Jose Ignacio Luis-Miguel (Spain, UWC AC 2007-2009)
It was a Monday morning, 7:45 in front of the Atlantic College Inshore Lifeboat Station. We went there to pick up our kits and get on a van which took us to Cardiff, where the first day of our RNLI training course started. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is one of the oldest and most well known charities. This assumption might sound excessive, but when one thinks about the approximately 7,000 lives saved every year in the British coasts by probably the most efficient life boating institution in the world based totally on voluntary contributions, there is no space for doubt.
More than 230 stations are distributed over the British and Irish shores. In each one of them, there are men and women who altruistically risk their lives to make the sea safer. Emma, Gareth, Akshat, Trix, Zeeshan, Pranav and Jose are our names; we are seven second year students from the United World College of the Atlantic who are already enrolled and ready for a call in our station. During five intense days we absorbed as much as possible from two outstanding instructors, Paul Eastment and Simon Bunting, to become competent crewmembers on the B – 763 Colin James Daniel Atlantic 75 class lifeboat at College. After receiving some basic training during August from some of the patient station helms, (especially Mike, Graeme, Michel, Paul or Asbjorn) we found ourselves in front of lots of knowledge and many years of personal experiences of rescuing people at sea. The exercises took part inside Cardiff Bay and in open water, out of the locks, south of Penarth. The contents were spread in a wide spectrum: sea survival situations, MOB (man over board) procedure, towing casualty boats, pyrotechnics, helicopter approaches, capsize and fire drills, navigation, anchoring and veering techniques and many others. In addition to this and as a general aspect, the course managed to create a professional and conscious work atmosphere on the deck, where teamwork, decision making and safety were key issues. Practical experience was sought at every possible moment. Theory occupied a secondary place and became the main focus of our lunch conversations. Experience is the core of good seamanship and it is precisely what we most lack. Throughout the next few months what was condensed on the pair of Atlantics in Cardiff and in the lunchtime quizzes will have to be developed. Atlantic College is a unique place in the whole institution. It is the only station where most volunteers are around eighteen or nineteen years old; and the base where probably newcomers are ready for call-out in the shortest time. The station was created in 1962, very shortly after the establishment of the College. Hundreds of students have passed through it, among them the first woman to join the RNLI (who was a Norweigian student), and have put their lives at the service of others in the waters of the Bristol Channel. Many of them continued their involvement in the RNLI for years. Some made possible a real revolution with the Atlantic class lifeboat, an ILB (inshore lifeboat) named after the College that was quickly introduced in most stations across the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Now, new generations accept this duty and carry on with this significant part of the AC community.
We feel now more able and encouraged than ever before to offer an active service to our community. No matter the number of calls during each term, even a single one could decide someone’s life or death. Our comittment throughout this year of permanent service is rewarded by the recognition constantly received by the RNLI and the confort with which seamen are provided.
– United Words –