Wexford Lifeboat Helm Lorraine Galvin

Lorraine Galvin is a Lifeboat Helm at Wexford Lifeboat Station. She’s in charge of the inshore lifeboat during launching, at sea and during recovery, as well as being responsible for the safety of the crew on board.

Wexford RNLI Lifeboat Helm Lorraine Galvin

Photo: Coast Guard

Wexford RNLI Lifeboat Helm Lorraine Galvin.
When my pager goes off my daughter says: “We have to hurry mummy, someone's in trouble!”

How were you introduced to the RNLI?

When I was 17 years old I was training for a rowing race - a Guinness world record attempt Celtic Challenge. We were rowing in Wexford Harbour, had no lifejackets or flares and capsized halfway out of the harbour. 

It was March, very cold with rough seas. We spent 2½ hours in the water which was quite an ordeal. My jaw stopped shivering it was that cold - I had hypothermia. 

We were clinging on to the upside down rowing boat but had no way of alerting anyone. But even if we had been able to there was no rescue service in the town at the time. 

Luckily the tide was coming back into town so we managed to kick the boat and push ourselves back with the tide. A fishing boat found us and reunited us with our families on the harbour. I was kept in hospital for a couple of days. 

It was knowing there was no one to rescue us that made me want to join the lifeboats. So when I saw an ad in the paper the following year for an independent lifeboat being set up following a drowning in the harbour, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. The RNLI adopted our station a couple of years later, and I've been involved ever since. 

How do you usually spend your days?

I'm a college lecturer in digital media. I've been teaching for 15 years and I'm teaching back in Wexford now. 

I don't row anymore; instead I've turned my focus to the lifeboat and lifeguarding on the beach. 

How do you get involved with the RNLI?

I'm the Helm on the inshore lifeboat at Wexford RNLI Lifeboat Station, as well as their volunteer Press Officer. 

I also help organise a fundraising festival in the town every year in aid of the RNLI. 

I like getting involved with the press and fundraising side of things because when you're crew in the lifeboat, you know how vital it is for the charity to raise the funds needed to run the lifeboat service. 

We're all really proud of the fact that it's dependent on volunteers and fundraising so always want to do our bit. 

With press, I'm also in a unique position to tell our story. For crew, they might see a rescue as normal, and it's because our crew training is so great that they see that as normal. But it is extraordinary what they do and I want to get that across to people. 

Tell us about you: What are your passions? How do these link with your RNLI work?

I love lifeguarding, swimming, kayaking and boating. I feel like I have something to offer the RNLI, but really for me it all comes back to the accident - I felt I had a responsibility to join to help others who might face similar situations. 

There's nothing as terrifying as being in a rough sea. People say you need a respect for the water and you do need people there in case things go wrong. 

What's your fondest memory from your time with the RNLI, so far?

When we do joint lifeboat exercises with flank lifeboat stations there's a great sense of camaraderie. When we do big scenario exercises with other crews, everyone's smiling but we all know what we're about - training to save lives at sea. 

We're in the best boats and have the best equipment so we never have to worry; that lets us concentrate on helping others which is fantastic. 

How does it feel to be a part of the RNLI family? What does it mean to you? 

I recently went to Crosshaven and Tenby Lifeboat Stations and got a warm welcome - you can walk into any lifeboat station anywhere and the conversation just starts over a cup of coffee. 

It's a deep understanding between crews I think; we're all so different but I can sit down with anyone and you know what you're going to talk about! 

Everyone is a team, across the whole of the UK and Ireland. A huge part of that is because everyone's a volunteer, no one questions why they do it. People just do it. 

I have a 8-year-old daughter and she's never questioned my involvement with being on the lifeboat; they are so supportive of me and it's like being in a family, especially when times are tough. 

I bring my daughter with me to the station every evening and I've got her in the little RNLI wellies and jacket. So she mixes with RNLI family all the time - she's been coming to meetings since she was 8 weeks old and now helps wash the boat. 

When my pager goes off she says: 'We have to hurry mummy, someone's in trouble!' 

What's next?

I'll continue what I'm doing - Helm, Press Officer and fundraising roles - and will hopefully continue developing with the RNLI and trying different things! 

I get so much more out of it than what I put in - my life would not be as rich if I didn't have the RNLI.