Welsh 20-year-old's pride as she opens RNLI's new All-Weather Lifeboat Centre
A Welsh 20-year-old lifeboat volunteer was centre stage as the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) officially opened its new All-Weather Lifeboat Centre at the charity’s headquarters in Poole, Dorset today (Friday 21 August).
Gwynedd’s Caryl Jones, 20, a volunteer lifeboat crew member from Porthdinllaen RNLI, and Irish teenager John McDermid, 18, from Arranmore RNLI, rang a bell as the doors of the new building rose for the first time.
The pair are the two youngest fully-qualified lifeboat crew in the Institution and represented the volunteer lifeboat crews from across Ireland and the UK at the opening ceremony. The bell they rung for the first time will be rung every time a newly built all-weather lifeboat is launched from the centre and sent to a lifeboat station on the coast.
The All-Weather Lifeboat Centre was commissioned by the RNLI trustees to meet future all-weather lifeboat supply. Its completion will secure a supply of all-weather lifeboats (ALBs) for future generations of lifesavers.
Caryl, whose family has had close ties with Porthdinllaen RNLI for more than two decades, has been a crew member since she joined in 2012, aged 17. She recently completed the last of her training.
Her father Lewis has been an RNLI lifeboat crew member for 25 years, her grandfather and mother are involved in the local coastguard and her younger brother Cai, 18, is following in her footsteps and has joined the Porthdinllaen crew and is going through his training. Two of her cousins and an uncle are also on the Porthdinllaen RNLI lifeboat crew.
She travelled to Poole with her mother Eleri and dad Lewis and speaking after the ceremony Caryl, who lives in Morfa Nefyn, said; ‘It is a huge honour to represent the volunteer lifeboat crew all across Wales and the UK and Ireland, along with John.
'The All-Weather Lifeboat Centre was amazing and when I was looking around it I could really see the future of the RNLI in front of me.
'My mum was crying when I was ringing the bell and my dad was so proud of me as well. Both John and I had so many people coming up and talking to us. One man had been a volunteer lifeboat crew member for 45 years and said it was an honour for him to introduce himself to younger crew like us who will be the future of the RNLI.'
Phil Coulter’s Lifeboat Anthem ‘Home from the Sea’ was played to mark the occasion and RNLI Chief Executive Paul Boissier addressed the 500-strong gathering saying: ‘Since the turn of the century, the RNLI HQ site has changed beyond recognition. We built the RNLI College – for the training and accommodation of our lifesavers. We built a support centre to store and supply the many parts and materials we need to keep the charity going. And we unveiled a memorial dedicated to all those who lost their own lives at sea, while trying to save others.
‘People pass that memorial every day and see the motto of our founder, Sir William Hillary: ‘With courage, nothing is impossible.’ And that’s hugely appropriate when you think of the courage that our lifeboat crews and lifeguards show – the people who brave the worst of conditions to save lives.
‘The All-Weather Lifeboat Centre is an investment in lifesaving for generations to come and craft that will be built and maintained in this centre will safely bring them home from the sea, back to their loved ones.
‘The new All-Weather Lifeboat Centre will allow the charity to build six Shannon-class lifeboats a year and maintain the other all-weather boats. Having a state of the art facility which will see the charity produce, maintain and refit all-weather lifeboats in-house and under one roof is a first for the charity.’
The building itself includes three spray booths used to apply primer, coats of paint and antifoul to the lifeboats, moveable platforms which will improve ergonomics and efficiency for accessing fit-out and refit lifeboats and a visitors centre allowing members of the public to watch the charity’s lifeboats being built. In addition to this PV panels on the roof of the All-Weather Lifeboat Centre combined with the PV provision on the rest of the RNLI campus means that up to 8% of the RNLI’s energy requirements can be provided by the sun.