Lifeboat volunteers in the south west ready to launch at Christmas to save lives

Lifeboats News Release

As with any other time of the year RNLI volunteers across the south west are on standby this Christmas to drop everything to rescue anyone in trouble at sea.

Nicholas Leach

Bude's inshore lifeboat on training exercise. Credit Nicholas Leach

Whatever the weather or time of day volunteer lifeboat crew members and shore crew will be ready to react should their pagers sound.

The charity's volunteer crews are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to help save lives not just at sea, but also inland during floods.

Chris Rampling, volunteer crew member at Dart Lifeboat Station in Devon, says:

‘As volunteer lifeboat crew, we are well aware that we can be called out at any time of the day or night. We train hard all year around to ensure that when our pagers do sound we are ready to respond, whatever the weather and regardless of if it is Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve or any other day of the year.’

It’s not uncommon for lifeboat crews to swap, half-opened gifts, Christmas dinner and precious time with their families for hours away from home in rough seas.

A number of lifeboat stations in the region have been called out up to four times during the festive period*.

James Millidge, RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager says: ‘At this time of year in particular, I'm always reminded just how extraordinary our volunteers are.

‘They give up valuable time with their families throughout the year and the Christmas period is no exception. We are proud to have such dedicated volunteers, with such supportive families who spare them at a time when most other families come together.’

While the RNLI wants people to enjoy the wonderful coastline the region has to offer throughout the winter and festive period, its important people take the necessary precautions and check weather conditions and tide times.

Getting cut off by the tide contributes to a significant number of RNLI rescues each year. Tide times and heights vary throughout the month, and so a beach that was clear yesterday at 4pm might be completely covered in sea at the same time today. For those taking a stroll by the coast this Christmas to avoid getting cut off by the tide it’s important to check tide tables before heading out and make sure you are aware of your surroundings and the tide’s direction when you are out.

Visitors to the coast can help keep themselves and their families’ safe by knowing their limits and not taking unnecessary risk.

If walking your dog by the coast the RNLI’s advice it to keep your pet on a lead when close to cliff edges or fast flowing rivers. If your dog does get stuck in water or mud it is important you do not go in after it. Move to a place they can get to safely and call them – they’ll probably get out by themselves. If they don’t and you’re worried about them, call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coastguard.

James added: ‘During the winter months conditions can be fairly challenging and unpredictable. In the past we’ve seen a number of fatalities around the region during this period. We want this Christmas and New Year to be a safe and healthy one for everyone and so it’s important that people visiting the coast Respect the Water.’

For those braving a dip in the sea over the festive period, there are plenty of organised events in the south west on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day

‘We’d always encourage anyone wanting to swim in the sea at this time of year to attend an organised event,’ says James.

‘While it’s still important that people know their limits in the water as swimmers are still responsible for their own safety at these kind of events, swimming with others is always the safest option.’

The RNLI always encourages people planning an activity by the coast to ensure they’ve got the appropriate equipment for whatever activity they’re doing and carry a means of communication in case they do get into trouble.

Free all-year-round coastal safety information can be found at

Notes to Editor

  • *Festive period is Christmas Eve until New Year’s Day

  • Lifeboat stations in Cornwall launched 31 times during the festive period between 2011 and 2015 and rescued 9 people.

  • Lifeboat stations in Devon launched 29 times during the festive period between 2011 and 2015 and rescued 8 people.

  • Lifeboat stations in Somerset launched 11 times during the festive period between 2011 and 2015 and rescued 5 people.

  • Lifeboat stations in Dorset launched 20 times during the festive period between 2011 and 2015 and rescued 16 people.

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Ian Foster

New Year's Day swim 2017 at Looe beach. Credit Ian Foster

Key facts about the RNLI

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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Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or or by email.