Reflecting onĀ  the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s launch of Lifeboats.TV.

Together we worked on a project which was developed to engage young people in the Lifeboat service, with a vision that todays young people would show a lifelong interest in the safety of our seas and ensure funding and volunteers were available in their twilight years, for our children’s children, and their children’s children.

Lifeboats.TV is the largest free video website on the internet with 457 movies compressed in 6 various formats. The Virtual Lifeboat Station was designed and built as an explorable place to discover the Lifeboat service without actually visiting a lifeboat station.

What is it like to be on a lifeboat during a shout?

Being in a lifeboat is like being in a tumble washer sometimes, you see your cloths going round, and you are going everywhere. The sea is not a very kind thing, it comes at you from all angles. Even though the crews are strapped well in, and the seats are numatic and help protect your back, because you could imagine falling 10 / 15 feet.. If you were sitting at the back of the lifeboat you can see all your crew members and they are going up and down and up and down in their seats as the motion of the boat takes them. So when a boat comes off a heavy wave, this would happen; the boat would fall and you are pulled in your straps because the gravity of the boat will take you down but you are going to stay there momentarily, so it is like the keys on a piano, if you could imagine, no fingers, everybody is up and down. (Watch the movie) Crew Member, Dun Laoghaire Lifeboat Station, Republic of Ireland, 29 January 2002.

When not for profit learning, technology and research centre Ultralab (1990-2006) started this massive research project we discovered from children that the interesting things about the lifeboat service are the people that make it all happen. Why do these women and men leave the safety of their beds in the middle of the night to rescue a complete stranger in a storm?….What makes these hero’s tick?….Why do they do what they do?

In 1 year, Colin Elsey and myself had visited 8 lifeboat stations all over the UK and met 180 people who volunteer and risk their lives, to save yours.

In Tobermory in Scotland on the 19th of March 2002 Colin Elsey, Alex, Hamish Scott-Brown and myself were filming the crew who were answering our questions while on a lifeboat when a real rescue call was instructed by the Coastguard. Alex, Hamish and myself did not have enough time to leave the boat and found ourselves at sea taking part in a real life rescue.

I can’t explain how it felt, but for the first time in my life I actually felt frightened. Not because it was 8pm and we were on what turned out to be a 5 hour shout in the dark, in rough water, in a 2 level boat which was rocking in all directions, in the most remote part of Scotland….but because there was the possibility someone was in the sea and if we missed them, they could die.

I stood on the back of the ‘Severn’ lifeboat, with an RAF helecopter above us, with its search lights on full beam sweeping across the sea in search for a sign of life….I remember checking the same patch of water over and over and over again, thinking….”If I miss someone, I’ll never forgive myself”….

Nobody was found that night, and no bodies were reported missing within the following weeks.

When we started the project I felt slightly concerned that as a person that had never been on a rescue how could I give an honest representation of the people who risk their lives to save others?

When we docked after the shout in Tobermory I actually felt like I knew what it was like to be a lifeboat crew memeber. I had experienced the excitement, the fear, the antisipation, and above all, I’d put my life in danger too, although I was in perfectly safe hands throughout the rescue.

No matter where we went the lifeboat crews looked after us, they wanted us to hear their stories, they wanted us to know what they did. The most remarkable finding was that no crew member ever consider themself to be a hero.

I’ll never forget the work we did with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution who are currently re-organising prior to the official launch of Lifeboats.TV.

They are hero’s, every single one of them, especially Skegness Wiggy.

When friends ask, why do you risk your life to be a lifeboat crew? What is it that makes you go out in rough weather? It’s very hard to explain to them the feeling that you get when you actually put your hand on somebody, who is about to die, bring them into your boat, with your mates, bring them ashore safely. Thats a feeling, a privelege words cant explain. (Watch the movie) Crew Member, Dun Laoghaire Lifeboat Station, Republic of Ireland, 29 January 2002.

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