Each year everyone at Ordnance Survey has the chance to nominate, and then vote for, the corporate charity we will support for the next 12 months. This year, starting in April, we chose the RNLI and our fundraising efforts until next March will support the local lifeboat stations in the Solent region; Calshot, Lymington and Cowes. From cake sales to charity screenings of films in our Business Centre to taking part in 10 k races, we’re channelling all fundraising efforts towards the RNLI.
As well as the events, we’re also encouraged by Ordnance Survey to use our volunteer day. This can be used to support the corporate charity each year or to help local or national charities of your choice. One of our colleagues, Jules, volunteered at Cowes RNLI Lifeboat Station and tells us about her experience.
I arrived on the Isle of Wight, bright and early, for my volunteer day at the Cowes RNLI Lifeboat Station, which was open to the public for the day. With Cowes Week in full swing, the picturesque town was a hive of activity. The week of the regatta is the busiest time of year for Cowes RNLI, who are ready and waiting to spring into action should an emergency occur at sea.
The RNLI are located in (what was) the H.M. Customs Watch House, they moved there in 2012, with an official opening by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh as part of the Diamond Jubilee visit. I was greeted by another colleague, Richard, who, for the past seven years has dedicated his spare time to the station and the other members of the team, who are all volunteers at the RNLI.
Following introductions we had a tour of the entire station, so we were well equipped to answer any questions the general public may ask. Next, we saw the lifeboat which was impressive; an Atlantic 85 Rib, named Sheena Louise. The lifeboat cost £206,000 and has the capacity for five crew members. The technology was designed by the RNLI and the lifeboat contains the very best equipment available. There is two of everything on board, which ensures that there is no single point of failure. The technology is superb; if the boat capsizes, it will automatically shut off its engines and will right itself by inflating a large boom!
After the tour, we took the lifeboat out onto the jetty, so that meant finding a pair of wellies in my size and donning a high visibility coat and life jacket. There is a public right of way across the jetty to the yacht club next door, so, whilst the boat was being winched out, it was my responsibility to keep members of the yacht club off the jetty. I then took the opportunity to help hoist up the mast which, when positioned on the lifeboat, is too tall to fit in the station. My next task was as ‘Mrs Mop’; clearing away all the water from inside the station, so nobody slips up.
My other duties involved assisting to prepare the station for the public visits during the day. This included tidying up and vacuuming the upper floor areas where the crew spend time when not out on emergency calls (‘shouts’). As well as for the day-to-day running of the station, this area also gets used for training purposes and for comforting relatives.
Fortunately there were no ‘shouts’ on Monday, but the crew did take the lifeboat out on a training exercise in the afternoon. For safety and comfort the crew’s kit needs to be maintained, so after the exercise I helped by rinsing the crew’s helmets and polishing the visors ready for their next mission.
I was staggered to hear that 92% of RNLI income comes from donations and legacies and that since the RNLI was founded in 1824, it has saved more than 140,000 lives. If you would like to join the volunteers as a crew member, you are required to live within 10 minutes travelling distance from an RNLI lifeboat station. Unfortunately I live too far away to qualify, so for now I have made my contribution by signing a monthly subscription membership – and, of course, by giving up my day and travelling to the Isle of Wight to assist at Cowes RNLI lifeboat station. It was a fantastic experience, and thanks to my volunteer day I now have insight into the work these incredibly dedicated and brave people do – ultimately saving many lives out at sea.