On call for Christmas
Vince Jones is a full-time mechanic and crew member at Moelfre Lifeboat Station. Earlier this summer, he featured on BBC’s Saving Lives at Sea following the remarkable rescue of a father and son who had capsized in their kayak.
As winter draws in, we catch up with Vince to find out what it’s like for the crew over the festive period – and what happens when the pager goes off on Christmas Day.
How long have you been on the crew with Moelfre, and what inspired you to get involved?
I’ve been at the station for 18 years and I’ve been a full-time crew member for 17 years. The RNLI has been in my family for three generations – my grandpa was on the crew and my father was on the lifeboat crew in the 80s–90s. Dad’s retired from the sea now but is still on the shore crew. As soon as we turned 17, my brother and I joined. We’re a really close crew.
What’s it like to be called out over winter and – specifically – Christmas?
It’s always busy – we’ve been called out on Christmas Day before. A yacht was drifting in the bay, with a broken mooring. We were concerned that there were a family onboard who may be stranded, when they were meant to be enjoying Christmas Day together. Fortunately, no-one was onboard, the vessel had just come loose from the dock – but you never know what that could have happened to someone else in the bay.
You can never quite relax at this time of year – you’re always waiting for the call to come in. Christmas brings celebration, and with celebration comes the wine, so we’re always that extra bit cautious of people’s safety. Christmas can also be a difficult time for some people. It can be a real struggle, particularly up to New Year’s Eve, so we’re always mindful.
What does Christmas usually look like at the station?
We have a crew Christmas dinner where we all get together – that’s a nice tradition. We always put up decorations, like lights, outside the station. But the main thing is that we’re on call all year, every year.
What does Christmas usually look like for you and your family?
I try and make Christmas as normal as possible for my three children – even though I’m still on call. As I’m the full-time mechanic, I still come down to the station to check the lifeboat – I’m always there, even if the pager doesn’t sound. My children understand it, and I try not to focus their attention on it too much so that they enjoy themselves.
What would be the one piece of advice that you’d give to people who are coming to the coast with their families over the festive season?
We really want you to enjoy the coast – but respect it. Always carry a means of calling for help that you can reach easily and, if you see anyone in trouble, dial 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard. Our volunteers are always on call, even at Christmas.
Read more about Vince and the Moelfre lifeboat crew's rescue of the father and son left fighting for their lives after their kayak capsized.