Portsmouth RNLI volunteer Kim Dugan prepares for her first Christmas as helm
25-year-old Kim Dugan, who became the first-ever female helm at Portsmouth RNLI six months ago, is preparing for her first Christmas in charge of a lifeboat.
Being on pager is not easy, but Kim, who has been a volunteer crew for six years at Portsmouth RNLI, is used to seeing her name on the rota all year round, including at Christmas time. And like all RNLI lifesavers who are prepared to launch 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, Kim will have to drop everything over the festive season if the call comes in to help save lives at sea.
Since qualifying as a helm, Kim has taken the driving seat on the station's D class inshore lifeboat – the Dennis Faro – several times. Although the extra responsibilities that come with the role have kept Kim busy, she says she is loving her new role and if that means launching over Christmas, she’s all prepared and ready to go.
Speaking about the reasons she is on call this Christmas, Kim explained: 'Since I joined Portsmouth's lifeboat crew in 2016, I've chosen to be on duty during Christmas or New Year's Eve because my family lives locally, and I can visit them anytime.
‘Also, many of our crew have children and being off duty allows them to enjoy Christmas together, so I've always felt it's the right thing to do. This year I'll be on duty call from Boxing Day (26 December) to 2 January.'
Her first shout to launch as a new helm was memorable for Kim as it happened in the middle of a special ceremony at the station when the Portsmouth crew were being presented with commemorative medals to mark the Queen's Platinum Jubilee.
'I was under more pressure than normal because friends and families of the crew, including my own, were present,' she explains.
'We launched to assist a couple of paddle boarders in difficulty in Hayling Bay, but fortunately, the call proved to be a false alarm. When we returned to the station, everyone was outside the boathouse watching us recover the lifeboat. I was very thankful I got the D class back on the trailer properly in front of that audience.'
When not juggling the responsibilities of her day job and volunteering, Kim is still by the water, particularly at Christmas. One of her favourite festive traditions is bracing a chilly sea dip on Christmas morning, which she does as part of her membership with a local lifeguard club.
'It’s super fun and my friends and family normally come to watch us, so I look forward to it. A hot bath normally follows it, then off to my mum's for the most amazing roast.
'If you take a winter dip like me, make sure you go with someone and have access to a mobile phone. Chilly water dips can be amazing, but because the water is so cold at this time of year, you need to make sure you have a means of calling for help if things go wrong. It’s also a good idea to take a float and where a colourful bathing hat so you can be seen’.
Kim's partner, Aaron Gent, is also a lifeboat volunteer crew and helm for Portsmouth RNLI, meaning they could both be called away from the warmth of their home at any time. However, they say they feel quite lucky because they will still get to spend Christmas together if the pagers go off.
To help the RNLI to continue its vital work, Kim is calling on the public to support the charity this Christmas as she and her fellow lifeboat volunteers at Portsmouth Lifeboat Station prepare to be on call over the holidays.
In the past five years, RNLI lifeboats in the South East have launched 188 times during the festive period. Last Christmas (24 December 2021–1 January 2022), RNLI lifeboat crews across the South East saved the lives of four people, the highest number recorded in five years. The charity’s volunteer crews also aided 46 people during the 2021 festive period, which is the highest number recorded since 2017.
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.
The RNLI is launching its Christmas appeal, as the charity asks for help to continue its lifesaving work at sea.
To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal visit: RNLI.org/Xmas
Notes to editors
- The crews at Portsmouth Lifeboat Station have won four bronze medals for gallantry and currently operate two inshore lifeboats - a D class lifeboat named The Dennis Faro and an Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat Norma T. To learn more about the lifeboat station, please follow this link
- The Christmas period refers to 24 December to 1 January
- The five-year period is from 2017 to 2021
RNLI media contacts
For more information, please contact Julie Rainey, RNLI South East Regional Media Officer, on 07827 358256 or email [email protected] or Paul Dunt, RNLI South East Regional Media Officer, on 0778 5296252 or email [email protected] Alternatively, please call the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336 789 or email [email protected].
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, in a normal year, 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.
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
Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries