Susan passes out as RNLI Helm for Portishead crew
After 10 years of volunteering for the lifesaving charity Susan Beaton has passed out as Portishead’s first RNLI female Helm.
With all her RNLI training and experience, she was immediately invited to join the team of volunteers. After moving through her training and lifesaving competencies, she then progressed to become boat crew and then her Helm training in 2020.
During that time the volunteers moved the rescue service from Sugar Loaf Beach to their brand new purpose built state of the art lifeboat station which was funded by generous donations from the public and the RNLI. The new Atlantic 85 lifeboat was delivered in the September, replacing the temporary lifeboat on service at the time.
Helm training is a huge jump up in responsibility as they are responsible for not only the Lifeboat but also ensuring the safety of the crew at all times when saving lives, what ever the weather, what ever time of day or night.
Training through the Covid pandemic had its challenges, but Susan worked her way through her competancies with confidence and a huge amount of support from her crewmates. Susan also went down to the amazing facilities at the RNLI Support Centre in Poole, giving up her own time to carry out her ‘Helm command course’ plus many hours of training at the lifeboat station in Portishead.
Susan said ‘I joined the Largs crew when I was living at home and looking for work, after graduating University.
While I was finding it difficult to get a job, due to lack of experience, this was not an issue for the RNLI. I turned up to my first training session, never having learned to tie a knot, not knowing how to use a chart or having driven a boat. None of this mattered. The Largs crew taught me everything. All I needed to do was turn up, pick up a sponge, be willing to learn and go to sea when required.
When I moved to Portishead a year later, I was lucky enough to transfer to Portishead to continue my journey. After being crew for quite a few years, I put myself forward for the Helm Development Program.
This whole process has pushed me to the limits of my comfort zone. From learning about taking command, to making decisions in seconds as well as overall situational awareness.
As Helm you need to be aware of everything going on on the boat, as well as everything going on around you. It’s now my responsibility to ensure everyone on that boat comes home safely, as well as any casualties you have been tasked to.
At every step of this journey I have pushed myself to meet the high standard the RNLI expects of its Helms, and throughout this process I have been supported by the fantastic crew around me. It’s a privilege and an honour to be the first female Helm at the station.’
Andy Wright, RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager said ‘As the Area Lifesaving Manager at Portishead I am proud to support all promotions and success at Portishead Lifeboat Station. The station is a credit to the local area and provides a vital lifesaving effect on the Bristol Channel. During the whole 19 year history of The Portishead Lifeboat Trust and since the adoption in 2015 to the RNLI there has not been a female helm at the station, although a number of women are on the crew.
I am delighted that Susan has now passed out as a Helm and will be commanding the stations Atlantic 85 for training exercises and services calls, helping to keep the waters safe for many years to come and inspiring generations of female volunteers to join and excel in the RNLI in command roles.’
Lyle Stantiford, RNLI Assessor Trainer said, ‘Having been involved in Susan’s development and preparation for Helm pass out for the last 6 months it was great to see Susan finally achieve her goal.
The work required to achieve a helm role is no mean feat and it was clear to see on the pass out the extensive time Susan has invested in her personal development and it was very clear the time that Portishead lifeboat station and it’s fine crew invested in Susan.
Her pass out consisted of an intensive written paper assessing her knowledge of the International regulations for the prevention of collision at sea. (IRPCS)
Followed by extensive assessment on board the Portishead lifeboat where a ‘shout scenario’ was given on launch. Susan demonstrated exemplary leadership and command of her crew and the lifeboat throughout the evolution ensuring that safety of her crew was of paramount importance. Huge congratulations to Susan for her achievements and I’m sure she will be a huge asset to Portishead lifeboat station and the RNLI for many years to come.’
Notes to editors
All Images are ©RNLI Portishead unless specified
· Susan Beaton – RNLI Portishead first female Helm ©RNLINathanWilliams
· Susan at the Helm in rough sea conditions in the Bristol Channel
· Left to right, Lu, Emma and Susan at the Lifeboat Station
· Susan, also a qualified tractor driver, an essential part of our shore crew
· Susan on her assessment for Helm
· Left to right Chris, Jake, Susan and Ian – back from a shout with a hot brew
RNLI media contacts
For more information please contact Helen Lazenby, volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer, on 07800 595995, [email protected] or the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789.
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.
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