Meet the south west volunteer crew bringing your meal from sea to table

Lifeboats News Release

The RNLI’s annual fishy fundraiser encourages people to host a Fish Supper between Friday 9 and Sunday 25 October and invite their family and friends to enjoy the evening, with donations being made in support of the lifesaving charity.


James Swabey Padstow RNLI volunteer and fisherman

The Coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on the RNLI’s ability to generate income, making fundraising events like this more important than ever. With restrictions in place, the charity is encouraging people to host their Fish Supper online this year if they can’t get together in person.

Many of those tucking into a delicious fish dish will have RNLI volunteers to thank for bringing their meal from sea to table, as plenty of crew members in the south west juggle a busy fishy job with saving lives at sea. From bringing in the catch of the day, to fileting, selling, and cooking it, the RNLI has volunteer crew involved in every aspect of preparing a fish supper.

Ben Bengey at Ilfracombe runs his own fishing boat out of the harbour and last year, at the age of 22, won Young Fisherman of the Year. As a volunteer, he juggles his roles as helm on the inshore lifeboat, and navigator and trainee coxswain on the all-weather lifeboat, with bringing in the daily catch.

Ben, who takes his fish and chips with lots of salt and vinegar – and an essential helping of ketchup - describes his motivation for joining the crew;

‘As a fisherman, I understand boats and the sea. It is good to something back by being part of the lifeboat crew. When I am out on my own boat, if I were ever to get into difficulties, it’s nice to know if I needed help, the RNLI would be there.’

On Devon’s south coast, Chris Roberts, volunteer crew on Salcombe’s inshore and all-weather lifeboat, catches sustainable fish and shellfish off the coast.

Chris describes his favourite fish supper:

‘We eat a lot of fish and there is nothing better than lobster on the barbecue, with a bit of garlic butter.

‘I volunteer because I wanted to make a difference. I have been on the water all my life, and for the last 20 years working as a full-time fisherman on commercial as well as charter boats, I hope I can use my experience and knowledge to help.’

In Padstow, Cornwall, James Swabey also divides his time between the station’s all weather lifeboat and the fishing boat.

‘We go to sea fishing for one or two weeks at a time, and when I’m back, I’m on call as lifeboat crew. I grew up in Padstow, began surfing from a young age and used to work on the boat trips in the town, taking people to see sea life. Joining the lifeboat seemed like a great opportunity and I haven’t regretted.

‘Despite the job, I don’t actually eat a lot of fish, probably from being around it all day! But when I do, it’s got to have lots of salt and vinegar.’

Nick Hichens is part of the lifeboat crew at Sennen Cove, volunteering on both on the all weather lifeboat and as helm on the inshore lifeboat, he is also a sustainable punt fisherman, catching mackerel, pollock, squid and lobsters and supplying them to local fish merchants and direct to the public.

Nick says;

‘You can’t beat good old-fashioned battered fish and homemade chips with plenty of salt and vinegar.

As a local fisherman I have a lot of knowledge of the local area and also the dangers of the sea, so hopefully I can pass that on to others and help those that are in need as part of the lifeboat crew in Sennen Cove.’

Ross King supplies his family café, Fern Pit Café on the Gannel Estuary at Newquay, where they serve up the pollack, cod, crabs and lobsters that he catches aboard his fishing boat ‘Excelsior’, along with his uncle, Gerald.

Ross juggles this busy day job with volunteering as helm on the Atlantic 85 and D class inshore lifeboats in Newquay.

Ross is also a traditionalist when it comes to a fish supper, he says;

‘My favourite would be pollack, cod or haddock, just battered with proper chip shop chips, but not forgetting lashings of salt and vinegar, you can’t beat it!’

‘I joined the crew as it was something I always wanted to do whilst growing up, family members had been on the crew in the past and it was sort of a natural thing to do. I use the sea for work and for fun and could need the lifeboat myself at any time, so it’s great to be able to give something back in return. It’s great being able to learn new skills and pass them on to new crew too.’

