Our hidden crew

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You’ve probably seen a lifeboat being launched. When someone is in danger around the UK coast, the alarm is raised and pagers go off. Volunteer crew members then hurry in, get kitted up and are soon at sea. We go out to save lives, whatever the time or weather conditions (and even through pandemics!). You may have seen this happening on the TV series 'Saving Lives at Sea'.


Like all RNLI stations, Ilfracombe continued to provide cover for emergencies at sea throughout lockdown. But did you know that the seagoing crew are not the only people who respond to shouts? Also tumbling out of their beds, or leaving families or day jobs without warning, are members of the shore crew. These people get the boats to sea, and then later clean the tractors and other launch equipment as well as helping prepare the boats themselves for re-use. They also bring food and drinks to volunteers who have been out on the inshore lifeboat, which has no catering facilities. This is much appreciated by the returning teams!


Sparky has been a shore crew member for more than 20 years (photo taken before Covid)

Mark 'Sparky' Gammon (pictured above) has been one of the shore crew for more than 20 years. He explains: "There are so many things to be done before a launch. The boat must be fully ready for sea. Then there are other safety issues – for example, the lifeboats and the tractors that pull them need to cross a busy thoroughfare, so we have to chain off the area and hold back traffic. Most people understand and are supportive."


All new recruits – boathouse or seagoing – begin their training as shore crew. It’s a good way to start learning about lifeboats, and to find out if you are suited to service with the RNLI. There are experienced people to help, who have a wide range of skills. Some are lifeboat mechanics as well as volunteer crew.


Almost everyone who answers an RNLI pager has a story to tell about hurrying to get to the boathouse. Mark still chuckles about the day he was napping in a sleeping bag when his pager went off: "I woke up too fast, tried to jump out of my bag and got myself into a tangle! I did manage to stand up, still trapped, and banged on the floor until my father (Dave Gammon, the RNLI Boathouse Manager) rushed up and cut me out!"



Shore Crew on duty at the launch of the lifeboat (photo taken pre-Covid)

The RNLI shop has a great range of gifts!

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