. Some of the main participants in the doc, who allowed the crew into their personal lives are still living in and around the town today. 

Coxswain Frank Yeoman-Smith stole the show with his unwavering commitment to the Salcombe Lifeboat and his mother hen-like corralling of its crew. His dedication, exceptional seamanship, and heroic rescues were honored in 2002 with an MBE following his retirement from being coxswain. 

Dashing Mark Featherstone, the assistant mechanic, and the town’s hairdresser also kept us glued to the screen as he navigated the stormy seas of family life with his wife Alicia and his super cute daughter Lauren. 

Crew member Colin and his wife, Kim. This lovely couple were the landlords of the The Shipwrights Arms on Fore Street, which is now the Post Office. They were put through hell by a dodgy brewery company called Inntrepreneur which made it hard for them to keep their business running. 

Lucie Powlesland, daughter of a fisherman and the first female member of the Salcombe crew. 

There was also this very cool Totnes-like vegetarian guy who they really should have give more airtime as he had some great one-liners. And other people like Dr McClarty the GP and the Harbourmaster the late Peter Hodges. A traditionalist crewman and marine engineer (whose name I can’t remember) also gave his two cents on having women crewmembers. 

A snapshot of 90s England

This excellent documentary will have your memories of the 1990s flooding back. I love the distinctly Devon fashion (cycling shorts, preppy rugby shirts, and of course stone-washed jeans). Another interesting aspect of this show is that there are way more young locals in Salcombe than there are today, reflecting how much the town has changed. As someone who often doesn’t have two brass farthings to spend in a Salcombe eatery, it was strange to see shops on the high street marking down clothes and food. I should have been there that summer!

Anyway, here is every episode of the original Lifeboat series from 1993

Give your Hulu and Netflix a rest for a few hours ad enjoy this great show, filled with the sights and sounds of Salcombe:

Lifeboat 1993 Part 1

Lifeboat 1993 Part 2

Lifeboat 1993 Part 3

Lifeboat 1993 Part 4

Lifeboat 1993 Part 5

Lifeboat 1993 Part 6

Salcome Lifeboat crew hit TV screens again in 2018 as part of the BBC documentary, Saving Lives at Sea

Camera crews hit Salcombe once more in 2018 for this contemporary documentary showcasing the essential work of Salcome’s RNLI in South Devon.

150 years of Salcombe RNLI

Here is an outstanding documentary about the 150-year history of Salcombe RNLI, including the tragic Salcombe Lifeboat Disaster of October 27th 1916:

You can keep up to date with the Salcombe lifeboat and make a donation at Or check out their Facebook or Twitter.

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