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2017 a good year at St Bees RNLI

Lifeboats News Release

2017 was a good year at St Bees lifeboat station with well attended events great donations and support from a variety of sources. There was also a record number of school visits, combining a fun day with some sea safety tips.

Tractor and lifeboat launching into the surf on one of the eighteen shouts during 2017

RNLI/Colin Wadey

Launching for one of the 18 shouts in 2017

The year began with the usual New Years day dip in the cold Irish Sea. This fundraising event is organised by the St Bees Triers.

The first call out of the year was on 4 February to assist Whitehaven HM Coastguard in a search around the area of Whitehaven Harbour. There were a total of nineteen call outs or shouts during the year.

Many of the crew at St Bees RNLI also volunteer for the Cumbria Community Flood Team and spent a busy weekend learning the skills they will need should we be unfortunate to suffer a repeat of the flooding in previous years.

March brought the sad news that four members of the Irish Coastguard had died when their helicopter Rescue 116 crashed in the Atlantic a reminder of how unforgiving the sea can be.

The pagers can go off at any time. Sometimes its weeks between shouts but in June it was just over 6 hours. The first was to tow in a large tree trunk, considered a hazard to shipping and the second was to a teenager caught out by the rising tide. This was not the only time in 2017 the crew were to be called out twice in one day.

Even when enjoying a family day out RNLI volunteers are still on duty. Back in June two of our Helms were at Wastwater when they noticed a couple of swimmers in difficulty. One of the Helms and his son launched their canoes and helped bring the swimmers ashore. Later in the year the Helms son was presented the Explorer Scouts Commissioners Commendation in recognition of his prompt and calm action in helping in the rescue of the two swimmers.

At the beginning of June the volunteers were paged to help a yacht struggling to get into Whitehaven harbour in very challenging conditions. This rescue was later retold in the RNLI’s national magazine The Lifeboat.

During the summer months many RNLI stations hold open days. These are a great opportunity to show people around the lifeboat and station as well as a chance to meet the people who support the charity. The St Bees RNLI Open Day as always joined up with the Cumbria Wildlife Trust Beached Art event. The crew and Guild were busy all day showing people around the station and lifeboat as well as serving tea and coffee. The lifeboats launching tractor was particularly popular with the younger visitors. One young lad had been swimming in the sea, which was colder than he expected. The crew soon got him warmed up with a hot shower and some dry clothing. The following month he came down to the station on one of the regular Tuesday training nights to thank the crew and donate his pocket money to the RNLI.

In September there was another double call out day. On Saturday morning St Bees lifeboat, four other RNLI lifeboats, a Coastguard helicopter and Maryport Independent lifeboat carried out an extensive search for a lone kayaker travelling from St Bees to the Isle of Man. Whitehaven and Maryport Coastguard took up various positions along the coastline to help with the search which ended with the kayaker being found safe and well if a little shaken. A great example of all the search and rescue teams coming together to help save a life. Later that evening the crew were called to help paramedics who were attending a young lad. He had fallen on the rocks close to the waters edge while taking photos for a school project. His friend did the right thing by quickly dialling 999 and asking for help.

2017 saw the retirement of two of St Bees RNLI’s longest serving volunteers, Leon Goldwater and Ian McDowell, both had served as the station's Lifeboat Operations Mangers. Leon came over from the North East to join the recently founded St Bees station in 1974. He was Operations Manager for many years before stepping down to become the station's Press Officer. Ian spent his early years on the lifeboat as crew and later Helm before he took over from Leon, Ian stayed on a further eight years after leaving his role as Operations Manager, passing on his experience to the younger volunteers.

The year finished with carols at the lifeboat station organised by the St Bees Ladies Fundraising Guild. Whitehaven Brass Band and the St Bees Village School Choir provided the entertainment with members of the crew serving up Mulled Wine and mince pies.

Just before Christmas St bees met their colleagues from Workington and Silloth RNLI, Maryport Independent Rescue and the local Coastguards at Whitehaven Harbour for soup and sandwiches. This was followed by a joint training exercise.

The last event of 2017 was the Tractor Trundle organised by the West Cumbria Vintage Club. This is a Boxing Day meeting of local farmers as well as club members to raise money for the RNLI.

During 2017 St Bees RNLI have been well supported by local clubs and business all finding many different ways to raise money to help the RNLI continue to save lives at sea. Some of the donations help towards the ongoing training the volunteers receive, which often means travelling down to the excellent training facilities at Poole.

The lifeboat station has also seen many visitors over the last twelve months; one Scout group had come up from Welwyn Garden City. Many of the schools around St Bees took the opportunity to come down and have a look around. They learnt how to stay safe as well as have fun by the sea and find out what to do if they see someone in difficulties or get into trouble themselves.

The year finished with the crew getting ready for the start of 2018 and the New Years Day Dip.

RNLI media contacts:

For more information please telephone Colin Wadey, St Bees RNLI Volunteer Press Officer on 07742207222 email or Chris Cousens, Press Officer, West, on 07748 265486 email

St Bees, Workington and Silloth RNLI as well as Maryport Independent lifeboats meeting in Whitehaven Harbour for soup and sandwiches followed by a training exercise.

RNLI/Colin Wadey

3 RNLI & 1 Independent lifeboats
As a thanks for a warming shower and hot drink after a colder than expected swim one young lad presented the crew with some of his hard earned pocket money.

RNLI/Colin Wadey

Pocket Money
A fresh start to 2017 as members of the St Bees Triers and others take a dip and raise money for the RNLI.

RNLI/Colin Wadey

Braving the Irish Sea
Children during one of the many school visits enjoy a look round the lifeboat.

RNLI/Colin Wadey

One of many school visits
Members of the St Bees Ladies Guild selling raffle tickets at the lifeboat carol concert

RNLI/Colin Wadey

Selling raffle tickets

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or or by email.