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Swanage RNLI: Meet the crew

PUBLISHED: 11:35 19 August 2016 | UPDATED: 11:35 19 August 2016

The new lifeboat at Swanage the George Thomas Lacy named after its generous benefactor

The new lifeboat at Swanage the George Thomas Lacy named after its generous benefactor

Lyons Photography

We talk to the crew of Swanage RNLI, past and present, about the important role they play in this lifesaving charity manned entirely by local volunteers (Photos: Andy Lyons)

Andy Lyons with his dog DakotaAndy Lyons with his dog Dakota

Andy Lyons - All-weather lifeboat (ALB) crew & Assistant Mechanic

During the day Andy Lyons is an accountant, he is also a very talented amateur landscape photographer whose stunning photographs have featured regularly in Dorset Magazine. Andy has been with Swanage RNLI for 9 years.

”As a child growing up in Swanage I would ride my bike down to the seafront to watch the lifeboat launching after the maroons had been fired. I always wanted to be a part of it and as soon as I moved back to the town I asked to join the crew.

As part of the crew you gain a lot of experience, skills and knowledge that you can use in everyday life as well as on the boat, such as first aid. You also get to do things a lot of people don’t have the opportunity to experience, such as being winched from a moving boat into a helicopter.

Getting anybody safely ashore is always rewarding. On one job we rescued a jet-skier who had badly shattered his ankle jumping a wave. After we got him on-board and stabilised him we got him on ‘entonox’ (gas and air), he became a completely different person whose biggest concern was how he was going to explain this to his wife! He visited us a few weeks later (on crutches) to say thank you and to let us know his wife had forgiven him. There are also times when it’s not easy, whether its sea conditions or unsuccessful searches, but these are far outweighed by the positives. Now we have a fantastic piece of technology in the Shannon class lifeboat we will be able to get out to sea much faster and in more testing conditions.”

Dave Turnball - the new Coxswain at SwanageDave Turnball - the new Coxswain at Swanage

Dave Turnbull - Fulltime Coxswain & Mechanic

Dave Turnbull is the new Coxswain of the Swanage Lifeboat. He joined the Swanage RNLI crew in 1992, and for the last 14 years has been a Lifeboat Mechanic.

“I was asked if I was interested in joining when the station was recruiting more crew to man the new inshore lifeboat (ILB) back in 1992. I enjoy going to sea, the challenge of helping people in sometimes difficult situations and seeing our volunteers learn new skills and develop as crew.

Bringing our new lifeboat in to Swanage for the first time back in April was a great moment. Seeing all the people waiting to welcome us is something I won’t forget.

The hardest moments as a member of the crew are those where you can’t do any more to help. It might be an unsuccessful search for someone you know was there or recovering a casualty who sadly lost their life. They’re never easy but thankfully they don’t happen too often.”

Gavin SteedenGavin Steeden

Gavin Steeden - Assisstant Coxswain & Mechanic

Gavin is a carpenter by profession. He joined the crew at Swanage RNLI in 2002.

“Lifeboats are in my blood, my dad and my grandfather both served as Coxswains of the Swanage Lifeboat, so it was inevitable I would get involved. My brother Matt, my cousin James, and I, were all christened on the lifeboat and we all serve on the lifeboat today. I really enjoy volunteering with a group of friends who I trust my life with, including some I have grown up with. It is also a chance to give something back to the community.

My most memorable rescue was on Father’s Day 2015 when we were tasked to a fallen climber. This was my first shout on which I was Coxswain for the rescue so it sticks in my mind. Those recues where you save a life are always special.

The hardest moment I have experienced as lifeboat crew was performing first aid on a casualty with their family members present. This was a tragic situation and the only solace I could take is that we were doing everything we could to try and save a life.”

