Donate now

‘Brilliant’ Mudeford RNLI volunteer crew member recognised for bravery

Lifeboats News Release

Mudeford RNLI volunteer crew member Mel Varvel, has been presented with an RNLI Letter of Commendation in recognition of her bravery and skill during a ‘challenging rescue’ in which a boat was drifting perilously close to sea defences.

The rescue, which took place on September 26 last year, was hazardous due to extreme weather conditions, lack of light at 5.11am and the location of the rescue – close to the defences at Milford-on-Sea. A video of the rescue briefly shows how close the rocks are when the light flashes across them early in the rescue.

The weather conditions made it extremely difficult for the Mudeford RNLI Lifeboat Mudeford Servant to come alongside the 30ft yacht, which had one person on board, and remain sufficiently stable for Mel to board it. Once on the vessel she had to make the perilous move to the foredeck to receive a line.

Turbulent and unstable conditions meant Mel had to lie flat in order to prevent being thrown overboard. She connected the tow, then cut the anchor loose, enabling a safe retrieval of the occupant and the vessel. A full report on the rescue can be found on the RNLI News Centre:

Mel said she had been involved in many difficult shouts, including challenging weather conditions, accidents and serious medical issues, but this was one of the few where the person was in grave and imminent danger. It was only when the crew returned to the rescue location in daylight that they saw how dangerous it was.

‘In the moment, you tend not to think about personal danger; you just do it. I know that any one of us would have done it - I was just the first one to offer to go aboard. Situations like this really are a team effort. The skill of every member of the boat crew was essential to make sure of a good outcome,’ said Mel.

‘None of this would be possible if it wasn’t for the efforts of the whole crew, raising money, launching the trailer, keeping the boat running. I really appreciate this recognition but feel like I am accepting it on behalf of the whole station. For me this was just a normal rescue but it is great that we get a chance to raise awareness of what we do,’ she continued.

All three of the other volunteer boat crew team acknowledged Mel’s actions as brave and skilful. Crew member Jamie Marley, said: ‘On scene, we quickly realised this was time critical. Mel was quick thinking and reacted without hesitation. She was just brilliant!’

Crew member Justin O’Connell explained, ‘In very challenging conditions, Mel selflessly did what was needed, without a second thought.’

Long-term lifeboat helm at the station, Ian Parker added: ‘I was genuinely concerned for our crew members safety during this rescue. Our options were very limited with poor weather conditions, darkness and the close proximity to the shore and rocks, Mel's bravery and professionalism meant that her actions were crucial in achieving a successful outcome of this rescue.

It is great that the RNLI has recognised Mel's actions and bravery with this award.’

The presentation was made at the station on Sunday 19 February and coincides wth the charity’s focus on women volunteers in the RNLI, having recently reported on Cullercoats RNLI in North Shields first all-female RNLI boat crew.

Mel has been a member of the Mudeford RNLI boat crew for more than seven years. When she left the NHS to start up her own business, she felt she finally had the time and flexibility to take on a volunteer role. She selected the RNLI because it is central to the community, with the sea and water sports being integral to Mudeford life. She reflected:

‘I am so pleased I joined. I love what we do and how we contribute to our local community. Also, I didn’t know it at the time, but the Mudeford RNLI is like one big family, where everyone supports and looks out for each other. It's a real privilege to be part of that family!’


Photo 1: Mudeford crew member Mel Varvel with her Letter of Commendation

Photo 2: Mudeford crew member Mel Varvel is presented with her Letter of Commendation by RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager Neil Withers

There is also a video of the rescue available on the RNLI News Centre.

RNLI Media contacts

· Louise Adams, volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer, Mudeford RNLI [email protected]

· Paul Dunt, Regional Media Officer (South East), 0207 6207426, 07785 296252 [email protected]

· For enquiries outside normal business hours, contact the RNLI duty press officer on 01202 336789

Mudeford crew member Mel Varvel with her Letter of Commendation.


Mudeford crew member Mel Varvel with her Letter of Commendation.
Mudeford crew member Mel Varvel is presented with her Letter of Commendation by RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager Neil Withers.


Mudeford crew member Mel Varvel is presented with her Letter of Commendation by RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager Neil Withers.

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.