TO someone stranded in the freezing North Sea, minutes can mean the difference between life and death.
So when their pagers sound – whether it’s a sunny summer morning or the middle of a cold winter’s night – Redcar’s crew of dedicated RNLI volunteers drop everything and race to the aid of those in need.
It takes just eight minutes for the crew to arrive at the town’s lifeboat station, don on their protective kit and get out to sea.
And as helmsman Dave Scott explains, every second counts.
“I had literally just got back from my holiday. I turned my pager on and it went off straightaway. I hadn’t even unpacked my cases or emptied the car,” he says.
“There was a father and son that had been thrown from their boat and had been in the water for about 45 minutes.”
The pair had been fishing some three miles off Redcar earlier this year when their outboard engine had broken down. As they tried to fix it, the engine restarted in gear and at full speed, throwing them both into the water.
The pair – neither of whom were wearing lifejackets - fought desperately to keep their heads above the sea for almost 45 minutes while their boat circled nearby until it ran out of fuel.
“The father had been picked up by a fishing boat that was out at sea and the son had crawled his way back onto the boat to get the distress call out,” says Dave.
“He was absolutely petrified about what had happened to his dad.
“They were really lucky that we found them. Another ten minutes or so and it could have been a tragic result for them.”
Both men were taken to hospital and treated for hypothermia. Luckily they suffered no long term injuries.
“It is fantastic when you get a job like that, when there are no long term injuries,” says Dave.
“It is a great feeling to know you have made a difference and makes all the time you put in really worthwhile.”
DESPITE many of them having full time jobs and families of their own, the 25 volunteer crew members at Redcar RNLI are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Many of them rely on the generosity of their employers and the support of their loved ones who allow them to drop everything at a moment’s notice and put themselves in potentially dangerous situations to help those in need.
Months of intensive training means the selfless crew are primed for any eventuality – from broken down fishing boats or dinghies being swept out to sea, to windsurfers in distress or cars being swamped during high tides.
“You do the best job you can to help that person,” says Dave, who joined the crew six years ago.
The 34-year-old father-of-one juggles his volunteer role alongside his full-time job as an officer with Cleveland Police.
“I feel like this is my way of giving something back to the community,” he adds.
“We often get more people turning up than we actually need turning up for a shout.
“It is like a family here. All the guys here are volunteers and they all have different motives for wanting to do it.
“I think that when you are not paying people, you tend to get the best.”
OVER the past 12 months, the Redcar crew were called to 54 incidents, with the majority of callouts coming during the summer months in June, July and August when beachgoers who are unfamiliar with the North-East coast can be caught out by the tides.
As a result, the team are backing a national campaign - named Respect the Water - urging people not to underestimate the power of the sea.
Last year, 29 people accidentally lost their lives around the north of England coast, including two in Redcar. The north’s lifeguards and lifeboat crews, most of which are volunteers, also saved the lives of a further 52 people.
It costs £2,000 to train each crew member, but despite their lifesaving work, the RNLI receives no government funding. The charity relies entirely on donations from members of the public and fundraisers like Dave, who is running the Great North Run and Redcar Half Marathon in aid of his crew.
“People seem surprised that even though I am a volunteer crew member I am still willing to try and raise money for them. But that’s what the crew are like, they want to be involved in whatever way they can,” he says.
“It becomes a way of life.”
To donate visit Justgiving.com/crewman15 or text ILBA85 £2 to 70070.