savvy navvy talks water safety with the RNLI

The Boating Life podcast episode 3

Our savvy navvy podcast host, Ceri, recently caught up with the Water Safety Lead for the RNLI Southeast, Guy Addington.

Note - Below is the full transcript from the podcast above, if you would like to listen other podcast in the series, you can find links at the bottom of this article.

Guy and his grandfather were lifeboat crew at Margate, which he himself joined at just 17. He's an accomplished sailor and has an absolute passion and deep respect for the sea. Here, Guy joins us on our podcast, The Boating Life, to deep dive into some key facts about the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, how people can take better care at keeping safe out on the water and what it’s like to save lives at sea.

What are some key facts about the RNLI?

It is funded entirely by voluntary donations. So we're purely a charity.

We exist across the whole of the British Isles, England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. We're the only fully national emergency service that actually exists in the UK and Ireland.  We operate a fleet of lifeboats of varying classes, depending on the conditions and the coastal environment which are stationed from around about 200-250 lifeboat stations around the entire coast.

In the summer months that compliment of lifeboat stations is backed up really nicely by about 1,700 lifeguards that will patrol on beaches numbering again, close to 250 beaches around the whole coast. So wherever you are, if you are looking for safety information or indeed get yourself into trouble we should be not too far to respond and help out.”

What makes the RNLI unique?

“There are a number of things that make us unique. Our closest associates from a maritime search and rescue point of view would be the KNRM in Holland. We have a really close affinity with, well, with many other international rescue organisations, but in particular with the Dutch KNRM because they have a similarly funded outfit operated privately.

By volunteers with state-of-the-art equipment. And they have really good coastal coverage. I think if you look across the world at other maritime search and rescue organisations, the RNLI sits well. I'm biased, of course.

What is the best advice for anyone thinking of buying a boat for the first time to keep themselves safe?

As with most things safety starts from a point of understanding. It's really worth doing plenty of research and building a level of awareness, understanding of the coastal maritime environment. Before I suppose, considering a foray into both.

I have come across people that have made strides into getting into boating and then found that for one reason or another, it's really not for them. It's something that they don't particularly enjoy. I find that difficult to comprehend, but it's not for everybody. So it's well worth starting from that good place of awareness and understanding, and there are endless resources to consult in terms of picking up information.

We have at our fingertips on the internet, a wealth of information to help sew those first seeds of understanding as to what you might be getting yourself into from a boating point of view. The next piece of advice is to gain experience, as with most things considered walking before running.

By that, I mean starting with something that is relatively modest, not too ambitious, not too challenging as an activity or a water-based pursuit. And that will give you a feel for the water environment, the coastal environment and how the various environmental conditions and factors impact what it is that you're doing out on the sea or at the coast.

And then that can help you make better decisions about which aspect of water, sports, or coastal activity you are most likely to enjoy. For some people that might be windsurfing and for other people that might be dinghy sailing for others, it might be rowing.

I would recommend avoid massive investment, both in terms of time, effort, money experience before you've really got a feel for what it is that you want to get fully immersed in.

How can you keep calm when something doesn’t go to plan?

You're right to talk about the fact that things can and do go wrong and I think, again, starting from that good basis of knowledge, understanding and awareness starts to strip away some of the mystery surrounding certain aspects of boating aspects like navigation.

Let’s face it, a long time ago navigators were looked upon as people with special powers because they had unravelled some of the mystique of navigation.

Now we're in a position where actually where that sort of information is pretty readily accessible and there's a whole range of tools that can make things like navigation, easy to understand for the vast majority of people.

It is becoming less of a mystery and therefore it's less likely to induce any level of anxiety or fear. And of course, you can start to better plan around how your trip, how your activity might unfold.

In the coastal environment, in the water environment, things will go wrong. It's an ever-changing environment with a range of fluid factors. I've already mentioned tide and weather - add to that kit that has to be maintained and of course, the inevitable human mistake and things will go wrong.

It's very much about being prepared to respond to things when they go wrong and how you cope with things when they do. That is all-important. And in terms of addressing things that go wrong. My best advice is to get proper training.

I've mentioned,  building awareness, but spending the time to get proper training from people that have generally been there and done it and experienced most stuff that can go wrong and then help you prepare mentally and physically for how to deal with that will put you in a really good position in terms of anxiety.

What are the most common problems that require a call to the coast guard?

It can be quite challenging to drill right down to the common theme of the root cause for all incidents. But if I were to pick out a few, they would include things like equipment failure, that's one of the most common things. The failure of the machinery - very often related to fuel.

So either fuel that has been left to get old or people running out of fuel. Machinery failure is probably the most common example of what leads people to get into difficulty at sea. It's not like being on the road. You can't just pull over to the lay-by.

Next to that, I would think that there's issues around preparation and planning. Very often we respond to people that perhaps have not even considered the impact that the tide might have on their journey and not only whether the tide is in or out, but what speed at any one time the tide is flowing. So that can catch people out and I've even been out two or three times per year to people that have done all the right stuff and have a good understanding but have made a simple error, like not adding or subtracting the hour for British summertime against UTC or GMT.

Does savvy navvy tick a lot of boxes to help keep people safe at sea?

Absolutely it does. I think  the main theme for our conversation today has been around unraveling some of the mystique behind forays out into the coastal and maritime environments. The more accessible tools that people are able to pick up and use to help them understand that environment, the better.

Tools like the savvy navvy boating app and the information it provides through the application is unbelievably useful to help people on that journey.

You will have purists sitting in the background that think, right? Okay. Well, it should be a paper chart and they should be using dividers with parallel rulers, sextants things of that nature. And you know, there is a really strong place for that because that still brings a really good level of understanding. People ought to understand how to use the fundamental tools and where the output from various electronic devices and applications comes from. But to make material really readily accessible and easy to understand to unpick that mystique that we mentioned is fundamental to get people out on the water.

Find out more about the RNLI and safety at sea

We would like to thank Guy Addington for joining us on our boating podcast! If you’d like to find out more about the RNLI, their water safety tips and lifeguard manned beaches, click the links to read more.

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