You may already know that I am a Crew volunteer for Exmouth RNLI – I don’t really like to shout about it but it is difficult for me to travel incognito because when the Krispies van is parked outside the Lifeboat Station the world and his wife knows exactly where I am!
I signed up as a volunteer about three years ago now. My work is all consuming – we are open 7 days a week and even when we are not in the shop we are still ‘at work’ a lot of the time so I wanted something that would challenge me in a different way to work, that would take me out of my comfort zone and, crucially, would help me give something back to this town I love so much.
As with everyone I had to undertake training and was qualified a dependable crew member in 18 months from joining. I am now Boat Crew which basically means I do a bit of everything! The Coxswain drives the boat, the Navigator navigates and the Crew volunteers attend to everything that needs doing to ensure safe and successful shouts. I am now qualified for both the inshore (ILB) and the Shannon Class All Weather Lifeboat (ALB). The ILB is the most challenging, there are only ever three of you on the boat and the experience can be very intense.
I am on call everyday but you can sign yourself out if you are busy or away otherwise if the pager goes off you have to go if you are able to – I manage to get to about 70% of shouts which is quite good given the intensity of my work life.
Being on the Lifeboat is a stark reminder of how quickly things can go wrong and how deadly the sea can be if you are not prepared. One of my most memorable shouts was when we were called to a motor boat that had broken down. It had seemed simple from the initial details we were given, but by the time we got there, things had escalated quickly and there was only the bow of the boat sticking up out of the water. We quickly pulled four people out of the water, only one of them was wearing a life jacket but no wet suits. They were just about managing to tread water waiting for us to arrive – another five minutes and they themselves said they may not have made it. There have been other, difficult times, it really isn’t a bed of roses and people do die on the water.
Having been involved with rescuing people I have two pieces of advice for anyone going out on the water:
1. ALWAYS wear a life jacket
2. Always carry a form of communication – preferably a VHF radio.
The RNLI is now very much part of my life and Krispies actively support it by running fun raising BBQs, doing Fish & Chip suppers and giving all the Crew volunteers a discount in the shop!
If anyone is thinking of joining then it really is a fabulous experience but it is serious and challenging and you must be ready for that. But in Exmouth you do get a discount on your chips – what could be better than that?