Whitby RNLI Coxswain Mike Russell hangs up his wellies for the last time

Lifeboats News Release

Mike, who turned 60 on Saturday (12 August) joined Whitby RNLI back in 1987 while he was working on a fishing boat and running a fishing shop. He has provided 30 years of loyal service to the RNLI.

Retiring Coxswain Mike Russell from Whitby RNLI

RNLI/Ceri Oakes

Retiring Coxswain Mike Russell from Whitby RNLI
No stranger to the sea, Mike was keen to join the volunteer lifesaving crew in his home town.

In 1995 Mike temporarily became emergency coxswain, and by 1998 was appointed second coxswain. In 2002 the previous coxswain Keith Stewart retired and Mike stepped into his shoes.

When asked what his most memorable call out was in his 30 years service Mike said: 'It's not always the ones you'd expect. The sad ones stay with you, but then so do the funny ones such as the time crew member Stephen Boocock had to swim round after a labrador in order to rescue it.'

His longest shout spanned 22 hours at sea, on a search for two lads in a small fishing vessel, who they eventually found and rescued.
But even on these long, and often rough shouts, Mike has never suffered from sea sickness. He said: 'Sea sickness can hit anyone, even the most experienced seaman, I've been very lucky.'

Mike explained one of the most difficult things about being a coxswain is the affect on your family. Many a time the pager has gone off and Mike has had to leave his wife Carolyn sitting alone in a restaurant, or with a full trolley of shopping in a supermarket and no car to get home as he's driven off to the station.

'I couldn't have done this without the love and support of my family' he said. 'I've been on the lifeboat crew since before my two sons were born, they've never known any different. I'm looking forward to be able to give them more of my time and especially my two grandchildren Storm, three, and Henry who is eight months.

'Carolyn has been very understanding, missing out on shopping trips and weekends away, I think I'm going to have to suffer some shopping trips now to make up for it!'

And for Mike, his family goes beyond those at home, 'The crew have been my family for the last thirty years too. I've seen these lads grow up and flourish and I will enjoy watching them take over the reigns. The lifeboat has been in Whitby for over 200 years and we are merely custodians of it at a certain time, it will carry on for years long after we've all gone.'

Being close to the crew is an important part of the team's success, Mike explained: 'You get to know your crew, their strengths, their personalities. We socialise together as well as train. This means when we're out to sea we've got each others backs. There's got to be trust and respect. as a coxswain you're only as good as your crew.

'The volunteers support each other after the difficult call outs and the not so happy endings. We talk things through after a difficult shout. But we also have a lot of laughs, a lot of mick-taking, it keeps things light, which you need when you see some of the things we see.'

Mike also wants to thank the fundraisers and supporters of Whitby RNLI who he describes as 'the backbone of the charity.'
‘I've grown very close to many of our fundraisers over the years, they raise money, raise awareness, they even bring me Cornish pasties. We wouldn't be here without them.'

Mike won't be a stranger to the RNLI now he has retired from his sea-faring position as coxswain, with a new volunteer role as chairman to get stuck into.

Station mechanic Richard Dowson said: 'Mike has been an inspiration to most of the crew at Whitby, he has been the only coxswain most of us have ever known. From joining the crew 15 years ago Mike was always someone I looked up to.

'I was over the moon when I was appointed station mechanic and knew I would be working with Mike day to day. Our working relationship has been the best I have ever had, but in a job like this it needs to be. From me and all the crew I wish Mike a long and happy retirement and hope to see him in the Black Horse as usual every Friday teatime!'

Former Second coxswain Howard Fields has taken over Mike’s role, Mike wishes him well and said: 'I hope Howard enjoys it, and the crew, as much as I have over the years.'

RNLI Media contacts
For more information please call Ceri Oakes, RNLI Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer on: 07813 359428.
Retiring Coxswain Mike Russell from Whitby RNLI

RNLI/Ceri Oakes

Retiring Coxswain Mike Russell from Whitby RNLI
Retiring Coxswain Mike Russell from Whitby RNLI

RNLI/Ceri Oakes

Retiring Coxswain Mike Russell from Whitby RNLI
Retiring Coxswain Mike Russell from Whitby RNLI

RNLI/Ceri Oakes

Retiring Coxswain Mike Russell from Whitby RNLI

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The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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