Dungeness Lifeboat Coxswain Stuart Adams

Stuart, a Coxswain at Dungeness, is responsible for the station’s all-weather lifeboat and is in command when at sea. He ensures the safety of all the lifeboat crew onboard – as well as rescuing those in danger. A coxswain must also make sure all equipment is in order and the lifeboat is ready for service again at the end of a rescue.
Meet Coxswain Stuart Adams

Photo: Noel Packer

Stuart Adams, RNLI Lifeboat Coxswain, Dungeness.
The RNLI is a huge part of our lives and always has been.

We prefer to use volunteers where possible but we recognise this is not always practical. So we employ full-time staff, like Stuart, where it is necessary to maintaining a lifesaving service at that station.

How long have you been a part of the crew at Dungeness? 

As soon as I turned 17 I signed up, with my parents’ consent. I joined the crew in 1977 and was a lifeboat volunteer up until 2000. And then I became coxswain in 1997. 

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

I just love it. If you ask my wife, she’d say that’s the only family I’ve got! My daughter Natalie is on the crew, and my son Jason is a member of our shore crew. They were both 17 when they signed up too. Plus my wife does so much to support me and helps out with our fundraising, so the RNLI is a huge part of our lives and always has been. 

What made you want to become a lifeboat man? 

Being brought up in Dungeness, the lifeboat is a huge part of our community. As a child I remember seeing the lifeboat out on the water, and always wanting to be there and be a part of it. 

After leaving school I became a commercial fisherman, and I just felt that you never know when you’re going to need the help of the RNLI. And the only way of ensuring the future of the station was to get involved.

But never in my wildest dreams did I think I would end up as coxswain. And now to be coxswain with the Shannon coming to the station – it’s unreal really! 

What do you most enjoy about your job? 

I enjoy the team spirit with the rest of the guys and girls. And the job satisfaction – you cannot beat it. It’s an amazing feeling to go back home after a shout and think that you made a difference. Even if it’s just a tow job or a small incident, you still can’t beat that feeling.

What’s been your most memorable rescue? 

I remember being called to a yacht in difficulty as a crew member one afternoon. A summer storm had come in, winds were gusting up to Force 10 and it was pouring with rain. 

We were in the old Rother class lifeboat, and came up very close to the yacht and we saw someone up on deck. We were shouting, screaming and calling at this person at them to get their attention. And when they eventually turned around, we realised that this poor woman was on deck all by herself struggling and battling against the rough waves. The moment she turned around and saw us she just burst into tears. You never forget moments like that. 

She had been out on deck all alone, while four other people were below deck with severe sea sickness. They had got caught out with the storm and couldn’t get back in land. But I’ll never forget the look on her face when she turned around and saw us there to help.

What’s been your proudest moment? 

I’d have to say having my two kids Natalie and Jason. And now the fact that they’re involved in the RNLI too, it just makes me so proud. 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? 

When I took over as coxswain, my predecessor told me to have broad shoulders. He also said if there is a problem, go home, think about it, sleep on it, and look at it the next day – don’t just jump into things. 

I think that’s important when you’re looking after a big team of people and need to be there to support them. We’ve got new volunteers coming in all the time, so it’s important that I’m there for them, and make sure we provide the right training and support, and always be open with them and approachable. 

What will the new Shannon mean to Dungeness station? 

It’s taking life boating into the future. The two biggest changes are the speed of the Shannon, which allows us to reach casualties quicker, and the waterjets, which give us much more manoeuvrability on the water. 

It’s been a big ask though, because the Mersey was such a fantastic boat, and they’ve had to come up with something better. But my word they really have with the Shannon! It’s an absolutely fantastic boat.