Most countries have a wide number of charities but not many have charities like the RNLI - A charity where the workers are not only unpaid for the work that they do, but risk their own lives almost every time they provide a service.The RNLI - Royal National Lifeboat Institution is a registered charity which exists to save lives at sea. It provides, on call, the 24-hour service necessary to cover search and rescue requirements to 50 miles out from the coastline of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. There are 224 lifeboat stations.The RNLI depends entirely on voluntary contributions and legacies for its income.Each year the RNLI lifeboats launch around 6,500 times saving many lives, but many people are not aware of how much they depend on the RNLI. Those that live inland often think that they have no connection with the RNLI but they do. Approximately half of lifeboat launches are to help pleasure craft but many are also to merchant vessels and fishing vessels. Fishing boats obviously provide food to not only those on the coast but also landlubbers as well. Merchant ships are responsible for the majority of imports and exports from the United Kingdom including much of the food that we eat and therefore everybody is dependent on the safety of seamen around the coast of the British Isles.Approximately 20 times a day lifeboats are launched around the country, not only to save lives at sea but also to help people in trouble around the shoreline. Many rescues are performed in darkness and many more in the worst of conditions that the British weather can muster.Since the RNLI was founded, its lifeboats have saved over 134,000 lives.The RNLI was formed in 1824 when Sir William Hillary, a courageous lifeboatman, co-ordinated the first lifeboat service. His appeal to the nation led to the foundation of the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, later to become the RNLIA Gold Medal for outstanding bravery was also created in 1824 and six years later Sir William Hillary received the Gold Medal for his part in the rescue of the crew of the St George.In 1854 Captain Ward, an RNLI Inspector, invented a cork life jacket, which gave lifeboat crews weather protection as well as buoyancy and the Institution changed its name to Royal National Lifeboat Institution.In 1884 the original RNLI flag was designed, based on the Cross of St George and in 1890 The first steam powered lifeboat, the Duke of Northumberland entered service. A year later Charles Macara organised the first street collection raising funds for the RNLI. In 1957 Helicopters were employed for the first time in co-ordinated air-sea rescues and a year later the first self righting boats were introduced.The Lifeboat FleetThe RNLI has an active fleet of 309 lifeboats, ranging from 4.9m (16ft) to 17m (55ft 9in) in length. The relief fleet comprises of 110 additional lifeboats.Lifeboats range from small inflatable craft to multi million pound ocean going vessels. They are launched in many different ways depending on the circumstances of the surrounding coastline. Many lifeboats are housed in boathouses around the coast and some of the larger boats are kept permanently afloat in harbours. Some lifeboats have to be towed through the streets before being launched, some down slipway's straight from the boathouse and some over runners down a steep beach such as at Aldeburgh in Suffolk.Lifeboatmen and women are volunteers. There is a full-time mechanic in each all-weather lifeboat crew. The volunteers receive a few pounds each time they are called out to cover their expenses. Fat Badgers and the RNLIThe Fat Badgers have a long history of involvement with the RNLI. Fat Badger Andy Keeling has named a lifeboat ‘Rotaract I’ for the RNLI.Fat Badgers Andy Keeling, Steve Powell, Andy Bates, Andy Perry and Adrian Mills were all involved in raising the funds to buy Rotaract I whilst Fat Badger Andy Perry and Andy Steggall wrote a smash hit song for the RNLI. To top it all Fat Badger Andy Stakes has become a member of the Portpatrick Lifeboat crew.