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Gravesend life boat crew speak of pride at how new station has developed

PUBLISHED: 14:46 17 January 2014 | UPDATED: 15:02 17 January 2014

The Atlantic 85, Olive Laura Deare II, came on station in 2008 and is currently the duty boat.

The Atlantic 85, Olive Laura Deare II, came on station in 2008 and is currently the duty boat.

Archant

Speaking to the full-time helmsman it is clear he is bursting with pride at how Gravesend lifeboat station has evolved since its conception 12 years ago.

Gravesend RNLI boat The Atlantic 85, Olive Laura Deare II, in the Thames with a helicopter overhead.Gravesend RNLI boat The Atlantic 85, Olive Laura Deare II, in the Thames with a helicopter overhead.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) station in Royal Pier Road, initially only used three portable cabins when it operated out of a nearby car park.

Twelve years on, Jason Carroll feels the Gravesend HQ – one of new stations on the Thames – is “the best station geographically”.

Recalls the 38-year-old, who left school at 17 to find work: “Overseeing the transformation has probably been my best personal achievement other than the birth of my son, Archie.”

The station is one of only three in the country to combine full-time and volunteer staff.

Alan CarrAlan Carr

Though the Gravesend base experienced teething problems to start with, the RNLI has been rewarded for its recruitment approach.

“At the beginning it was slow progress to get everyone working together with all the new equipment,” adds Mr Carroll, who attended the station’s first ever call out.

Alan Carr, 41, works as an IT specialist, is one of the volunteer members of the crew.

The father-of-two admits he would not have this opportunity to be a part of a lifeboat crew if he lived anywhere else.

Jason CarrollJason Carroll

Generally, crews will be full time and live no more than a mile away with a pager at hand to notify them of an emergency call out.

Mr Carr, of Greenhithe, says there is no disparity between the full-time members and the volunteers at Gravesend.

“As a crew we all know what we are going to do,” he says. “We can all depend on each other – it does not matter if we are full time or volunteers.”

Volunteer crew are asked to attend for a minimum of two 12-hour shifts per month, either day or night. Mr Carr even works as the station’s press officer.

The station averages 100 call outs each year. Last year there were 102, and 112 in 2012.

Call outs include anything from assisting emergency services, dealing with people with medical health issues, first aid first response on the river, searching for missing people or animals and rescuing people in the mud.

The crew must be at 90 per cent of call outs within 15 minutes.

Surprisingly, the station’s 26 mile stretch of river, from Holehaven to the Thames Barrier, has not been troubled by the terrible weather of late - the crew’s last call out was on December 7.

“We are going through a quiet period but it is always quiet around now historically,” Mr Carroll says.

“Further up the river towards Chiswick and Teddington they have been a little bit busier [with the recent bad weather].”

The men’s families will be relieved the Christmas and New Year period were incident free.

Both crew members concede their families do feel the strain of the unusual working hours.

“They are very proud and understanding about working for the RNLI. If it wasn’t for the support of our families it would not be possible,” says Mr Carr.

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