Hayling Island's RNLI
PUBLISHED: 10:36 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:33 20 February 2013
Hayling Island's Lifeboat Station has just had a £750,000 makeover to help it deal with increasing demands. Jill Belcher talks to the volunteers who save lives
It's a dark, cold, winter evening with high winds and lashing rain and you're tucked up warmly in bed. Then a pager sounds and you have six minutes to get into your car, drive to the lifeboat station, don nine kilos of kit, board a lifeboat and launch.
"The reality is that when that bleeper goes off you don't have long," said Chris Bull, one of the newest members of Hayling Island's lifeboat crew.
He founded the Hayling Island Kitesurf School 10 years ago and is chairman of the organisation which regulates kite surfing on Hayling. But even Chris, when he was younger, had reason to thank the RNLI.
He now puts his experience of the sea to use for the community as a member of Blue Watch, as well as fundraising for the RNLI with a round the Isle of Wight kite surfing marathon.
Girls who like buoys
You don't have to be a man to save lives on the water with the RNLI, as petite Laura Harding proves. Laura stands just 5ft 4in but dons nine kilos of kit when she goes out on a rescue.
"You don't think of the kit as heavy, my handbag weighs a ton!" she said. "The other day we launched in four minutes and 10 seconds. We were up here, down the stairs, kit on and in the water."
Often Laura and her crew are towed in their lifeboat into the water and later pulled up the shingle beach by a tractor driven by shore crew member Carol Carter, who qualified to drive a seven-and-a-half ton vehicle on a week-long RNLI course in Poole.
"It was extreme tractor driving, over gullies and rocks and we were put under a lot of pressure to manoeuvre tractors at high speeds in tight situations," she said.
Carol, who is also the station's press officer, emphasised that when on call you are always on alert.
"You could be cooking or in the shower, every time you are on call you go to bed wondering if you are going to be called, even if it is a flat calm."
Today's 50-strong Hayling team are following a long and noble tradition on the Island, dating back to 1865, when the first Hayling lifeboat, the Olive Leaf, went into service.
The original station closed in 1924, when Bembridge and Selsey were given motor lifeboats, but demands for assistance in the Chichester Harbour area led to the present station opening in 1975, sited on the Island's extreme south-eastern tip.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution receives no public funding and Hayling Island is one of the busiest inshore rescue stations in the country.
In fact it's in the top five per cent, according to Lifeboat Operations Manager Nigel Roper, who told me Hayling was one of only three lifeboats in the country to be launched last Boxing Day.
Launching an inshore lifeboat like Hayling's costs an average of 2,200 each time and it is only because of public generosity that a new extension to house both lifeboats with their launching trailers already hitched has been built. This makes responding to a call quicker and safer, as before they had to be hitched for each launch.
A 500,000 legacy from the estate of Farnham couple Audrey and Ray Lusty and other legacies and donations made up the 750,000 cost.
Said Nigel: "The new extension is a 19 by 11 metres boat hall and upper storey, alongside the existing building. The current accommodation has been rearranged to provide a dedicated training and education facility, a larger crew training room and an RNLI information centre."
The new building will be able to accommodate the station's new larger, faster lifeboat, due to arrive in September.
You can donate to the RNLI by visiting the Hayling Island Lifeboat Station website, www.haylinglifeboats.org.uk or the RNLI website, www.rnli.org.uk.
Visit Hayling Island Lifeboat Station for their open day on Sunday, July 13 from 10.30am
Behind the scenes
~ In 2007 the crew helped rescue 34 people.
~ The lifeboats were called out to 61 incidents in Chichester Harbour and in the surrounding area in the Solent - 18 of which needed both lifeboats.
~ Around a third of these incidents were non-vessel related, including 16 occasions when the crew were called out to search for children missing on the beach.
~ 7 Silver Medals
~ 3 Bronze Medals
~ 12 Thanks of the Institution Inscribed on Vellum
~ 9 Framed Letters of Thanks
~ 4 Ralph Glister Awards
~ 2 Walter & Elizabeth Groombridge Awards
~ Hayling Lifeboat Station was awarded the 'Freedom of Chichester Harbour' in April 2007
~ Crew member Graham Raines was given an MBE in 2004
Meet the crew
Name: Laura Harding
In the crew since: January 2007.
A member of Red Watch.
Why? I moved here and six months later I saw a piece in the local newspaper asking for volunteers for the crew. I thought it sounded exciting.
What do you like about it? It never matters what it is like out there, I always come back beaming and I squeal with delight when we go over a wave. I am considered one of the boys now. We work as a team.
Most memorable moment: When I spotted a casualty in the water. We took him aboard and he was fine. It was such a wonderful feeling. I didn't sleep that night.
Name: Carol Carter
In the crew since: 2002. Tractor driver and press officer.
Why? I first got involved with the RNLI in 1982 in East Molesey in Surrey. We moved here in 2001 and we wanted to continue our involvement.
What do you like about it? I'm putting something back into the community. It is a family here.
Most memorable moment: You don't know when your pager goes off what you are going to. It can be in the middle of the night when it is very rough, which is very stressful. You want to launch as quickly as possible - if there is a child in the water, every second matters.
Name: Andy Peasley
In the crew since: Moving to
Hayling Island in 2001. Helm on Blue Watch.
Why? I had previously worked on a North Sea oil rig as a materials controller but also was part of a search and rescue team on the rig.
What do you like about it? It is satisfying to know you have done a good job and made good decisions. The camaraderie and good friendships with everybody.
Most memorable moment: We saved a little boy on a rubber ring who was drifting out of Hayling Bay. His ring kept deflating and he was blowing it up but he had asthma.
Name: Graham Raines MBE
In the crew since: the age of 17. A member of Red Watch, Graham had to retire from the lifeboat crew at 45 and he is now an invaluable member of the shore crew.
Why? I knew my great-grandfather, Thomas Raines, had been a Hayling lifeboatman and coastguard, and I got interested when I came down here at weekends. I joined on my 17th birthday.
What do you like about it? Being a member of the team.
Most memorable moment: There are many. On the day you don't realise it is dangerous until you come back and are conscious of the adrenalin pumping.
Name: Ian Harris
In the crew since: 1991. Senior Helm of White Watch.
Why? I was working in a sailing centre before I moved to Hayling to teach PE and maths at Hayling School, and knew some of the lifeboatmen here.
What do you like about it? Being out on the boat with the guys and doing things out on the water. You are doing things and going out and training in conditions you wouldn't in your own boat.
Most memorable moment: It's great just to come back from a job well done. I'd say to anyone thinking about joining a lifeboat crew to come along and find out about it rather than regretting not doing it in the future.
Name: Chris Bull
In the crew since: 2006. Member of Blue Watch.
Why? My life is on the ocean. Bringing up my children on the Island, I wanted to be part of the community. I know the sea and love going out on it.
What do you like about it? When the beeper goes off at 3am I find it very exciting. You have to be on the boat within six minutes!
Most memorable moment: We were out searching for someone and I realised that I couldn't close my eyes for a moment, you really have to concentrate because the stakes are really high. You have to be 150 per cent of the person you can be.