BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

13 November 2014

BBC Homepage

Local BBC Sites

Neighbouring Sites

Related BBC Sites

Contact Us

Your Stories

You are in: Wear > People > Your Stories > From the treadmill to the deep blue sea

Martin Andrew at sea. Photo: RNLI

Martin Andrew at sea

From the treadmill to the deep blue sea

Martin Andrew from Sunderland has his work-life balance about right. He's a planning engineer for Nissan but has also volunteered for the RNLI in Sunderland for over 12 years.

Pager envy. That's what started it off. Or, to be fair, pager curiosity.

Martin Andrew noticed his friend's, asked a few questions, and his relationship with the RNLI in Sunderland blossomed.

He'd been in the merchant navy, had always enjoyed being around boats and the sea and says: "I also felt at the time it was like an opportunity to put something back into society rather than taking out of society all the time.

"It was a good way of combining my interests with something that would be useful, that I'd feel good about doing."

Martin at the helm of a lifeboat. Photo: RNLI

Martin at the helm

He's now a helmsman, responsible for taking charge of the lifeboat during an exercise, responsible for the crew and the safety the operation and the boat.

Last year they had about 80 call outs, for all sorts of reasons: "It can vary. The bulk of our jobs are boats breaking down, people jumping off the bridge.

"But we had a lot of incidents quite recently where we've been searching for a body in the water. Recover the bodies, administer first aid, bring them alongside, hand them over to the police or the paramedics."


They rarely know what they're up against until they get there.

He likes that, especially since the first information they get is often delivered quickly and, perhaps, not reliably and they have to deal with an evolving situation.

Martin and colleague Anthony Jobling at sea onboard Sunderland's RNLI Lifeboat. Photo: RNLI

Martin at sea with colleague Anthony

"You can't train for every eventuality. You've got to have a broad training and apply that to the situation you're in at the time."

He says training and local knowledge helps with deciphering information which, they often think, can't be right.

There was one incident where a man in a stranded boat thought he knew where he was: "We were concerned about it because he'd been at the scene overnight, he sounded dehydrated, he sounded a bit confused, we were concerned about his welfare.

"He gave his position and, when we went out there, I said this can't be his position, he's got to be somewhere else.

"And we made an assumption, or an educated guess, he was further inshore. And he was and we found him."

Good result. It's not always that successful and, says Martin, although it's hard, they try not to take it home with them if it's been grim.

Sunderland RNLI's lifeboat Wolseley. Photo: RNLI

Sunderland RNLI's lifeboat, Wolseley

"We had one on Boxing Day a couple of years ago - there were reports of a body in the water, which obviously we recovered. It was quite sad.

"There was a letter in the pocket of someone who was a foreign national. You could tell she'd got some bad news and had decided enough was enough. You kind of feel for them, you know.

"I try not to take it home because I've got a family at home and it's not fair on them.

"If anybody is not coping with the situation when they come back we tend to help them out in the station and help them not take it home."

Takes all sorts

Martin says RNLI crew don't have to be very strong - they have equipment and techniques for getting people out of the water - but you do need to be able to get back in the boat yourself.

Martin Andrew under water, taking part in capsize training at Lifeboat College in Poole, Dorset. Photo: RNLI

Martin under water for capsize training

They're trained in navigation, radar, first aid, boat handling skills and capsizing - practising fully dressed under an overturned boat.

And all this alongside a day job. Martin is often hauled out of bed at 4 o'clock in the morning.

His family is very supportive. Perhaps less so if they're out for a family meal when his bleeper goes off but he says his wife is very understanding. If he remembers to pay the bill before he leaves.

He can also be called any time during the working day. The RNLI are not a reserved occupation - employers are not required to accommodate its needs - so Martin relies on Nissan's goodwill.

They have an agreement: he can go to the incident but comes back to work afterwards to make up the time.

Work life balance

Luckily, as a planning engineer, he's not tied to a manufacturing process. So you won't see lots of Qashqais without wing mirrors because he's been called out.

Nissan's flexibility aside, the current economic situation is making everyone there more than a little anxious: "Nothing's safe in this world," Martin admits.

Cars being built on the production line

Cars on the production line

"Obviously we're not involved in this round of redundancies, well I'm not at the moment but, there again, it doesn't mean to say I won't be if things get any worse.

"So, it's not looking safe, I don't think. I can't guarantee I'll be in work this year, next year or the year after. You have to hope the economy picks up."

Martin is responsible for taking a product from design through to manufacture. He's on the production line a lot, checking it's all working, maintaining quality, sorting problems.

He feels for his colleagues there: "It's very difficult, there's a bit of an atmosphere around, because, obviously, people are worried about their jobs, and quite understandably so.

"They are nervous about it. They're obviously worried about their livelihoods because they don't know, when the restructuring comes, how it's going to be applied, who's going to get made redundant."

Martin Andrew. Photo: RNLI

Stress relief

Like many, Martin has worked for Nissan for a long time: since 1988. "From my perspective it's a good job. An excellent job.

"Very varied, very interesting, always challenging and, also, we're lucky that when I started we were all about the same sort of age group and we've all come together and we're all more like friends than workmates."

Having something else in his life helps with the current unease at work: "In terms of mentally taking out the stress and having the opportunity to focus on something completely different that's not your day to day work I think is a bit of a stress relief in itself."

last updated: 22/01/2009 at 13:00
created: 21/01/2009

You are in: Wear > People > Your Stories > From the treadmill to the deep blue sea

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy