Lifeboat crews at Flint RNLI have been saving lives at sea for more than 40 years and, as the RNLI celebrates 190 years, their help in the recent flooding has been a timely reminder of just how important their role is. Nationally the RNLI have saved the lives of more than 140,000 people since 1824 – an impressive figure as 90% of crew members are volunteers.
Flint RNLI station is classed as an observation station so the crew tend to launch from Connah’s Quay or Greenfield. Flint lifeboat operations manager Alan Forrester gives the team a crew talk and it’s off to put on the suits and wellies – a task they perform in just a couple of minutes.
The lifeboat station at Flint has 13 volunteers, including two women. All crew members carry a pager and have to be ready at a moment’s notice at any time of the day or night, 365 days a year. The team covers a large area from Talacre to the River Dee in Chester.
Alan is a Flint RNLI veteran who has been volunteering at the station since 1967 – a year after the lifeboat station was established.
He was awarded the RNLI bronze medal for bravery in 1982 after he helped save the lives of two people from a cabin cruiser which had run aground and was taking on water near Mostyn dock. Alan continued as a crew member until 1996 and then became a launching authority and now has the role of volunteer lifeboat operations manager.
The RNLI stalwart said the crew has been called to all sorts of jobs and regularly help police to track members of the public threatening self-harm. The crew gets all the kit together and jumps into the RNLI Landrover and tow the lifeboat ‘Sir Y Fflint’ to Greenfield.
Flint RNLI is self-funded through fundraising and donations
It costs £1,200 just to train one crew member a year. Ben Quirk, 19, has been volunteering as a lifeboat crew member for three years and now his whole family are involved.
“I joined with some of my mates from the cadets and my parents joined after me – my mum helps with fundraising and my dad helps as a deputy launch authority.”
He urged people to volunteer, he said: “Come down and do it. It isn’t scary and you’ll make a great group of mates out of it and feel good about yourself. Some people think it is cliquey down here but it’s really not. We are a friendly bunch so give it a try.”
New recruit 23-year-old Dan Vickers, has just taken part in his very first training exercise. He says he joined because he wanted to do something good for the community. The crew members make their final checks as station mechanic Bill Dewsbury reverses the Landrover and lifeboat down the slipway to get the boat in the water.
The team get ready to launch the boat at Flint RNLI and go through the procedures, as if they were on a real call-out and off they go. Black clouds form in the sky as the wind picks up – bringing back home what an impressive job the volunteers do, it is hard to imagine what it must be like on a rescue mission in the pitch dark when the rain is pouring. Once back on the shore, newbie Dan tells us of his experience on his first training session. After the session, he said: “It was great; we went through everything like health and safety, first aid, the head cams and the gear on the boat.
“I just wish that I had joined up earlier, when I first thought about it two years ago.”
It’s back to the 4×4 for the crew for a well-earned brew and biscuit before heading back to the station in Flint.
Since its beginning 47 years ago, Flint lifeboat has helped save the lives of swimmers, fishermen, missing people and animals including cows and dolphins – most memorably a dolphin which was rescued last August from Saltney Ferry. Fundraising for what is arguably the fourth arm of the emergency services is vital.
“Not only are we looking for volunteers, we are looking for drivers and for people to join the fundraising committee. There are so many benefits to being a volunteer crew member – especially for young people. You get all sorts of qualifications such as first aid, navigation skills, radio training – we are always learning something new.”
The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea
The RNLI has saved more than 140,000 lives since its foundation in 1824. The islands of Britain and Ireland have always been at the mercy of the sea. In the early 19th century, there was an average of 1,800 shipwrecks a year around our coasts, and this danger was an accepted part of life on board. Coastal communities often watched helplessly as vessels foundered.
After witnessing the destruction of dozens of ships from his home on the Isle of Man, and getting involved in rescue attempts himself, Sir William Hillary appealed to the Navy, the government and other ‘eminent characters’ for help in forming ‘a national institution for the preservation of lives and property from shipwreck’. Our charity was founded on 4 March 1824.
If you are interested in volunteering opportunities with Flint RNLI and are aged between 17 and 45, contact Alan Forrester on 07785593247 or email flint@rnli. org.uk
Flint Lifeboat Station
Castle Dyke Street