Ready to Respond
The courageous crew of RNLI Jersey epitomises a fearless commitment to putting their own lives on the line to save others. Hand Picked Magazine explored how this devoted island team is safeguarding the spirit and legacy of this cherished institution.
Building on the charity’s foundations, RNLI Jersey’s first lifeboat station was established in St Helier 137 years ago, followed by St Catherine’s station 85 years later. A crew of over 50 highly-skilled volunteers, supported by an operations management team and numerous fundraisers, are split across the two, with this lifesaving ‘family’ committed to working closely with other local rescue services to save lives throughout the seasons.
At St Catherine’s, it’s clear that for every crew member, the RNLI is far more than an act of pure philanthropy – fuelled by cups of tea, camaraderie and a shared devotion to saving lives, this is a way of life. Seasoned crew members Steve Luce and Mick Roche gave us some unique insights into pulling together as a team, braving the elements and facing fear head-on.
With over 50 years of combined RNLI lifeboat experience both share a deep affection for the charity and love of the sea.
“I remember, growing up in St Clements; my dad and I used to listen out for the sirens summoning the crew to the station,” says Steve. “As soon as we heard the second alarm, we knew the lifeboat would go out, so we were down there like a shot to see the launch; that feeling of anticipation and excitement never left me.” He continues, “I joined the crew as soon as I could, which just happened to be when I was 29 and running a farm while raising a young family!”
Mick is evidently just as passionate about the sea and being part of this humble institution. “I grew up in St John and was always mucking about with boats on the water, so you could say it’s in my blood. A friend asked me if I wanted to give the RNLI a go, and I thought, ‘why not’, even though I was running a business then. I haven’t looked back.”
When asked what their motivation is for giving their time so selflessly, Steve is keen to highlight the island’s strong community spirit. “Jersey has a fantastic ethos for honouring charities,” he explains. “There’s a parochial habit of doing something for nothing to support the local community, and the RNLI is a great example of that; there’s a huge amount of love and respect for the charity here.” For Mick, it’s about shared values. “There’s a genuine sense of pride amongst the crew about being part of such a respected institution,” he explains. “It’s a commitment to a cause people feel genuinely passionate about – the training is rigorous and those who join tend to stay with us for years. There are generations of families that have grown up crewing the lifeboats.”
Steve’s family is a testament to that legacy; two of his sons are now also crew, surely inspired by his years spent saving lives. Asking how they feel going into the face of danger, the question is met with a stoicism you would expect from years of service. “It’s always 95 percent excitement and five percent fear,” says Steve. “There have certainly been a couple of times when I’ve thought, ‘I don’t want to be here’, but the training kicks in and you forget about the conditions and just focus on the job. To do what we do, you have to have a huge respect and regard for the sea, that helps to carry you through.” Mick adds, “There have been so many experiences during my time with the RNLI. Some have been particularly challenging, but here I am, 27 years later, and I really don’t know what I’d do without it.”
“To do what we do, you have to have a huge respect for the sea.”Steve Luce, Launcher, RNLI Jersey
Powered by a dedicated and heroic team of volunteers, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has been saving lives at sea for nearly 200 years, founded on a shared set of values and the vision of one man.
The foundation of the RNLI was built on the aspirations of one man, Sir William Hillary, who had a vision for a service dedicated to saving lives at sea. Living in the Isle of Man in the 1820s, he experienced the treacherous nature of the sea first-hand, witnessing dozens of shipwrecks and saving as many lives as he could with the help of locals. Refusing to accept this danger as a way of life, he published a pamphlet detailing his plans for a lifeboat service staffed by trained crews for the UK and Ireland with ‘the preservation of human life from shipwreck’ as its primary aim. The Admiralty refused to help but, undeterred, he appealed to a group of eminent philanthropic gentlemen in London who, in 1824, unanimously supported the cause, making Hillary’s vision a reality and establishing the ‘Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck’.
Nearly 200 years later, the 12 resolutions passed in a London pub still stand as part of the RNLI’s charter. Since the charity launched its first lifeboat, the RNLI has saved 143,900 lives at sea and Hillary’s spirit remains its backbone, with lifesavers answering the call to rescue 24 hours a day through calm seas and ferocious storms. With 238 lifeboat stations dotted around the coasts of the UK and Ireland, the RNLI has grown to create a ring of safety to help protect those in peril at sea.
However, this legacy is only possible with the support of the donations that contribute towards maintaining this lifesaving equipment and a team of selfless volunteers committed to safeguarding Hillary’s vision.
As a charity, the RNLI is funded almost entirely by donations that go directly to equipping its army of volunteer crews across Great Britain and Ireland so they can continue to save lives at sea. For more information about RNLI Jersey and how to support their lifesaving work, visit www.rnlijersey.org.je.