One of the questions I get asked the most when I’m out and about with the Crew is whether each of the little guys has a name. And my answer is always the same. Of course they have names. In fact, they even have day jobs, families and hobbies, too. So I thought it’s about time I introduced them properly.
So here’s The Lifeboat Crew. They may not be very big, but what they lack in stature, they more than make up for in enthusiasm, skill and tenacity.
[L-R] Mechanic Dave, Coxswain Bob, Crew Member (and doctor) Jackie, Crew Member Steve, Crew Member (and ace helmsperson) Susie and Deputy Coxswain Anna.
Let’s learn a little more about each of them.
Coxswain Bob has been a member of the crew for the past twenty years and has been coxswain for the last six. As Coxswain, Bob’s responsible for the boat and for the crew. This includes making sure that the boat is ready to go at all times and that the crew have everything they need to operate safely. When the crew are out on a shout, he’s in charge of the boat and responsible for all of the boat’s and the crew’s operations.
Bob was born and brought up on the coast and his father was on the lifeboat crew for as long as Bob can remember. After finishing school, Bob went away to work but the lure of the sea was too strong and he eventually found his way back here – though this time with a wife and kids in tow. Even though his dad had retired from the lifeboat crew by then, it didn’t take long for Bob to sign up.
Read an interview with Coxswain Bob.
Deputy Coxswain Anna helps Coxswain Bob to manage the crew and fills in for him when he’s away. And she was the first female crew member in the station’s history. In addition to her work with the boat, Anna runs the station’s programme of outreach activities in local schools, helping to teach children about water safety and the work of the lifeboat service.
A former secondary school English teacher, Anna joined the crew about ten years ago, when she first moved to the coast from London. She was looking for a way to get involved with the local community and a friend suggested that Anna volunteer at the lifeboat station. Anna suspects that her friend probably had the souvenir shop in mind, but when Anna saw that they were looking for members of the lifeboat crew itself, she just had to give it a go.
Read an interview with Deputy Coxswain Anna.
Mechanic Dave is responsible for the maintenance of the lifeboat’s engines and for all of the machinery at the station. This includes the tractor, the winch in the boathouse and everything else that the crew use. He also keeps an eye on the condition of the boat itself, as well as the boathouse, so that he can tell when other repairs or maintenance are needed. And when the crew go out on exercise or on a shout, Dave keeps an eye on the engines and the other bits of mechanical kit, to make sure that everything’s running smoothly.
While the rest of the crew are volunteers and have to fit their responsibilities around their day jobs, for Dave this is his day job. He’s the only paid, full-time member of the Crew, so the lifeboat station is his place of work. When the crew go out on a shout, though, he’s a volunteer like everyone else. He’s also extremely organised. Because with the lifeboat having to be ready to go at a moment’s notice, he can’t leave a job half-done. There’s no taking something apart and then wandering off for a cup of tea.
Read an interview with Mechanic Dave.
Crew Member Jackie is a general practitioner at the town’s medical centre. She’s also mother to three young children: Rachel (twelve), Sarah (nine) and ‘little’ Archie (seven). Jackie sees patients at the surgery on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, so isn’t usually available for ‘shouts’ during the daytime on those days, but on Tuesdays and Fridays – as well as in the evenings and at weekends – she’s a lot more flexible and can go out on the boat if her pager goes off.
While all members of the crew are given casualty care training, which allows them to deal with most of the medical situations they’re likely to face, it’s often helpful to have a doctor on board, too. And if the crew need advice when Jackie’s not there, they can get put through to the surgery so that she or one of her colleagues can help them. A keen watersports enthusiast, Jackie’s well known around the town – whether in the surgery or charging down the street, beeping pager in hand.
Read an interview with Crew Member Jackie.
Crew Member Steve joined the station’s shore crew at first and was asked to join the boat crew a couple of years ago. A keen sailor from a nautical family, Steve’s day job is working for the harbour master, so he’s on the water practically twenty four hours a day. Especially in the summer, when the arrival of hundreds of tourist yachts – and the station’s busiest time of the year – keeps him on his toes.
Steve confesses that, while his pager going off still gives him a bit of an adrenaline rush, it’s become much more of an automatic reaction now. He just stops whatever he’s doing, makes sure he’s leaving everything safely, and gets to the lifeboat station as quickly as he can. As with the rest of the crew, Steve’s family and colleagues all know the deal and are extremely supportive of the station’s work.
Read an interview with Crew Member Steve.
Crew Member Susie is a garden designer who recently set up her own design practice with a group of friends. And one of the consequences of this job change was that she finally had the time and the flexibility to join the lifeboat crew. Her office is only a couple of hundred yards from the lifeboat station, so she’s usually one of the first there when the crew’s pagers go off. Much to the amusement of her colleagues, though, when she charges out of the building, in her words, ‘like an impatient rhino’.
When Susie first meets any of her clients, she explains that she’s on the crew and that she might need to go off on a shout. Thankfully, she says, they’re always really great about it. Susie thinks that her parents, though, who also live in the town, would much prefer it if she ‘stayed at home and prepared planting plans and things like that’. So when she gets back from a shout, she always remembers to give them a call to say that she’s arrived home safely.
Read an interview with Crew Member Susie.