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Muddy Meets: Clare Goode, RNLI Lifeboat Crew

Think lifeboat crew are all fishermen types? Think again. Muddy chatted with Clare Goode, diver and St Ives RNLI lifeboat crew member about rescuing people in all weathers, plus why the new female kit is so welcome.

Cornwall is a county full of awesome women doing great things. You just need to know where to look. Inspired by the themes of International Women’s Day, we’ve done some digging which has led to some refreshing chats… here are some of the women we spoke to.

You might picture lifeboat volunteers as bearded fisherman types but RNLI history is full of stories of women’s bravery since the RNLI was formed in 1824. The first female lifeboat crew joined in 1969 and now there are around 300 women on the lifeboats up and down the country including 5 female coxswains and 44 female helms.

Down in St Ives, lifeboat crews have been rescuing people since 1839, collectively receiving 33 medals for gallantry. The station currently operates two lifeboats – a Shannon class all-weather lifeboat and a D class inshore lifeboat. Clare Goode is a gardener and diving instructor as well as volunteer crew on both the inshore and all-weather lifeboats.

First things first, what’s it like when you’re out on the lifeboat?

Each shout can present different challenges, and you never know what you are going to. But with the great training and support of a close crew, it fills you with confidence that you can push yourself and meet whatever difficulties present themselves.

Obviously living in St Ives we have very busy peak holiday seasons, and with that comes higher numbers of call outs, as well as varied and sometimes complex shouts – and things don’t always end the way you may want them – but that’s where having a highly supportive and close crew comes into play.

We launch in all conditions, it can be challenging in rough or stormy conditions but I always feel safe with both the lifeboats and the crew. Your mind is always focused on the job at hand and the safety of yourself and your fellow crew. 

Why the RNLI?

Having been involved with the sea since being a teenager, I understand how important it is to know you have someone there to help if things go wrong.  so what better voluntary role to choose than the RNLI. It’s the best decision I’ve made.

Can you talk us through what goes through your head when your pager goes off?

The minute the pager goes off, the main focus is to get to the station as quickly as you can. I have the pager with me at all times day and night – you never know when the call for help will come.  We all get to the station as quickly as we can, the lifeboat launches as soon as enough crew has arrived at the station.

I have abandoned trolleys in supermarkets, dates and even turned up in my PJ’s – you just want to get there. Then once you’re on the boat, really it’s not about considering what you may be going to – your coxswain is doing that, it’s working with your crew to get to the potential casualty so they are safe.

What’s the most memorable shout you’ve been involved with?

Shouts can stand out to you for many different reasons, but the ones that stand out to me the most are when you really feel like you’ve made a difference to the outcome of someone’s situation.

Last year I responded to a dismasted yacht, a young couple cut off on the rocks and a sailor whose boat had fallen apart- ultimately its nice just to know you have got people home safely.

We’ve got to ask about the kit – we heard there’s a new women’s outfit. Is it up to the task?

The RNLI do a great job of ensuring we are fully kitted out and you have different kit for different boats. Most importantly all the kit we have keeps us warm and safe, and believe me on a cold winters night you are very grateful for those yellows!

Our new Helly Hanson kit has been designed specifically with women in mind, so it’s got zips in all the right places so as women we can go to the loo without removing our entire kit. When nature calls in a force 9 gale it can be tricky – so it’s great that the RNLI has now made female-specific kit. It’s a new feature in the design which we are delighted with.

I bet you do a lot of training too, how often are you out with the crew?

We train every Wednesday with one week being afloat practicing for the real thing and the next being shore-based with a focus on theory. We also do some ad-hoc training on weekends, so it is quite a commitment when you also include the shouts we respond to.

And when you’re not out saving lives? What keeps you busy?

I have a very full life, I share my time between running my gardening business and my diving. I am also really interested in travelling, in fact, for my 40th birthday, I went to the arctic circle and took part in a husky trek! But for fun, as I live in the best area with the most stunning beaches, you can often find me there. Anything to do with the sea, really. I love it!

Go on then, which beach is your favourite? 

I am totally spoilt where I live here in St Ives, but if I had to choose it would be Porthmeor beach. I love it, its two minutes walk from my house.

You cannot find a more beautiful beach, a bluer sea and the sunsets are to die for.

Any top tips for beach safety – particularly with kids?

There is so much advice available on the RNLI website so I would suggest checking that out. But I think its really important for beach safety to ensure you are on a lifeguarded beach and you swim between the flags. Also inflatables, these are best used in the pool rather than the sea, the RNLI have had their fair share of inflatable unicorns a mile or two offshore.

All photos © RNLI/St Ives

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