The Exmouth lifeboat and shore crew consists of approximately 30 volunteers. All are volunteers and are from very different backgrounds. Some work for other emergency services while others are boat builders, sales executives and IT technicians. The minimum age to join a lifeboat crew is 17 (with parental consent) and the upper age has recently been extended for inshore lifeboats (ILB) and all-weather lifeboats (ALB), depending on fitness.
The reputation and efficiency of any lifeboat station is only as good as its crew. This means that training is a very large part of station life, but this places considerable demands on the crew’s time over and above being called out for ‘Service Launches’. Training is formalised in ‘Competence Based Training’ (CoBT) which ensures volunteer crews have differing tasks to learn and perform commensurate with their position within the crew structure i.e. navigators, coxswains, first aiders and mechanics. Once they have been taught or have learnt a ‘task’ they are assessed as being ‘competent’ by demonstrating this to an RNLI assessor. Many of the tasks have to be re-validated every three years.
All lifeboat stations that have ALBs have either a full time Mechanic or Coxswain, or both. At Exmouth the post is a full-time Mechanic. His responsibilities are to ensure the boat is always maintained and ready to go to sea in any weather conditions, with a trained crew to provide the best possible response to a person or vessel in distress 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
A typical day involves maintenance on the lifeboats, carriages and tractors, ordering spare parts and updating maintenance records.. Some of these residential courses (if passed successfully) culminate in certification that is recognised outside the RNLI and can often assist in maritime employment.
The volunteers meet once a month at a formal ‘crew meeting’ where the past month’s operations are discussed and potential new members are introduced to the team. On top of this, crew have a rota for fortnightly exercises on the Shannon class lifeboat.