The lifeboat is one of the most iconic sites in Salcombe, but who are the people behind the rescue missions and how does it affect their day? We find out from volunteer Matt Davies…
As I go about my everyday life I know… that the pager in my pocket could sound at any moment. Whether I am at work on the water for the harbour, relaxing at home, out with friends or walking along the coast path, I know that I might have to get to the station as quickly and as safely as I can.
The reason I joined the lifeboat crew in Salcombe is… because it was a longstanding ambition and felt very fortunate to be asked by the Coxswain, Chris Winzar. I had been coming to Salcombe on holiday since I was six months old and had always watched in awe as the lifeboat launched. When I was lucky enough to move down to Salcombe six years ago, I dreamt of joining and thankfully I am now a volunteer on both of our boats and am also the station’s press officer.
Training to be part of the crew involves… being a Shore Helper for six months when you first start. This allows the crew to get to know you and also lets you get to see what actually happens at the station, on training exercises and shouts. Your job is to assist the volunteer crews to launch the boats and then recover them when they come back in. After six months, if all the crew are happy with you and you have enjoyed being part of the team, you start a probationary period as a crew member. Once you have passed your probation, you become a full-time member and you are sent to the RNLI headquarters in Poole for a week’s intensive training. The best part of the week is meeting crew from all over the country and participating in the capsize drill in the specially designed pool.
The first thing that happens when we are called out is… you have to get to the station as quickly and as safely as you can as soon as your pager goes off. All of the volunteer crew gather outside the station and it is the role of the on-duty Coxswain to choose a crew, whether it is the all-weather lifeboat, the inshore lifeboat or both of them that are required.
The most difficult part of the job is… changing plans when the pager goes off, but none of us mind that. I have been on dates when the pager has gone off before, out for dinner with friends and family and also about to head out for the night on a stag do.
My first piece of advice to anyone on the water is… always check the weather and the tides. We are very lucky to have such a beautiful estuary here in Salcombe, but the weather and conditions can change very quickly and unexpectedly. You should always wear a lifejacket and carry with you the correct safety equipment. All boats should have a VHF radio as you cannot rely on mobile phones alone.
The most important thing anyone can do to support the lifeboat is… donate. The RNLI relies solely on the generous donations of the public. Without their support and generosity, our volunteer crews and boats would not be able to train and put to sea when they are required. Whether you are able to give some loose change whenever possible or buy something from our shop, we all really appreciate your support.
When I am not on the lifeboat I… am living and working in Salcombe and everything revolves around the water. So whether you are working or enjoying a day out on the water with friends, I can normally be seen bobbing about on the water.
The thing I most like to do to relax in Salcombe is… have a beer on the beach with friends on early summer evenings – you can’t beat it.