It was donated to the charity by a local businessman in the seaside town who was keen to help them get started. “He told us he had an old pig pen that we could use and we were very grateful because it meant we could get up and running,” says Sue Hickson-Marsay, who is chair of Hornsea Inshore Rescue and one of the founding members of the independent lifeboat charity when it was set up in 1994.
“We used to have a coastguard boat and I was part of that team and we saved many lives, but then the government decided that they didn’t think there was a need to have a boat at Hornsea, which left us with no cover,” says Sue.
It meant that if there was an incident in the waters at Hornsea the nearest RNLI lifeboat would have to come from Bridlington or Withernsea, and given the fact that Hornsea attracts thousands of visitors each year, the decision worried the local community. “It left a cloud over the town and we felt we had to do something,” she says.
“We discovered that there were a number of independent lifeboat stations dotted around the coastline up and down the country. So we set up a committee and started a fundraising campaign to raise money for our own lifeboat.”
Within a year they had done just that, raising £25,000 to buy a new boat. Many of those who contributed weren’t only locals but people in places like Leeds and Hull who had a fondness for the town and wanted to help out. “We said that even if we saved just one life it would have paid for itself,” says Sue.
Over the past quarter of a century the Hornsea Inshore Rescue team, which is made up entirely of volunteers, has helped save many more than that. During this time the charity has grown and through thrift, hard work and more than a little imagination has become invaluable to the town.
The local council provided some land on the seafront at a peppercorn rent and the volunteers raised more money enabling them to move from the former pig shed to a new purpose-built boat house, which has been their base for the past decade.
It costs around £40,000 a year to run the lifeboat station, all of which has to be raised by the charity. So as well as saving lives, it has a team of highly-trained volunteers who give educational talks and presentations to schools and local businesses, and also run RYA (Royal Yachting Association) approved courses on how to stay safe at sea. All of which helps bring in much needed funds.
The station is on call 24/7 and can be called out by the coastguard to an incident at any time. At the moment they have 28 volunteer crew members and trustees, and others who do fundraising. As well as responding to incidents at sea, they are also a flood rescue team that works with police and fire and rescue services and have helped rescue local residents during the many serious floods in recent years.
The volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds – from firemen and doctors to swimming instructors and joiners. “Our leading coxswain runs a business making blinds in Hull and we’ve got everyone from retired people to students. So it’s a real mix,” says Sue.
They work in all kinds of conditions putting their own lives on the line each time they head out to sea. “Had we not existed then people would definitely have lost their lives in the sea off Hornsea,” she says.
“We get called out to all kinds of incidents. It might be a broken down fishing boat, people who’ve been cut off by the tide near the cliffs, or kayakers and swimmers who have got into difficulty.” There isn’t, as you might expect, such a thing as a normal day. “We might get seven call-outs one week and none the next. We just have to make sure we’re ready when the call comes in.”
The independent lifeboat station at Hornsea has a good relationship with local RNLI teams and often work alongside them. “We base our standards on theirs and we work with them and train with them when we can,” says Sue.
She hopes by raising awareness they might attract more support. “If more people know about us then they might help with fundraising or even join us.”
As well as being one of the charity’s founders, Sue is also the operations manager and always on the lookout for new recruits.
“What’s been great is we’ve had a lot of young people joining us, and we’ve found that having us on their CV has helped with their careers. One went on to join the RAF as a fighter pilot, and we’ve had others join the fire brigade and the police force.”
Faye Melody, 21, is one of the volunteers. She grew up in and around Hornsea and became a volunteer in 2018. “My dad was a coxswain on the free-fall lifeboats on an oil rig so I thought this would be a good thing to do.”
Like her fellow crew members she’s faced some challenging situations. “My first call out was to an incident involving a fisherman who had gone overboard and I’ve been out to a wind farm about ten miles out where a diver had the bends. The swells were quite bad so that was pretty tricky.”
Faye, who works in retail and hopes to join the fire service, feels she’s learned a huge amount since she joined. “You feel part of a real team and when a rescue goes well you feel like you’ve made a difference. It’s also given me important life skills. I can do CPR, my communication skills are better and it’s shown I can work under pressure.”
The tireless work of Faye and all the other volunteers hasn’t gone unnoticed. “The people here have been immensely supportive,” says Sue.
“Not just the people of Hornsea but the surrounding towns and villages. We get coach loads of school children on educational visits and they learn an awful lot about the work we do.”
For more information go to www.hornsearescue.co.uk
Donations can be made by going to www.justgiving.com/hornseainshorerescue
and also via www.facebook.com/hornsearescue
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