THE BLOG

A Day In The Life Of A Lifeboat Crew Member

14/08/2017 13:42

I've been a volunteer crew member with the RNLI for about six years now, four of which have been at The Mumbles lifeboat station, one of the busiest stations in Wales. The station has two lifeboats - an all-weather and an inshore. August is usually the busiest month for us. Most of the time I am based around The Mumbles as I run my own business from home and, if the weather is nice, I can usually expect the pager to go off. 

The first shout comes in and the pager tone always makes me jump. I check the message to see which lifeboat we're being asked to launch... It tells me: 'Launch ALB' - our all-weather lifeboat. I grab my phone and keys and take my bike and helmet of the rack (traffic is usually bad in the village and bike is by far the fastest way to the station!) Dog? He has settled himself on the sofa by the window, he knows the routine. I then run out of the door and get peddling to the station as fast as I can.  

When at the station, the Coxswain quickly chooses a crew for the service, this time it's to a boat taking on water... A nod comes my way and I go to grab my all-weather kit, wellies, helmet and life jacket and get onboard. The shore crew work quickly to get the boat ready for launch, the horn sounds and off we go down the slipway, out of the station and onto the water. 

A crew member on navigation plots a route to the casualty, another monitors the radar screen, the rest of us are on lookout above deck. Information is coming in over the radio from the Coastguard - another vessel in the area has helped take people off the boat, but four people remain onboard. We are looking for a 15ft RIB (rigid-inflatable boat) and the lifeboat from our neighbouring lifeboat station is on scene now. 

Once we have located the casualty vessel, the Coxswain's decision is to set up a tow and take the boat back to where it came from, along with the remaining four crew members. We all work together to set up the tow line and pass it safely across to the RIB. Forty minutes to an hour later we reach the location which the boat set out from and enlist the help of the inshore lifeboat to take the people and their boat back to shore. Job done, and everyone is safe, albeit with a boat that needs some work done on it.

We head back to the station, recover the lifeboat back up the slipway into the boathouse, and return to whatever it is we were all doing before our pagers went off!

Most memorable moment
I love working with the search and rescue helicopters so any shouts which involve them are pretty memorable. The skills the pilots have to fly them into rescue locations is amazing and it's great to be a part of a service which sees the Coastguard teams, search and rescue helicopters and the RNLI all working together to save lives at sea.

I should probably add that my husband, who is also an RNLI crew member, proposed to me during a training exercise when we were winched into the Sea King helicopter, which was pretty amazing and unexpected! I think everyone knew apart from me and I was left wondering why the crew were so keen for me to be winched up last. I am very thankful to everyone who made that possible.

Funniest moment

We were called out to a gentleman on board his small motor boat with chest pains, so our initial thoughts were quite serious. With poor visibility we had to search and locate him as he had drifted from his initial position quite quickly. Once found, a fellow crew member and I went onboard as the first aid team. Once we had established that the casualty was stable, I grabbed the radio to let the Coastguard know our intentions. I double-checked with the casualty the call sign of his boat, to which he replied: "Ivor Biggun - not very ladylike I'm afraid!" 

Worst part of the job
Seeing people in distress or pain is never nice, but knowing that we're there to help is part of the reason that we volunteer. Also early morning wake ups are quite difficult - I like my sleep! 

Best part of the job
Coming back from a shout knowing that the outcome could have been much worse if the RNLI hadn't been called is always a good feeling. And I really enjoy working as part of a team that achieves this.

Saving Lives at Sea series II, will be on BBC Two on Wednesdays at 8 pm from 16 August

Comments

CONVERSATIONS