Feature: Joining the RNLI for a day

The Bridlington Royal National Lifeboat Institution is something we as seaside residents take for granted, but saving lives for 52 weeks of the year are a team of volunteers who sacrifice their personal lives to keep the people at sea safe.

Come rain or shine, or day and night the call can come in for the lifeboat crew to respond to. A job which most would be most reluctant to do, though the team at Bridlington instead embrace the role.

Bridlington In-shore lifeboat PA1527-16s

Bridlington In-shore lifeboat PA1527-16s

Coxswain Stuart Tibbett said: “I love being at sea. It is a passion, I get to do something I enjoy doing in the area I grew up in.”

The RNLI are admired and respected by residents as well as tourists with so many people waving to the crew as they make their way towards the beach.

I was warned prior to launch by coxswain Stuart Tibbett about the sudden burst when the engines kick in. Despite holding on to the barrier I was taken back by the force from the two-engine Mersey.

It is fantastic to have the fresh sea breeze to rid me from my hay fever, for a couple of hours at least.

Grant Walkington with reporters Kieran Murray and Stewart Paterson PA1527-16-11

Grant Walkington with reporters Kieran Murray and Stewart Paterson PA1527-16-11

The crew were taking part in a number of training exercises which were great to see close up including a rescue of a crew member by the in-shore lifeboat before bringing the casualty to the Mersey.

Down below deck is where mechanic Chris Brompton is positioned in the Wheel House. He has been with the RNLI since he was 17 years old and his responsibilities involve being navigator, and also being in charge of the radios and engines.
The Bridlington RNLI were recently involved in a 12-hour, 80 mile rescue when a boat and crew were in trouble past Hull. The call came in as early as 4am for the Lifeboat crew.

“When you get the call, the adrenaline is running so you don’t tend to think about the situation. You just get on with it and think after you’ve launched,” said Chris.

Though it was clear that the crew loved being out at sea, it is of huge sacrifice for their personal lives.

Paul Atkinson takes the lifeboat for a spin PA1527-16-16

Paul Atkinson takes the lifeboat for a spin PA1527-16-16

Chris said: “You can be called upon at any hour which does go through your mind all the time. A simple shopping trip to Tesco is questioned as you think you may get called up. Having children also means you have to arrange for someone to pick them up from school as a lot of the time you do not know how long you’re going to be away for.”

It never crossed my mind that I would ever have the opportunity to drive a real Lifeboat, but this is exactly what we did. Coxswain Stuart Tibbett showed us the ropes and it was a great feeling to be in charge of the boat.

The max speed of The Mersey is 15 Knots, which is around 17mph, though it does feel a lot quicker when you’re behind the wheel. It is a real task in itself to try and keep the boat level while also tackling the waves.

We got a chance to take a look at the scenery and it really was a spectacle to see Bridlington from the sea. Of course you look out to see a lot but to look back at the coast made me realise what a great coastline we have on the East Coast of Yorkshire.

Bridlington RNLI crew PA1527-16e

Bridlington RNLI crew PA1527-16e

Crew member Grant Walkington took us down into the survivors cabin of the boat where the casualties will spend their time. After only a few minutes Stewart and I began to feel a little seasick.

The difference between standing in the cool air to being sat in a warm compact room is massive and when your whole body is moving with the waves, it certainly feels like you’re going to throw up.

The atmosphere on the boat is like a family. The crew were all very welcoming to us on the boat and were keen to have some banter with the newcomers. They still know when to be serious though and make sure they do their job well when the chance comes along.

Stuart said: “A highlight during my career was when a young lad got separated from his father on a rubber dingy. We were called out and were able to save that nine-year-old boy’s life.

“At the time you turn into Lifeboat mode and the training takes over. However the satisfaction you get following a call like that is massive and it really does make it all worthwhile.”

We were soon back at the Bridlington South Beach where we were towed back into the station. For us it was the end of our Lifeboat careers but for the Bridlington RNLI crew, a new call could be just around the corner.

Saturday 25 July sees the return of the Bridlington RNLI Flag Day on the South Promenade.

Visitors will be able to join the event near the RNLI inshore lifeboat station starting at 10am and Bridlington mayor will officially open the event at noon.

The ever popular tombola and craft stalls will be available as well as face painting and glitter tattoos.

Entertainment will include some friends of Bridlington RNLI playing and singing sea shanties. Elvis will also be making an appearance for the public.

Richie Preston, owner of Richie’s Cafe, will provide entertainment of his own including a 100m race to raise funds for the RNLI.

Also in attendance will be lifeguards, coastguards and the police to talk about their roles.