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16 October 2014

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Call Out

By Hugh Owen
September 2006,
A digital story from Coleg Sir Gâr

"I joined the RNLI station at Bury Port when it reopened in 1973, the first having closed in 1914.

I started as a volunteer crewman, progressing to helmsman. My son - Craig - was also on the crew. Now as a deputy launching authority, I am responsible for lifeboat launches.

Throughout the year, the crew spend many hours on lifeboat work, some weeks - such as First Aid Training for example - a minimum of two hours daily.

Originally we launched by running the boat on its trailer to the sea. Then we had a temperamental old tractor, followed by a 4x4, which often got stuck in the mud. Now, we have a specially designed track vehicle able to cope with the conditions.

In 33 years the station has had four boats, each an improvement on its predecessor. Our latest has a powerful engine and reaches 30 miles an hour. It has satellite navigation systems, vital for fog and night launches. Our calls range from strange to unusual, from funny to tragic.

A strange call was to a car floating outside the Marina. On launching, it was not known if the car was occupied or not. Luckily, it was empty.

An unusual call was to a boat surrounded by a swarm of bees - the distressed owner had radioed for help and was brought safely ashore. The lifeboat then ferried a Pest Control Officer who unfortunately had to destroy the bees. The grateful owner continued on his way.

A tragic call was to search for a missing teenager. Sadly, we failed to find him. A week later we recovered his body.

A funny call was to a couple skinny-dipping on Burry Holmes Island. The incoming tide had washed away their clothes and they were marooned. We did not carry blankets and or a camera so we had nothing to hide or record their blushes. Now, we do carry a camera.

We exercise every week. A special exercise is with the RAF rescue helicopter from Chivener. Everyone gets a buzz from being lifted into the helicopter.

We've had many visitors; the Queen during the golden jubilee; HMS Exploit (the University training ship); fundraising groups presenting their cheques - vital for us as a charity; presentations of a Gideon Bible replacing the first, which had been destroyed in a fire.

At the end of a shout it's always a relief to be back safely and have a warm drink and prepare for the next call."

Hugh Owen, Burry Port RNLI

Dedicated to the Volunteer Crews of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

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