The National Coastwatch Institution station at Caister is unique amongst other NCI stations in that it is situated within operational lifeboat facilities as opposed to redundant Coastguard lookouts or other stand-alone buildings more usually occupied by the charity. That said, despite our unique location, we are no different to our NCI colleagues elsewhere; whilst we have a close working relationship with the independent Caister Volunteer Lifeboat Service (CVLS) and have undertaken several joint training exercises, we adhere to strict NCI protocols regarding the recording and reporting of incidents and - unless directed by the Coastguard - do not get directly involved in Search and Rescue (SAR) operations.
The idea of an NCI station at Caister was first suggested by CVLS. The partnership between the two charities resulted from shared concerns regarding the diminishing visual watches being kept along the Norfolk coast and the subsequent closure of the Maritime Rescue Co-Ordination Centre in Great Yarmouth which further reduced local Coastguard capabilities.
The Coastguard had not undertaken sea watch duties for many years; old lookouts at the harbour's mouth in Gorleston, on North Denes in Gt. Yarmouth and further up the coast at Winterton were vacated by 1990. NCI filled this gap taking over at Gorleston while a similar organisation - the Sea Safety Group (SSG) – took over the posts at North Denes and Winterton together with another at Pakefield to the south of Lowestoft.
After the initial approach there followed 18 months of trial watches, negotiation, recruitment and training before the first operational NCI watch at the Caister Lifeboat Heritage Centre (the old lifeboat shed) was mounted on June 4th 2011.