Gareth Horner has been involved with Newquay RNLI since 1974 when he joined as a crew member, he is now, 46 years later the volunteer Lifeboat Operations Manager at the station. In this role, Gareth is responsible for the day-to-day running of the lifeboat station, its operational personnel and equipment.

It’s a responsibility he manages alongside his day job as a third-generation fishmonger, selling fish to hotels, restaurants and individuals.

Gareth, whose fish supper is not complete without curry sauce, says;

‘Having been a fisherman and still owing my living to the sea, it's great to be able to give something back to the maritime community. My ancestors have been involved with the sea, including the RNLI, for many generations. I also derive a great deal of pleasure from being a member of our RNLI family and cherish the lifelong friendships I have made through it.’

Luke Netherton is volunteer helm and crew on the Torbay all-weather lifeboat and works for Brixham Trawler Agents as a Fish Auctioneer.

Luke gets up at about 4.30am to head down to the harbour see what has been landed, grade the fish and set up the auctions, which are now all online. He sells the fish on behalf of the boats to retailers, restaurants, supermarkets and to buyers in Holland and Spain, aiming to get the best price for their fish.

Luke says;

‘Growing up in the town and wanting to work in the harbour, I’d always seen and admired the RNLI crew and wanted to be a part of it. Volunteering is great and I like to be giving something back to the town.

‘I do like the traditional chips with fish in batter, always salt and vinegar, mushy peas and curry sauce. But if there is an option, I would take my fish grilled rather than battered, and I’d always have hake. People always go for cod, which is likely to be frozen from Scotland or the north sea, but we have local hake in the south west and it’s the best.’

Tim Barnes, is a volunteer crew member and head launcher at Exmouth RNLI and owner of Krispies fish and chips shop in Exmouth for 23 years. His favourite way to eat his fish and chips is with his homemade tartare sauce and a wedge of fresh lemon.

Tim says;

‘I volunteer for the RNLI because I have always had a love of the sea. My parents were also part of the British Red cross when I was growing up so knew how important volunteering was within the local community.’

The RNLI’s volunteer lifeboat crews have remained on service throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, continuing to respond to emergencies and save lives while the country was in lockdown. The charity’s lifesavers then faced an incredibly busy summer as people flocked to enjoy holidays at the south west coast this year.

Lucy Ashton, RNLI Regional Engagement Lead for the south west says;

‘95% of the RNLI’s people are volunteers, our crews drop everything including their work or meals to respond to emergencies at sea. We are so lucky in the south west that many of these volunteers have jobs that help produce the nation’s favourite meal, a Fish Supper, and it’s even more of a reason to celebrate the region’s fishing industry and fundraise for the RNLI.

‘As a charity we have lost millions of pounds due to the impact of Coronavirus. We had to close our shops, we cancelled all face-to-face fundraising activity and our amazing supporters couldn’t host fundraising events for us. So this year’s Fish Supper fundraiser is more important than ever before.

‘If you fancy rustling up a three-course meal or just a fish finger sandwich, the money you raise will help save lives at sea. Whether you host an event at home, or you get together with friends for a virtual Fish Supper online, we’re sure you’ll have a great evening and we’ll appreciate every single pound raised.’

To sign up to host your own Fish Supper, and to find a load of fantastic recipes from some top celebrity chefs, visit:

Notes to editors

· Images of all the RNLI volunteers in this press release are available on request

RNLI media contacts

For more information please telephone Amy Caldwell, RNLI Regional Media Manager on 07920 818807 or [email protected] or contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789.


Chris Roberts Salcombe RNLI volunteer


Gareth Horner Newquay RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager

RNLI Torbay

Luke Netherton Torbay RNLI volunteer


Nick Hichens Sennen Cove RNLI volunteer

Krispies Fish and Chips

Tim Barnes Exmouth RNLI crew and chip shop owner

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 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.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

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