Meet Phil: Coxswain of Tenby Lifeboat Station
Looking out from the lifeboat station, the sea mist is thick and blinding.
Standing on the walkway that runs around the station, we can just see the beach through the fog, its easy to imagine boats getting in to trouble in this weather, but out on the coast, even the sunniest of days can bring dangers.
‘You can’t hold a grudge with anyone on the team, because within minutes you might be relying on that person to save your life.’ Phil’s team swells to 30 in the summer months, when they are busiest, as the boats are back in the water and the coast is teeming with visitors.
For Phil, the harbour and more importantly the lifeboat station is in his blood. His grandfathers served on the crew, as well as his father, who sadly collapsed and lost his life on the boat.
‘I didn’t want to join. In my eyes the boat took my father. But at 18 there was a call and only one man turned up, they came down to the harbour and needed crew and I knew enough was enough.’ His brother Robert also joined them just a year later.
So what’s it like being called out? ‘You’re full of adrenaline. There’s no time to worry, you just act quickly. If I get the chance to pick my crew I will, but if there’s someone in the water- we just go.’ And quick they are, the Tamar class Haydn Miller has halved the time it takes to reach their destination. With an area that stretches from St Govans to Wormshead to cover, some of the busiest stretches of coastline in Pembrokeshire, it’s one of the busiest Lifeboat Stations in the UK.
In the summer, the Tenby streets are pedestrianised and completely closed to vehicles. If there’s an emergency call, the crew has to abandon their vehicles where they are, run through the town and down to the harbour at a moments notice- quite a sight. ‘We’re all a stone lighter by the end of summer.’ He laughs.
The unpredictable and emergency natures of the job have a big impact on a social life. ‘ It’s difficult on your family. You are on call at all hours so it makes holidays hard.’ Knowing your actions are the difference between saving or losing a life is a weight not everyone is able to bear, but as we walk across the sand and look back at the new lifeboat station, just visible through the sea mist- there is no doubt that Phil is the right man for the job.
The lifeboat station is a must see if you're spending 48 hours in Tenby and is open to visitors all year round, so pop in and see for yourself what it takes to be a member of the lifeboat crew.
- Insider tip: The Tenby crew train on a Wednesday evening so if you’re in Tenby pop along you might be lucky to see the lifeboat launch. Don’t forget to give Phil a wave!
The coast is an exciting place to be – but it’s easier than you think to get into trouble in the water. Stay safe with the RNLI's essential safety advice.