They are often called the fourth emergency services, and have saved many lives in Weston. I was privileged to interview two crew members from the RNLI on my show on Sunshine Radio.
Chris and Spin joined me in the studio to talk about the work of the RNLI, a vital service that receives no funding, and so relies on donations.
Chris has been part of the crew for five years, and is responsible for launching the boats. He told me that the on duty crew carry pagers with them at all time. Whenever there is an emergency they rush to the station, and the boats are launched as quickly and safely as possible. Spin is an old hand at the job – having been with the crew for 50 years! He started out as a crewman, who would go out on the boats, but now he is in charge of launching.
The crew of the RNLI know that when they get a call someone’s life is in danger. They are also very aware of the fact that they are heading out into dangerous waters. I asked Spin how the crew coped with this pressure, and the uncertainty of what they would be facing. He told me that at the time of the call the crew are just on autopilot, focussing on helping the person in need. They are a very tight-knit group though, and after particularly difficult missions they sit down and discuss it, and offer help and advice to those who need it.
Weston beach in particular can be quite a dangerous one – due to the mud flats. I read so many stories in the paper of people wandering out and getting stuck in them. They are mainly tourists, who do not know the conditions of the beach, and are not aware how quickly you can sink. The immediate reaction of a person stuck in the mud would be to panic, and struggle to pull yourself free. However Spin told me this is the worst thing you could do. Instead if you find yourself in this position the best thing to do is lie down, spreading your weight across a bigger area, and call for help. If you struggle you will only sink faster.
Spin also told me the good news that he had awarded an MBE from the Queen for his services to the RNLI. Even having just spent 1 hour with him I could see that this was well deserved! He is so dedicated to the cause. He began his work with the RNLI by visiting the lifeboat station on Birnbeck Island at the age of 12 where he helped perform general duties such as cleaning the boats. As soon as he turned 17 Spin was allowed to join the RNLI crew as a volunteer and he quickly started specialising in swimming off the lifeboat, often in danger, to rescue those who the lifeboat could not reach. In 1978 he even won an RNLI award for rescuing five people who had become trapped in a cave on Brean Down during a gale. During severe weather and in darkness Richard swam into the cave to guide the people to safety. A very brave man indeed! He has promised to come back after he receives his award and tell us all about it!
You can support the RNLI here.