New craft aids Anglesey station's rescues

By Wena Alun-Owen
BBC Wales News

Image caption,
The Hereford Endeavour during training in Treaddur Bay

Public donations have brought a new £165,000 craft for the RNLI's lifeboat station at Treaddur Bay on Anglesey.

It is the best present for the volunteer crew, who have pagers at the ready in case of a 999 call 365 days of the year.

The new Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat - the Hereford Endeavour- arrived in November and was followed by a hectic week of crew training.

It is bigger, and better equipped, than the station's previous lifeboats.

The range of Treaddur Bay as a station is governed by wind speeds rather than distance, so the crew can travel as far as Ireland.

Calls for assistance on the coastline, or at sea, first go to the coastguard when someone rings 999. Then the coastguard contacts the lifeboat.

The decision to take the crews out or not is made by by Aubrey Diggle, lifeboat operations manager at Treaddur Bay, who said: "Sometimes it is just too dangerous".

Adrenaline is part of the mix of being a crew member though.

"There is a level of excitement for the crew, when they are out in rough seas and are on top of their game," he said.

Losing people, for whatever reason, is the worst part of the job

"People believe there is less risk than there is, the sea is very much not a playground and you need a level of expertise.

"You just can't appear with a boat and not get into trouble," he said.

One of the most memorable rescues was that of a clueless boat owner.

"He had a brand new boat, but no radio and no flares, just a mobile phone.

'One brain cell'

"He had left Holyhead and followed a ferry to Ireland... and then gone up the (river) Liffey to see a bit of Dublin.

"On the return journey he had to wait for another ferry as he didn't know the way back... and then he ran out of fuel."

Even then, he had called his friend in Liverpool who had "the one brain cell between them to ring 999".

Weather conditions on the day had been fine, but Mr Diggle said: "I doubt very much if he had checked before setting out, it was a really stupid thing to do".

From when the decision is taken to page an RNLI crew it takes between six and eight minutes to get the boat into the water, depending on the vessel chosen for the job.

The new lifeboat is a little heavier than the old one, but Mr Diggle said: "The Hereford Endeavour is more powerful, however, so we will get to people quicker and also it will tow better.

"It also has radar, and a radio directional fix which can find a boat if it is broadcasting," he said.

Helmsman Leigh McCann, who combines volunteering for the RNLI with his job as a police officer, said: "It's exciting, especially in rough weather.

"You forget sometimes how lucky you are to have some of the best mates, we trust each other with our lives," he added.

Image caption,
The crew's suits hang upside down, drying out for the next shout

Rescue patterns have changed significantly over the years, and today is a far cry from the 1800s. Then, rescues were carried out about once a year, but large numbers of people were usually saved in one go as big cargo ships sank off the Anglesey coast.

Now the crew is called out about 50 times a year, mostly rescuing one or two people at a time.

Station mechanic Frank Clegg, who has been at Treaddur Bay for 20 years, said he did not want to "vegetate" after he took early retirement as a firefighter.

Making sure everything mechanical is up to scratch is a big responsibility, which Mr Clegg undertook single-handedly until fairly recently.

Asked if the lifeboat had ever broken down, his answer was: "It's never not come back".

On the plus side is the camaraderie, and the friends made, when people work for a common goal.

There is also a little glamour, such as the time when the station was used as a location for a Land Rover advert.

A "shout" came in during filming and Mr Clegg ended up driving the new vehicle over sand dunes to help a rider on a nearby beach, who had fallen off a horse.

"I have no idea what we must have looked like coming over the brow of the dunes with a film crew and support vehicle in tow," he said.

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