30 Year Medal for Appledore RNLI's Andrew Atkinson

North Devon Gazette

Appledore RNLI has been congratulating Andrew Atkinson who celebrated 30 years of voluntary service with the RNLI on Saturday, June 26.

Having grown up on and around the sea, fishing on his dad’s boats and then having boats of his own, Andrew has always been involved with boats on the water.

Andrew joined the RNLI 30 years ago when they were actively looking for new crew. He felt, with his experience on the water, he had something to offer, a feeling which has kept him volunteering with the RNLI ever since. He became an inshore lifeboat Helm about four years later and has been a Navigator and Deputy Coxswain for over twenty years.

In a discussion with Andrew about past shouts he says: “In the early days we seemed to have a lot more ‘interesting’ shouts, when we had stronger South West prevailing winds with gales going on for days. I remember the Coaster which had anchored in the Bay for shelter to ride out such a storm when the wind swung to the North West.

“It started dragging its anchor. The ship was in dire danger of grounding on Rocks Nose off Westward Ho! There was around a mile of big, heavy, breaking surf at the mouth of the Estuary on the Bar that we needed to navigate through. On reflection it was probably lucky that it was a dark night so you couldn’t see them coming! This was the beauty of the Tyne Lifeboat; she just punched right through them; I think we were more submarine than boat on this occasion!

“I still remember approaching the ship and seeing the light and sparks from the burning torch as the Coaster’s crew cut through the anchor chain, after getting their engines going, to release the anchor as retrieving it was impossible.

‘The Coaster steamed off to find shelter off the East side of Lundy whilst we had to run for shelter off Clovelly for around eight hours before we could safely attempt to re-enter the river as the surf was that high; it was a long night.

“Another really memorable shout was the time a crew member on a Belgium Trawler had ‘an episode’ 15 miles south west of Hartland Point. The trawler man was desperate to get off the boat and was in danger of seriously hurting himself and his fellow crew members. We responded to the pagers and had to wait to take two policemen with us on the lifeboat, I’m sure this was a night that they would never forget either!”

However, as Andrew points out: “It is not just you on the crew; it’s the whole family who are involved. They help you through the bad shouts, especially after the really testing services and they go through all the emotions with you, and are your support bubble!”

Andrew also points out that none of this would have been possible if we didn’t have the support of the senior crew to develop the skills required to be an effective member of the RNLI team. He would like to thank all those who have helped him along the way.

Thirty years is a long time to selflessly volunteer to help save lives at sea, often in appalling conditions. Thank you, Andrew and your family.