Martin Steeden who has stepped down from Coxswain after nearly 40 yearsMartin Steeden who has stepped down from Coxswain after nearly 40 years

Martin Steeden - Former Coxswain of the Swanage Lifeboat

Carpenter, Martin Steeden married into the lifeboat service as his father-in-law was, as Martin then became, Coxswain of the Swanage lifeboat. He joined Swanage RNLI in 1977 and is the father of Gavin and Matthew who also work on the lifeboats. In 1988 Martin received the ‘Thanks of the Institution inscribed on Vellum’ in recognition of his skill and determination when lifeboat volunteers rescued the crew of Renee, a boat in trouble in a strong south-westerly gale and heavy seas. He recently stepped down from his role as Coxswain of the Swanage Lifeboat.

“I have had mixed emotions leaving the role of Coxswain but I felt it was the right thing to do after nearly 40 years. I feel very privileged and proud to be a part of the overall history of Swanage RNLI. Looking back I think my most memorable lifeboat ‘shout’ came in 1996, when I took part in the rescue of five people from the stricken yacht Be Happy, which found herself 20 miles out to sea during a hurricane. The conditions tested both the crew and the lifeboat that night - one crew member was badly injured and the starboard engine failed. As I was both Acting Mechanic and the first aider onboard, my hands were rather full!

With so many family members involved in the lifeboat you could say it’s developed into something of a family tradition. It can prove quite interesting at family get-togethers: there were two lifeboat shouts during my sister-in-law’s wedding - a significant percentage of the men in the congregation had to dash off during the ceremony!

My youngest son, Matt, was christened on the lifeboat - no sooner had the ceremony finished than our pagers sounded and the boat had to be launched on a rescue!”

Becky MackBecky Mack

Becky Mack - All-weather lifeboat crew (ALB), inshore lifeboat (ILB) crew & Lifeboat Press Officer

Becky is a trainee Patent Attorney. Working from a local office for an employer who supports the RNLI, she is able to leave her desk for a rescue. She can often be seen running along the streets to the lifeboat station when the pager sounds. Becky works on both in the inshore and all-weather lifeboats

“I became a lifeboat volunteer in March 2006. People always ask what makes you want to do this job. It’s not a particular reason to join, more the fact that living locally there was no reason not to.

Being volunteer lifeboat crew is really rewarding, the look of relief on people’s faces when they see you arrive makes what we do worthwhile. There are few things more terrifying than the force of the sea.

“We set out in boats capable of handling the full fury of the sea. You can never beat the sea but you can work with it if you know how.”

Phil PalmerPhil Palmer

Phil Palmer - All-weather lifeboat crew (ALB) and inshore lifeboat (ILB)

Phil is Operations Manager for Brenscombe Outdoor Centre. He’s been with Swanage RNLI crew for two years on the inshore and all-weather lifeboats

“I wanted to do something for other people and I thought that with my skills in water sports and outdoor activities the lifeboat would be a good fit. Taking my existing skills and acquiring new skills through the RNLI training process I hope it has made me a useful asset to the team.

I really enjoy the camaraderie between the crew and being out at sea. The best moment is the drive home after a ‘shout’ reflecting on what the team has achieved.

As a relatively new member to the crew I think my toughest moments are still to come. Although the training is challenging I think it will be my experiences on rescues that will really test me.”


Swanage Lifeboat Facts

• Established: Peveril Point 1875

• Number of crew: 31 (including seagoing and launch crew)

• Age range of crew: 21 – 52

• Day jobs: butcher, accountant, estate agent, IT specialist, fisherman, marine engineer, electrician, head teacher, plasterer, joiner, trainee patent attorney, carpenter

• Rescue area covered: Between Weymouth and Poole. All-weather lifeboats can go up to 100 miles offshore. As we have the Isle of Wight across the water, our usual maximum range is around 30 miles offshore.

• Number of boats: 1 inshore lifeboat, 1 all-weather lifeboat

• Rescues last year: 45


Keep in touch

Follow on Twitter @swanagelifeboat or Facebook – Swanage Lifeboat Station. Both are regularly updated with shout information.

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