As Christmas approaches, the RNLI is issuing its own call for help as new figures show that the charity’s volunteer lifeboat crews in the south-west are more than 500% busier over the festive period compared with 40 years ago.
The charity is facing a Perfect Storm, with more people drowning and a shortfall in funds, meaning support from the public is more vital than ever.
During the festive period** last year, RNLI volunteers in the region launched to the rescue 21 times compared with just four call outs in 1979. During the festive periods dating back from 1979 to 2018, RNLI volunteers in the south-west have rescued 255 people and saved 60 lives. Since 2016 they have consistently launched over 21 times over the eight days from Christmas Eve to New Years Day, compared to an average over the 40 years of 11.
To ensure the RNLI can continue its lifesaving work this Christmas and into the future, the charity is launching a major fundraising appeal The Perfect Storm with the aim of raising £1.8M and recruiting 12,000 new supporters.
Whilst many families will be thinking about presents, turkey and time with the family, dedicated RNLI volunteers from 238 lifeboat stations across the UK and Ireland will be ensuring their traditional yellow wellies and lifejackets are ready for when the call comes.
In Bude, it’s not just the lifeboat crew who are preparing to be busy over the festive season. Our shop volunteers and boathouse guides, affectionately known as ‘Shed Sherpas’, are pulling out all the stops by opening the shop and boathouse 11 am -3 pm throughout the holidays including Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.
RNLI shop volunteer Heather Jones has been opening the shop on Christmas day for the last six years and this will be the second year that volunteer Andrew Barnard will be opening the boathouse, allowing visitors to pop in and see the lifeboat. On Boxing day volunteer Lifeboat Visit Officers (LVOs) Nigel and Meg Tupper will be joining the fun. They became RNLI volunteers after moving to Bude a couple of years ago and this will be their first Boxing Day helping to show visitors around the boathouse.
Heather, who has a volunteered for the RNLI for over 18 years, has a cat that makes it impossible for her to travel up-country to visit family. She said ‘It’s a nice atmosphere in the shop on Christmas day, plenty of people pop in and now that Andrew opens the boathouse I’m spending the day with a friend and helping to raise money for charity at the same time. It’s much better than being stuck in the house. It’s nice that so many people stop by and have a chat and everyone is in a good mood, so it makes the day enjoyable.’
Volunteer Andrew, who has over five and a half years of volunteering experience with the RNLI said, ‘People can see from a distance that the boathouse is open and it encourages people to come down, take a look around the shop and find out more about the lifeboat and RNLI. I think that because we make a special effort to open, and because everyone is in a cheerful Christmas spirit, visitors are keen to make donations and add some change to our whirly-gigs.’
Volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer for Bude, Lorna Crystal said: ‘We couldn’t do what we do without the support of our dedicated volunteers and the public. The RNLI has experienced a shortfall in funds, but we are rescuing more people than ever before. We are facing the Perfect Storm and are calling on people to make a donation this Christmas to ensure we can continue saving lives at sea. If you’re coming into Bude on Christmas Day to join in or watch the sea swim at Crooklets, or are out for a Boxing Day walk, please call into the RNLI shop and boathouse at the lifeboat station in Summerleaze car park. I know that our fantastic volunteers will make you feel welcome!’
As well as RNLI calls increasing during the Christmas period the cause for callouts has shifted for the volunteers heading to sea.
In the early ’80s, nationally statistics show the most common cause of callout was to vessels with machinery failure. Figures have revealed that since 2000 many of those needing help are often just visiting the coast and not out on vessels or watercraft.
Steve Instance, RNLI Community Safety Partner for south-west says ‘The festive period is no different to any other time of year and we have such dedicated volunteers ready to respond if a call comes in.
‘Around 150 people lose their lives at the UK and Irish Coast each year and over half never even planned to enter the water. As well as slips, trips, and falls, tidal cut-offs are also a contributing factor to RNLI call-outs.’
The RNLI’s Perfect Storm appeal is being launched in response to some major challenges the charity is facing. In 2018, the RNLI’s financial resources dropped by £28.6M
To support the RNLI’s Perfect Storm appeal this Christmas, helping to ensure the charity’s brave volunteers can continue saving lives at sea, please visit RNLI.org/ThePerfectStorm