Unsung heroes: Niall McGrotty

Volunteer Niall is proud to be the lifeboat operations manager at Skerries Lifeboat Station in Co Dublin.

Niall McGrotty, Skerries Lifeboat Operations Manager

Photo: RNLI/Anna Burn

What does a lifeboat operations manager (LOM) do?

The LOM has the responsibility of authorising the launch of the lifeboat. They lead the operations team and ensure that all operational activities are carried out to maintain the lifeboat in a constant state of readiness for launching on service. 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself: What are your passions outside of the RNLI?

My main passion is dinghy sailing. I’ve been sailing since the age of 7 and never stopped. Currently I sail and race a Fireball, which is a two-man high-performance dinghy. I’ve competed in local, national and international events, and travelled to many European countries. 

Skerries' Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat Louis Simson at sea

Photo: Nicholas Leach

Skerries' B class inshore lifeboat Louis Simson

What’s a day on the coast that you’ll never forget?  

When I was around 9, my father and I launched my first dinghy – a small single-handed one-sail children’s boat called Measle. I went out every day that summer with my friends, weather permitting, pottering about Skerries Bay.

Have you ever had a difficult moment in the sea?

I was taking part in a sailing event when the weather turned very nasty and the sea became very rough. We capsized and had difficulty righting the dingy due to the wind and wave conditions. Unfortunately during our efforts to right the boat, I suffered a trauma to my right hand known as de-gloving and I lost the top of two of my fingers.  

What inspired you to volunteer for the RNLI? 

As a keen sailor, I’ve always been aware of the RNLI and its tremendous work. I was a teenager when a well-known local man lost his life falling from a yacht in Skerries Harbour. This had a lasting effect on me so when, some years later, the Skerries lifeboat was reintroduced, I was honoured to join the crew. 

What’s your favourite thing about the RNLI?

Being part of a long-established professional organisation at the heart of the community. And volunteering makes me feel like I’m part of a big family. 

Any funny moments with the crew that stick in your memory?

In 2010, the Skerries crew and team took part in the Boston St Patrick’s Day parade alongside the US Coast Guard. On the day, there was torrential rain, so the Coast Guard withdrew. But we paraded behind our flag and – despite looking like drowned rats! – got great cheers of encouragement from all the onlookers. This made us enjoy the situation even more. When we returned to our hotel, our boots were full of water and we were soaked to the skin. We still laugh about it today!

What piece of water safety advice has really stuck with you?

Make sure that you wear appropriate and clearly visible gear and use the right safety equipment for the activity you’re doing. Don’t do it alone and tell someone when you expect to return. 

Skerries Lifeboat Station

Photo: Martin Fish

Skerries Lifeboat Station

What’s your most memorable moment during your time with the RNLI?

I was fortunate enough to be on the crew for the first service launch of the new Skerries D class lifeboat when the station reopened after 51 years in 1981.

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

I’m honoured to have carried out various roles with Skerries RNLI over the years. I’ve developed many skills during this time which I would not have had the opportunity to do otherwise. I have great fun and comradeship, while meeting people from all walks of life who want to make a difference and save lives.

What would you say to anyone thinking of volunteering for the RNLI – in any role?

It’s a wonderful inclusive organisation providing full training to anyone interested in volunteering to help save lives. You’ll learn new skills and gain life experience while having the satisfaction of giving back to the community in which you live or work.

Every RNLI volunteer, regardless of their role, does their bit to help save lives at sea by giving as much or as little time as they can. Find a role for you.