Whether you sail in Europe, America or Australia, volunteers are the life blood of the rescue system and many a cruising sailor owes their life and/or their boat's survival to them. Many of us take volunteer rescuers for granted, but here's the story of one sailor who was so moved by the actions of his rescuers that he decided to actively repay them.
RNLI volunteers at attention - 24/7/365 on call
It happened in Britain. Three Royal National Lifesaving Institution (RNLI) teams received a very welcome cash boost recently after a sailor embarked on an epic European challenge to raise funds for the charity - for the RNLI is a charity - that rescued him.
In September last year, during the last leg of a sailing trip from France, a yacht carrying British sailor Geoff Pearce was becalmed ten miles from the Suffolk coastline. Then - as trouble never comes singly - the yacht suffered engine failure.
The yacht, now completely immobilised was 30 miles from the nearest port and drifting onto the coastline. The news was to get worse. A Force 8 gale was headed their way, in the wrong direction, and, being too close to the coastline and without any assistance from the engine, Pearce could see a potential disaster looming. They called the Coastguard for assistance while they desperately tried to work on the engine before the gale struck.
A lifeboat from Aldeburgh arrived. She towed the yacht halfway towards its home berth where the Lowestoft lifeboat joined the rescue and the yacht’s crew were able to observe the most impressive and delicate manoeuvere as the two boats exchanged their charge.
Pearce obviously couldn't forget his dramatic retrieval and transfer to safety by the lifeboat service. This inspired him, when the opportunity presented, to cycle from Lincoln to Luxembourg in just three days to raise vital funds for his home county’s stations - and he raked in an impressive £1,296.
RNLI donation after rescue
Geoff, accompanied by his wife, Donna, presented the funds (to which 'Gift Aid' will be added) at Skegness Lifeboat Station.
About the RNLI's volunteers:
Like many rescue volunteers around the world, all the lifeboat crew and shore helpers are voluntary and are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It receives no government funding and relies on voluntary donations, legacies and fundraising.
Why do they need the money? While the volunteer lifeboat crew members give their time for free, they need training, well-maintained equipment, lifeboats and shore facilities. Giving the lifesavers everything they need and deserve – from boots to boats – is costly.
Each year it costs over £140M to run the British lifesaving service. Like good housekeepers, the RNLI looks after its money and looks forward to be ever more independent. For every £1 donated, 85p goes to the rescue service, and 15p is reinvested to generate more funds.