Surf-class lifeboat

Class overview
Name: Surf-class
Operators: RNLI
Cost: £3,000-£3,800
Built: 1935–1941
In service: 1936–1965
Completed: 9
Retired: 9
General characteristics
Displacement: 4-5 tons
Length: 32 ft (9.8 m)
Beam: 9 ft (2.7 m)-9 ft 3 in (2.82 m)
Propulsion: 2 x 12 bhp Weyburn F2 2-cyl. petrol
Speed: 6.5–7.5 knots (7.5–8.6 mph)
Range: ~40 nautical miles (74 km)

The Surf-class was a light non self-righting displacement hull motor lifeboat built between 1935 and 1940 and operated by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution between 1936 and 1965.


Designed by RNLI Naval Architect James Barnett, the Surf-class was the smallest and lightest offshore motor lifeboat produced by the Institution. Intended for stations where launching heavier boats would be difficult, the Surf-class enabled the RNLI to replace pulling and sailing lifeboats and plug gaps in motor lifeboat cover. The boats however, were only really suitable for inshore work in moderate conditions and they only had long service lives at two stations.


The first two boats were completely open with no shelter, not considered to be a problem for the kind of services that they were intended for. The boats were powered by two 2-cylinder Weyburn F2 horizontal petrol engines and whereas the first boat had twin screws, the second was propelled by Hotchkiss cones, a kind of water impeller. While this was a benefit in shallow waters, the cone powered boat was around 1 knot slower than the screw version.

The first two boats served for less than ten years before being sold off. The second batch appeared in 1938 and had 3 inches more beam and were fitted with a shelter ahead of the (tiller) steering position. All but one featured Hotchkiss cone propulsion, RNLB Kate Greatorex (ON 816) was fitted with Gill water jets. These boats served for 10 to 12 years at most of their stations before being replaced by standard carriage launched boats, but at two locations, Poole and Newburgh, Surf-class boats continued into the sixties. RNLB John Ryburn (ON 837) was withdrawn from service at Newburgh at the end of September 1965 after more than twenty four years on station during which it launched on service only eleven times. With its withdrawal, the Newburgh station was closed.


ON[lower-alpha 1] Name Built Builder In service Principal Station Comments
779 Rosabella 1935 J. Samuel White, Cowes 1936–1945 Ilfracombe Sold to Dutch lifeboat service June 1946
780 Royal Silver Jubilee 1910-1935 1935 Groves & Guttridge, Cowes 1936–1945 Wells Sold to Dutch lifeboat service June 1946
810 Augustus and Laura 1938 Groves & Guttridge, Cowes 1938–1950 Newbiggin Sold October 1950
811 Thomas Kirk Wright 1938 Groves & Guttridge, Cowes 1939–1962 Poole Sold 1963. On display in the Old Lifeboat House at Poole.
816 Kate Greatorex 1939 Groves & Guttridge, Cowes 1939–1951 Minehead Sold March 1952
817 Laurence Arden, Stockport 1939 Groves & Guttridge, Cowes 1939–1949
Relief fleet
Sold December 1951
835 The Gordon Warren 1939 J. Samuel White, Cowes 1939–1949
Relief fleet
Sold January 1952
836 Norman Nasmyth 1940 Alexander Robertson, Sandbank 1940–1950
Montrose No.2
Relief fleet
Sold in 1966
837 John Ryburn 1941 Alexander Robertson, Sandbank 1941–1965 Newburgh Capsized on service 26/1/1942, two crew lost. Sold in 1966
  1. ON is the RNLI's Official Number of the boat.

External links

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