Crosshaven RNLI: A haven for those who fall foul of the sea

Crosshaven RNLI: A haven for those who fall foul of the sea

Aoife Dinan, Crosshaven RNLI, who is training as a lifeboat helm.  Picture: Larry Cummins

AN eclectic mix of hard-working volunteers makes up the Crosshaven Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

JP English is one of four deputy launching authorities (DLA) at the station, tasked with deciding when to launch the lifeboat in the event of an emergency and also deciding which crew members to send.

“When I am on duty, if there is an emergency, the coastguard calls me and gives me the situation and then I assess whether we launch,” he said.

“Depending on who turns up at the station and who we have for crew, I also decide who we send out.

“So, if we are recovering a body, or some nasty, gruesome thing, we don’t want junior members to go out, we want those with the most medical training to go out.”

Mr English, who was a yacht captain at sea for 30 years, migrated back to land three years ago.

“I came back and bought a business locally, ‘The Oar’ pub, which is just across the road. I also live upstairs, so I am probably the closest member of the RNLI to the station,” he said.

Edith Lawlor, lifeboat administration officer, Crosshaven RNLI.
Edith Lawlor, lifeboat administration officer, Crosshaven RNLI.

Mr English said of the RNLI: “The organisation itself is so fantastic”.

“I went to Pool in the UK, where the RNLI has its training centre, for a week, to learn about my role and their back-up and support is fantastic.

“Everything with the RNLI is first-class; they don’t mess around. The training is first-class and the equipment that they provide is excellent.”

The highly-skilled crew is faced with a wide range of challenges, from cardiac situations, head injuries, body recovery and pulling boats off rocks.

He said: “We work closely with the coastguard and the fire brigade and we do get a lot of callouts to the city.”

27-year-old Maeve Leonard, who is a trainee boat crew member, said she had always wanted to join the RNLI.

Maeve is also a doctor and works in emergency medicine. She moved back home to Crosshaven and decided to dedicate her time to the organisation.

“I do a lot of night shifts, so it suited me to join. I think it is great fun. I haven’t had an official callout, yet, but I am eagerly awaiting it,” she said.

Ms Leonard said her parents were proud of her involvement and she was very happy with her training and her colleagues.

“The team spirit in the Crosshaven RNLI is great. Everyone is very helpful and we have a good laugh.”

Another boat crew member, Aoife Dinan, also said there was good banter among the volunteers.

Aoife is training to be a helm, which would make her the decision-making member of a mission, as well as the driver of the boat. She joined the RNLI about three years ago, after a personal tragedy.

“My boyfriend is a fisherman and one of his friends died at sea,” she said.

“The RNLI searched for his body and recovered it. After that, I saw how important the organisation was and I joined up.”

Aoife, who had no prior boating experience, took on her new challenge with great zest and is fully dedicated to her role.

“I have a beauty salon, Rejuvenate, across the road from the station and I have been known to run out the door, halfway through an appointment, to answer the pager.

“I have also gone to work after being out all night on the boat.”

Edith Lawlor, lifeboat administration officer, Crosshaven RNLI.
Edith Lawlor, lifeboat administration officer, Crosshaven RNLI.

Ms Dinan said her boyfriend is very proud of her involvement in the RNLI, although sometimes it does get in the way of things.

“It can be annoying, when we are just sitting down to dinner or relaxing in front of the TV and the pager goes off, but it is important and he understands that,” she said.

Of course, it is not just boat crews that keep the organisation ticking over.

There are also fundraisers, administrators, and a press and training officer to ensure everything runs smoothly at the station.

Press officer and training coordinator, Jon Mathers, has been with the Crosshaven RNLI for the past 15 years. His role includes spreading information to other sea-users to keep everyone safe on the water.

He said: “The RNLI set up a sea-safety group a few years ago, imparting safety information to yachtsman, and other boaters, on what kind of safety gear they should have on the boat and other information.

“So, I did that for a few years and then I was promoted to lifeboat sea-safety officer for the area, which actually brought me into the station as part of the operations team.

“Then, I was asked if I would be interested in taking on the press officer role, which I took on about 10 years ago now.

“So, my job in the press office is to promote the station and the RNLI.”

Mr Mathers also said that he is responsible for ensuring that all members are up-to-date with training.

“My job is to chase the crew to keep up the training. I also book in members for courses and arrange for lifeboat assessors to call to the station to examine the staff on particular tasks.”

Another vital asset to the Crosshaven station is Edith Lawlor, who looks after all the paperwork.

Edith has been with the organisation for three years and said she enjoys doing something for other people.

Some of the challenges of the job include keeping abreast of the various health-and-safety regulations, which are constantly being upgraded.

Trainee lifeboat crew member Maeve Leonard. Picture: Larry Cummins.
Trainee lifeboat crew member Maeve Leonard. Picture: Larry Cummins.

Future challenges could make her job a bit more unpredictable, she explained.

“It will interesting to see what happens with Brexit,” Edith said.

“Will the RNLI stay with the EU regulations or will it have its own UK-led regulations?

“It will be very difficult, if it happens, as the organisation is across the UK and Ireland. I imagine the RNLI will stay with the EU regulations.”

Fundraising secretary, Sarah Venner, plays a crucial role in the organisation, ensuring that the volunteer groups stay afloat.

“My husband and his family are heavily involved. There are three helms in our family and our house looks over the station. It was a case of ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’,” she said.

Ms Venner was a part of the revival of the Crosshaven RNLI fundraising committee, which had been defunct for the past seven years.

All money raised for the organisation goes to a central fund, where it is distributed to the stations that need it.

“The RNLI is 100% volunteer-driven and we rely on the donations of the public to keep it going.”

Sarah said that the local community is great at fundraising, but she would love to see more from the city.

“When you live by the sea, it really hits people, the strength of the water and the potential for danger. I think the city could be more involved.”

For anyone who would like to get involved in the RNLI through fundraising, they can contact the committee by emailing

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