Wexford crew member with 10 years’ experience looking forward to first Christmas on call since becoming a Helm

Volunteering for the RNLI is a real family affair for lifeboat crews in Wexford. While Robbie Connolly is looking forward to his first Christmas on call since becoming a helm earlier this year, his father-in-law Eugene Kehoe, a seasoned Coxswain at Kilmore Quay, will also be ready to answer the call if there is an emergency at sea.

RNLI lifeboat on the water with white horses crashing over the sides

Photo: RNLI

Lifeboat at Wexford RNLI

As the charity launches its Christmas appeal, Robbie and Eugene are preparing to swap turkey and pudding for the difficult seas of winter should their pagers sound. They are now urging people across Wexford – home to five stations at Courtown, Wexford, Kilmore Quay, Rosslare Harbour and Fethard, to help their crews and the thousands of other volunteer crews on call over the Christmas period, to continue their lifesaving work.

‘I am 10 years on the lifeboat crew at Wexford RNLI,’ Robbie who is an engineer by day explains, ‘I have always had a love for the sea but when I finished college and started working alongside crew members and a Deputy Launching Authority, I was encouraged to join, and I am delighted to be involved.’

As a helm, Robbie is responsible for the inshore lifeboat and his fellow crew during the launch of the lifeboat and while at sea.

‘I have had one call out as helm so far and it was to a yacht with three people onboard that had got into difficulty on a falling tide and ran aground as it was coming into Wexford harbour. Where our station is located, there are shifting sands and the channel is changing regularly so time was of the essence and with the call out happening at night, there was the added challenge of working in the dark but thankfully, we had a safe and successful outcome.

‘There are a few differences in being a helm - you are more conscious of looking after your own crew as well as those you are going to rescue and the conditions at sea. However, what my helm’s training taught me was to have more confidence in my decision making and skills ability and I suppose in that sense it is about having self-belief and making your 10 years of training and experience become second nature when responding to a call out.’

Like Robbie, each RNLI crew member signs up to save every one from drowning – it has been the charity’s mission since 1824. 

This Christmas many will leave their loved ones behind to answer the call, each time hoping to reunite another family, and see those in trouble on the water safely returned. Over the past decade, RNLI lifeboats have launched over 1,200 times during the festive period. But these rescues would not be possible without donations from the RNLI’s generous supporters, helping to fund the essential kit, training and equipment needed by lifeboat crews all year round. 

Robbie says: ‘This is my first Christmas as lifeboat helm on call, and I know even over the festive period, our lifesavers are ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and rush to the aid of someone in trouble on the water. At this time of year, the weather can be at its worst and lives can be on the line.

‘We know that every time our crews go out, they hope for a good outcome, but sadly this sometimes isn’t the case. We hope that this year’s Christmas appeal will show people just how tough it can be, but also that with their help we can get so much closer to our goal of saving every one.’ 

To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal visit: RNLI.org/Xmas

RNLI media contacts

For more information, please contact Lena O’Connell, Aran Islands RNLI Lifeboat Press Officer at 0879337882, email oconnelllena@gmail.com or contact Niamh Stephenson, RNLI Regional Media Manager on 00353 871254 124 or Niamh_Stephenson@rnli.org.uk or Nuala McAloon, RNLI Regional Media Officer on 00353 87 648 3547 or email Nuala_McAloon@rnli.org.uk

RNLI crew member on the helm

Photo: RNLI

Robbie Connolly at the helm at Wexford RNLI

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.

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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.