Second Coxswain Lee Blacknell is presented his twenty year long service medal having achieved the impressive RNLI volunteering milestone earlier this summer.
Praise and appreciation expressed to Lee by his fellow crew members has underlined the importance of what it means to volunteer with the RNLI for such a significant length of time.
Phill Corsi, Area Lifesaving Manager, says: ‘Lee Blacknell signed up to serve the lifeboat with a keen desire to help those in need on the water. Through his commitment to the role, in training and on service, Lee has gained enormous experience. He shares this with exceptional humility and generosity to the benefit of all the Newhaven team.’
During Lee’s twenty years of service, he has launched on more than 415 shouts. The last twelve years of which, in the role of Second Coxswain. Some shouts have been extremely sad, and others less so. Lee recalls the incident of the floating hot tub.
When volunteers are prepared to go the extra mile are the moments that resonate for Newhaven’s Second Coxswain.
Lee Blacknell, says: ‘To be on a shout, in the middle of winter, in a howling gale and driving sleet, searching for a man overboard. When crew are seasick, wet and cold. And yet, after twelve hours of searching, our volunteers still want to stay out and find that person. It’s a powerful need to do the best you can.’
With exercise and service launches combined, Lee has amassed more than 2,270 hours of experience afloat.
‘But rough weather, the rougher the better. That’s what I enjoy, it’s what keeps me thinking and enthused’.
Lee’s approach to working the lifeboat is one of respect for weather and sea. He remembers one challenging situation, a shout to a sailor no longer in command of his yacht, heading for the cliffs.
Lee Blacknell, says: ‘We launched to a single handed sailor. His head had been struck by the boom. He was being blown onto a lee shore and was very close to Seaford Head in lumpy seas.’
Lee helmed the lifeboat alongside and down sea of the yacht, in order to gently nudge the course of the vessel out to sea.
‘That was easier said than done with eight metres of mast swaying like a joust at the flying bridge, but we managed to manoeuvre his course safely seaward.’
At this point, two crew prepared to transfer to the casualty vessel, but one of them fell into the water. RNLI Eastbourne’s ALB launched, as well as a Coastguard helicopter.
The Newhaven crew member was safely recovered from the water and the transfer successfully executed. The sailor was winched up to the helicopter and the lifeboat towed the yacht back to harbour.
‘It was a crazy shout. We must try and turn what mother nature throws at us to our advantage, not fight it.’
Roger Cohen MBE, Lifeboat Operations Manager, says: ‘This is a commendable milestone in our station’s history. Thank you Lee for your commitment and assisting the team in our endeavours to save lives at sea.’
Notes for the Editor
Flying bridge – is an open deck located above the bridge with a duplicate set of navigating equipment.
ALB – All-weather Lifeboat
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