RNLI volunteers across Wales willing to give up Christmas to save lives
Hundreds of RNLI volunteer lifeboat crews will give up Christmas with their loved ones to save others.
New figures have shown an increase in lifeboat launches during the festive season and RNLI crews across Wales are ready to swap turkey for turbulent seas.
Volunteer Will Chant will be on call over Christmas as the St David’s station’s newest full-time Coxswain, following in his father’s footsteps.
Will Chant’s family in Pembrokeshire have become quite used to saving a space for the pager on the Christmas dinner table as they brace themselves for a call.
This Christmas Eve, Will celebrates 26 years of being a volunteer crew member at St David’s and his father Dai is a former station Coxswain who joined the crew in the early 60’s.
He’ll be in good company should the call come over Christmas as his brother Mike is also the station’s full-time mechanic.
Winter can be one of the most challenging times to be a lifeboat volunteer with shorter days and the worst weather conditions of the year.
Over the past five years, RNLI lifeboats in Wales and the North West have launched nearly 100 times, with 49 people aided over the Christmas period.
In Wales alone, there were 56 lifeboat launches in that five year period with 30 people aided.
Last year, RNLI lifeboats in Wales launched 12 times over the Christmas period, saving two lives and rescuing three people.
This was compared with seven launches, and three people aided in 2020.
Will remembers previous year’s holiday celebrations being cut short, including a shout on 27 December 1997.
French fishing trawler ‘Toul an Trez’ sunk suddenly some 35 miles out to sea in violent storms on Christmas Eve, with all five of the French fishermen lost during the tragedy.
The St David’s crew launched their inshore and all-weather lifeboats a few days later to search for the casualties and the wreckage.
During another festive period in 2004, a fire broke out on board a trawler and the St David’s RNLI crew abandoned their pre-Christmas celebration.
St David’s RNLI assisted in the rescue of the crew from the burning trawler in rough seas and then volunteers, including Will stood by the vessel until she eventually sank.
This year, Will is hopeful for a quiet Christmas with wife Lottie and their son Harri, 12.
They are looking forward to paying a visit to his dad and much-needed relaxation time.
Will Chant said: “Being brought up as a lifeboat family, we didn’t really flinch if the pager sounded and dad headed out of the door – it’s just what happened.
“There was no doubt I’d follow in his footsteps and answering the call over Christmas is not really any different to any time of the year.
“If someone needs your help, your training springs into action and you don’t really give it a second thought.
Will has his fingers crossed that the pager remains silent during his first Christmas on call as Coxswain of the St Davids lifeboat but is ready to save lives should the call come.
“Whatever the situation, myself, Mike and the crew will be there and I know dad will be so proud waiting at home for news.”
If the pager does remain silent, Will plans to open presents with his family, check on his horses and chickens before walking the dog.
He will be following a tradition in visiting his father and catching up with Mike, before settling down to Christmas dinner later in the early evening.
But even if it’s the middle of a dark winter’s night or in freezing temperatures, Will, along with other RNLI crews across Wales will be ready and willing to head out.
Will Chants brother Mike said: “We wouldn’t do what we are able to do without the support of the public, who work tirelessly throughout the year to raise the donation we so vitally need to enable us to continue saving lives.
“This is our opportunity to say thank you to all those who have supported us throughout the year.
“As Christmas approaches and the RNLI launches it’s Christmas appeal, your support is more important than ever and so appreciated.”
Lifeboat crews are ready to launch 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and Christmas is no exception.
The RNLI provides a lifesaving service using volunteers wherever possible, with voluntary donations supplying the funds needed to do so. To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal, visit: RNLI.org/Xmas
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