Eoin volunteers at Fethard Lifeboat Station, County Wexford, where he’s Helm on the inshore lifeboat. Combining his day job as a landscaper with family responsibilities, Eoin somehow finds time to volunteer on the lifeboat - something he’s done for the last 10 years. His partner Sarah - a keen supporter and member of the local RNLI fundraising committee - understands as well as anyone what drives Eoin to give up his time to save lives at sea.
Boating is in Eoin’s blood. ‘The Birds were always into sailing and boating around the world,’ he says. Growing up listening to stories about the tragedy of the Helen Blake lifeboat, in which nine crew lost their lives, Eoin feels a deep-rooted connection to the RNLI. He is a descendant of thee of the crew from the Helen Blake.
‘Last year, we had a shout where someone fell from their boat and ended up in the water. He got washed up on a sandbank and couldn’t get back to his boat. We picked him up and he was starting to go in and out of consciousness so we had to administer oxygen and first aid. We saved that man’s life on that occasion. It’s a good feeling when you can help someone in that way. You have to be confident in your own ability to go to sea to be able to do that.
‘Crew training is vital. You can have a state-of-the-art lifeboat house and a state-of-the-art boat. But if you don’t have a fully trained crew to go out and mount a successful rescue, it’s no use. It falls down.
‘From their initial training at the station to the training courses at RNLI College, everyone gets trained to the same high standard. It means we can all work effectively as one team. Each crew member will look out for each other.
‘You see people coming in and you see them progress,’ says Eoin, who’s brother Diarmaid has recently joined the crew. ‘They train and they become much more confident in their boat and their own ability. It’s good to watch.’
You can have a state-of-the-art lifeboat house and a state-of-the-art boat. But if you don’t have a crew who are fully trained, it falls down.