Train One, Save Many, Moelfre RNLI Lifeboat

by Sue Beesley

An interview with Jonathan Atterbury from Moelfre RNLI Lifeboat, on Anglesey. When I spoke with Jonathan he had just returned from a week's training course at the purpose built RNLI lifeboat college in Poole.

And so the weeks intense and rigorous training regime was fresh in his mind. The RNLI training philosopht is reflected in their motto: "Train One, Save Many".

This had been Jonathan's second week spent in Poole during a year's probationary period with Moelfre RNLI Lifeboat and it sounded like he had been well and truly "put through the paces".

When he described jumping into the water from 8 metres high in full gear, I began to wonder what would follow.

He assembled with the rest of his group in the water, then had to right an upside down life raft and get everybody inside in complete darkness.

Overhead there was the crackle of thunder and lightening, and deafened by helicopters above and pounded by seriously high waves and water coming from all directions, it sounded all too much like the real thing!

However, this all takes place in a purpose built pool at the college where resl life experiences which the RNLI lifeboat crew find themselves in are simulated with the use of wave machines, fans, water blasters, smoke machines and full blown sound effects!

Normally the life raft would only be deployed in extreme cirucmstances, such as an onboard fire, running aground or sinking.

But it is imperative that lifeboat crew are fully conversant with worst case scenario situations.

Suffice it to say, it is not for the faint hearted! Jonathan's experience on the first day was merely a taster of what was to come.

Fire training consisted of confronting a dark smoke-filled room (simulated in a two tier storage container) where he learned and out into practice the fire fighting techniques which may need to be put into play in a real emergency.

Another exercise involved a capsized ILB which then had to be righted, but only after each trainee lifeboatman in turn had immersed themselves into the air pocket, underneath where they had to locate various key pieces of equipment before surfacing.

This may have been done under the watchful eye of an experienced diver with spare oxygen cylinders, but it wouldn't have been my "cup of tea" under any circumstances.

The culmination of the week's practical experience was designed to put all their knowledge into practice with the simulation of a full blown shout.

With the isntructors posing as casualties and donning lurid theatrical make-up to replicate their injuries, the trainee crew were called out to a boat in difficulty in Poole harbour.

Along with the practical training there is a big chunk of theory including signalling distress, knot tying, helicopter transfers, boat and engine design, hypothermia and personal safety.

And this is all put to the test in a final written exam which demands a high pass rate.

So why put yourself through this in your own spare time, give up some of your paid job holiday entitlement and put yourself on 24/7 call out, come rain or shine, to become a volunteer RNLI crew member?

Jonathan said: "Before moving to Moelfre 18 months ago we used to holiday here, and I was aware of the village's history centring around the lifeboat station and used to clock the maroon going off.

I have always been community minded and did a lot of charity work through my employment with Asda.

I just see it as a way of giving something back to the community and felt the urge to be part of something which is so central to the village of Moelfre".

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