A VOLUNTEER lifeboat man has racked up 20 years at the helm.

RNLI volunteer Kenny Hay, who is affectionately known to his crew as Barbie, has been given a long service award.

The 40-year-old, who is an inshore lifeboat helm and all weather mechanic at Hartlepool's Ferry Road station, juggles volunteering with working as a Tesco maintenance technician.

He said: "The 20 years have absolutely flown by but like the rest of the crew I'm always on call 24-7 and have had lots of memorable moments over the years but just being part of the lifeboat crew here is what it's all about as we are all one big family that come together when the pagers go off to help anyone at sea that needs us."

The Northern Echo:

RNLI volunteer Kenny Hay at the helm of the inshore lifeboat 'Solihull'

He joined the crew after watching a rescue because a friend had to respond to a call while they were picking up Chinese takeaway.

And he earned his nickname because there was another Ken on the team at the time.

Hartlepool RNLI coxswain Robbie Maiden said: "When Kenny turned up he trained hard alongside the other volunteers and has since become an integral part of the team and has also become a valuable mentor to the new crew members on both inshore and all weather lifeboats'.

"I do remember we had a slight problem when Kenny first joined. Kenny joined when another Kenny joined so to avoid confusion we nicknamed Kenny 'Barbie' as in 'Ken and Barbie' after the popular toys.

"'Ken' moved on to pastures new but 'Barbie'(Ken Hay) stayed with us and after all these years Ken is still known as 'Barbie' to the crew and on behalf of myself and all the crew we would like to say congratulations to 'Barbie' for his 20 years with the RNLI."