Pager moments: Answering the call for help

When the pager goes off, our lifesavers drop whatever they’re doing to answer the call. It’s all part of being a lifeboat volunteer.
An RNLI pager

Photo: Nathan Williams

During the airing of Saving Lives at Sea (which you can watch each Wednesday evening at 8pm on BBC Two until 1 November) we’ll be sharing some of our volunteers’ most memorable pager stories.

1) Leave the meter running

Littlehampton Crew Member and full-time Taxi Driver Richard Howlett was driving his cab when his pager went off. He had just picked up a lady who was going to the supermarket. 

‘I said to the lady: “I’m sorry, can I drop you at the cab rank on the way through?” The lady replied: “I would quite like to see the lifeboat being launched.” She’d never seen the lifeboats in action before, so I jokingly said she could watch from the car and she replied: “That would be lovely!”’

Richard drove to the station and parked up outside. While he joined his fellow crew members in getting changed and launching the lifeboat, the woman was sitting in his taxi watching it all unfold.

‘We got stood down outside the harbour entrance and returned to the boathouse. To my amazement, the lady was still in my cab watching it all. So I quickly gave my apologies to the guys, got changed, and took her on to the supermarket.

‘The meter was on but she did end up with a free trip that day - I couldn’t charge her! She told me it was the most excitement she'd had in ages, so a happy customer.’

2) Short back and one side

When he was based at Aberdovey Lifeboat Station, Crew Member Howard Crompton was caught a little short when his pager went off during his haircut. As he quickly made his way to the lifeboat station, all thoughts of the state of his hair quickly left his mind. 

‘I was on the lifeboat and my mind was on the job at hand. Afterwards, when washing down the boat, you normally have a conversation with the other crew members about what you were doing when the pager went off. In this case, it was pretty clear what I was doing!’

When the shout was over, Howard returned to the hairdressers, only to find that it was closed. Despite his pleas, he had to wait until the morning to get the job finished. ‘The hairdresser is my work colleague’s wife so I’m pretty sure she did it on purpose! That night at the pub, I got quite a few different looks, but it made for a good story to tell.’

3) Superheroes on the streets of Cornwall

Anyone enjoying a few drinks in Looe last New Year’s Eve might have been forgiven for thinking they'd had one too many when they saw Superman, Spider-Man, Robin and Bananaman running through the streets.

But it wasn’t a team of superheroes running to the rescue. It was the crew of Looe RNLI, who had left their New Year’s Eve party to answer a real-life call for help.

Flares had been spotted out over the waters between Hannafore and Looe Island, so the call had come in to search for those in distress. It turned out to be a false alarm and the crew members were allowed to return to their party after searching for over an hour.

Saving Lives at Sea

You can hear more stories by tuning in to BBC Two at 8pm tonight (Wednesday 23 August) to watch the second episode of Saving Lives at Sea.

Please spread the word about the TV series with your friends, family and social media networks and don’t forget to use the hashtag #SavingLivesAtSea when talking about the series!