Sligo Bay RNLI lifeboat couple who met saving lives at sea
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) will see its volunteer lifeboat crews sacrifice time with their loved ones to save others this Christmas.
As the search and rescue charity launches a Christmas fundraising appeal, the RNLI is highlighting the volunteers who will be on call over Christmas to save lives at sea. Sligo Bay RNLI volunteers Chiara Conway and Michael Waters are celebrating their first Christmas as a married couple, having met as lifeboat crew. The couple will both be on call, ready to respond to their pagers if a call for help come in. Over the past five years, RNLI lifeboats have launched 55 times in Ireland during the festive period, bringing 44 people to safety.
The RNLI has launched its Christmas lifeboat appeal at RNLI.org/Xmas, as the charity asks for help to continue its lifesaving search and rescue work on Irish waters. With over a thousand lifeboat volunteers around Ireland, each RNLI crewmember signs up to help save every one from drowning, the charity’s mission since 1824.
The Sligo couple met eight years ago when Chiara moved back to the area after working in Dublin and Galway for a number of years. Growing up living in the nearest house to the lifeboat station at Rosses Point and seeing the lifeboat from her window, Chiara felt a strong pull to join the lifeboat crew. On returning home she met Lifeboat Operations Manager Willie Murphy for a chat and signed up to become part of the close knit crew. Michael’s involvement with the station goes back longer and he is very involved in the training of the new lifeboat recruits. Working together on training for the lifeboat, the couple discovered they grew up near each other and would have socialised in the same places at the same time, but never met. It was the lifeboat that finally brought them together and this year saw them tie the knot, much to the delight of everyone at Sligo RNLI. Michael is a Lifeboat Helm and Training Assessor and Chiara is a volunteer Lifeboat Crew Member.
Speaking on her involvement with the RNLI, Chiara said, ‘There is a huge sense of community with the lifeboats. I met my husband through it but he is also a fellow crew member and someone I volunteer alongside when a call for help comes. We are slightly unusual in that when we go home, the conversation can continue on lifeboats and we will talk through what happened on the callout and I will ask questions as he has a huge amount of knowledge as a Trainer. You are always learning and training, there is a huge amount to know and you get back what you put in. It’s tough but it’s also so rewarding.’
Michael and Chiara will be going to Michael’s parents for their first Christmas as a married couple but they will remain on call through the festive period and if the lifeboat is launched they will both answer the pagers, along with the men and women who volunteer for Sligo Bay RNLI.
Chiara added, ‘You turn up and if you’re in time, you go out and answer the call for help. You are one of a number of volunteers available. As a couple, we’ve done a number of shouts together but when we are out on the lifeboat, we are lifeboat crew together, along with the other crew and station management. Everyone has their role and it’s just about getting the head down and letting the training kick it. The lifeboat has been such a huge part of my life, from growing up next door to meeting Michael. However, I know that to many families sitting down to Christmas dinner with loved ones, it’s literally been a lifesaver and I never take that for granted. We are so grateful for all the support we receive.’
The callouts the volunteers go out on 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 has launched 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
The RNLI encourage those visiting coastal areas this Christmas to:
- Check the weather forecast, tide times and read local hazard signage to understand local risks.
- If you get into trouble Float to Live – lie on your back and relax, resisting the urge to thrash about.
- In an emergency dial 999 and ask for the Coast Guard.
RNLI media contacts
For more information, please contact Sligo Bay RNLI Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer Aisling Gillen Tel: 086 381 8114 email: [email protected] or Niamh Stephenson, RNLI Regional Media Manager on 087 1254 124 or [email protected] or Nuala McAloon, RNLI Regional Media Officer on 087 648 3547 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 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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