Winni and Daisy: Identical twins on different lifeboat crews

Twins Winni and Daisy Jarvis volunteer as lifeboat crew members on the River Thames in London and in the Cornish town of St Ives. The 22-year-old duo have been training to be RNLI lifesavers since they were 17. Here’s why.

Winni and Daisy: Identical twins on different lifeboat crews

Photo: RNLI/Nathan Williams

What inspired you to don a yellow drysuit and hop onboard an RNLI lifeboat?

Winni says: ‘Being brought up on the coast of East Sussex, we originally joined the lifeboat crew in our home town of Rye where our Dad, Will, is a crew member at the local lifeboat station. Dad taught us how to sail when we were only 10 years old and he and mum have forever been teaching us about respecting the sea and staying safe on the water as well as enjoying it. I guess you could say salt water runs through our veins.

‘We’d hear the loud beep from Dad’s pager go off at two or three in the morning. But he’d be gone so quickly out of the door that we wouldn’t even get the chance to wish him good luck on the shout he’d be running to.’

Now the twins get to experience the same adrenaline rush as their Dad.

Why volunteer?

Swapping her computer screen for a radar plotter, Winni, who is studying Graphic Design at Central St Martins in London, volunteers at Tower - the RNLI’s busiest lifeboat station. In the heart of London on a floating pontoon on the River Thames, a mixture of full-timers and volunteers crew the station 24/7, taking it in turns to complete 12-hour shifts.

Talking about her volunteering experience to date, Winni recalls the shout which sticks in her mind the most.

‘It was 9am on Christmas morning in 2015 and I was on the day shift at Tower. We were called to reports of a sighting of a person in the water and joined the Marine Police to look for a young guy who had apparently been missing for a few days. When we got there, the Marine Police were pulling a man’s body out of the water. He was completely lifeless. That was the first time I had ever seen a dead body. I think I spent Christmas morning in a very different way to a lot of my friends that year.

‘Working on the river, the nature of shouts we get is varied. One minute you could be dealing with someone having an epileptic fit on a leisure boat, and the next a suicide attempt. Sadly, a lot of the work we do on the River Thames is helping those people who have tried to take their own lives, but it’s part of my job and I just get on with it.’

Twin instinct

Winni and Daisy often use each other as sounding boards when they have difficult days on the water. Daisy says: ‘Moving from home and away from Winni wasn’t easy. We both left Mum and Dad on the same weekend. But when I walked in to my new lifeboat station at St Ives and met the crew there, I instantly felt at home and had a cup of tea with my new RNLI family.

'Although we’re miles apart, it never feels like we are too far away from each other because we’re always chatting on the phone and are there for each other all the time.

‘When the pager sounds my heart starts racing and I just run. It’s a massive adrenaline rush knowing that you’re about to risk your own life to save someone else’s. I absolutely love it.’

Daisy has also had to deal with fatalities while volunteering, and she recalls her first shout as being one of them. ‘Back at home in Rye Harbour, reports had come in of a woman struggling to stay afloat out at sea. After launching immediately and despite best efforts by the crew and paramedics, the woman unfortunately couldn’t be saved.

'I walked away from the lifeboat station that day realising something special. I had been given a chance to make a difference to someone’s life, and although that day I couldn’t, I’ll never stop wanting to try.’

All in a day’s work: What’s it like having to respond to a pager?

Daisy says: ‘There were times back in Rye where we would turn up at the lifeboat station in the middle of the night and not even realise that we were standing there being briefed about the shout in our pyjamas! I’ve been in the shower shaving my legs before and the pager has gone off, but as soon as you hear that beeping, your mind focuses on where you have to be and you just drop everything and go.’

What’s next?

‘I will always want to be close enough to a station so that I can continue saving lives,’ Winni says. ‘My aim is to eventually become a London fire fighter and Daisy is interested in becoming a paramedic. I think it’s in our blood to help others and if we can make even just a small difference in the world, then we’re happy.’

If you’re interested in joining the lifeboat crew, you’ll need courage and commitment. You’ll also need to:

  • be physically fit
  • be a team player and work well with the rest of the crew
  • enjoy hard physical work
  • communicate easily
  • obey orders when required to.

The RNLI provides first-class training and equipment. Find out more about joining a lifeboat crew here.