Rachel's story

Lifeboat trainee Rachel McHugh from Lough Ree is no stranger to dealing with emergencies. As a former police officer who retrained as a paramedic, answering 999 calls has been part of Rachel’s working day for many years. However, learning the ropes at Lough Ree Lifeboat Station is something entirely new.

Rachel moved to Ireland from London in 2009. She joined the Lough Ree crew in March last year, as soon as she’d completed her paramedic exams. ‘It felt like a natural thing for me to do,’ says Rachel. ‘I was already part of the sub aqua diving club, and the search and recovery club.’

Her friends are divided over her decision. Rachel says ‘Some of my friends can’t understand how I cope with the disruption to my life.’ Her family is fully supportive. ‘My husband is used to me not coming home because of the job I do,’ says Rachel. ‘It’s part of home life now. My 14-year-old daughter thinks it’s brilliant.’ 

We all have different things we are good at. You’ll struggle with a knot for days and then they’ll show you an easy way to do it in 2 seconds!

The proud owner of an RNLI crew pager, Rachel has already been out on a few shouts and helped provide safety cover for events on the river. Though she’s still to take part in her first ‘serious shout’.

Rachel says ‘I really enjoy the training and learning new skills – 3 hours a month on a Tuesday or Thursday evening, more if I need to, plus studying on top.’ On her first day of training, she experienced being winched up into a helicopter.

‘From day one they make sure you can drive the boat,’ says Rachel. ‘You have to be able to do that, in case something happens to the helm.

‘I get nervous before my assessments, which I dread. It’s the fear of failure – of being asked something I don’t know. But everyone is always really helpful, which puts you at your ease. If you’re struggling or not getting something they will help you rather than mark you down.’

Rachel is looking forward to doing her trainee crew course at RNLI College in Poole later this year. ‘It’s meant to be fantastic. It’ll help to consolidate everything I’ve learnt so far.’