Women making waves for the RNLI
Many young women enjoy shopping, dancing, partying and going out with friends in their spare time. But for two ladies in the Channel Islands, “leisure” pursuits have a slightly riskier agenda
Many young women enjoy shopping, dancing, partying and going out with friends in their spare time. But for two ladies in the Channel Islands, “leisure” pursuits have a slightly riskier agenda. Victoria McAllister from Alderney and Sue Body from Jersey are among the small number of women to have become lifeboat volunteers for the RNLI. Aged 24 and 23 respectively, both appear to have the sea in their blood and both have been recognised by the institution for their bravery.
The RNLI has about 4,800 volunteers across the UK and Republic of Ireland, but only 340 are women. But Vicky and Sue were happy to make such a big commitment at such a young age.
Vicky was born in Alderney, the daughter of a mariner, fisherman and fishmonger. “I went to sea before I could walk – in fact my father would sometimes take me out on his fishing boat strapped into a manger basket,” she said. “Ever since I can remember I’ve had the opportunity to go pleasure boating, dinghy sailing and yachting.” Her father David is also the operations manager for Alderney lifeboat station. But it was friends who asked Vicky to join because crew numbers were down when she was 19 years old. “My father’s reaction was very professional. He got me an application form and said ‘good luck’, but I guess he’s quite proud of me,” she said.
Vicky has volunteered for five years and crews the D Class inshore lifeboat Spirit of Alderney and the Trent all-weather lifeboat Roy Barker I. Describing herself as a fishmonger and part-time mariner, Vicky says her long-term goal is to be a sea pilot for Alderney. However, in the meantime, she is happy to continue volunteering. “Maybe I’ll get to 10 years and get my long service medal. I might say goodbye and then again I might not.”
Sue has similar reasons for volunteering. “Living in Jersey surrounded by the sea, I was always involved in sea activities,” said Sue. “From a really early age, whether it was swimming, surfing or sailing, my life has revolved around the water.
Her course seemed set when she left Jersey at the age of 16 to go to a particular sixth-form college in the UK. “I went to Atlantic College in Wales where students carry out community service. “There’s an RNLI station on campus where students can volunteer and train to become crew members over two years. “The first year is intensive training, but in the second year you’re involved in call outs and that was it for me.” Sue is currently studying medicine at University College London. And she not only continues to crew for St Helier when she is home in Jersey, but is now also a vital member of London’s Tower lifeboat crew.
Situated on the River Thames, Tower is the busiest of the 233 RNLI stations, a suitable home for someone passionate about the organisation. She said: “I absolutely love it and I’m so lucky I can carry it on when I’m at home and away. I’m very proud of it too.” Sue says there are marked differences in the “shouts” at St Helier and Tower.
“Obviously our St Helier crew does more sea survival, with boating accidents, yachts caught in rough weather, summer holidaymakers in trouble, etc. “Generally they tend to be weather related, including tourists being caught out on beaches by the tides. “People on the water in Jersey have to take care because the island has so many rocks and reefs. “Tower may be on the river, but it’s the busiest station in the UK. The shouts are mostly first aid – and they might be casualties, attempted suicides or people deciding to take a swim after drinking to much.”
Sue received her RNLI commendation after using her medical knowledge to resuscitate a young man who was found unconscious. “It was a great outcome, because sadly it doesn’t always work out the way you want it to. “When it does – there’s nothing like it. It’s what we all do the job for. “I really, really enjoy it and hope to do it as long as I can.” Vicky was awarded an RNLI Vellum certificate for her part in the Alderney crew’s rescue of two men and a dog from a converted fishing vessel in July.
Both women shrug off descriptions of bravery, insisting they simply do what they are trained to do, but their awards are a recognition of what they and nearly 5,000 volunteers can be called on to do every single day of the year.
– United World College Student Magazine –