Tuesday, 22 March 2016

End of era as Swanage RNLI coxswain prepares to retire

Volunteer coxswain of Swanage RNLI Martin Steeden will be hanging up his lifejacket for the last time next month, as he retires from the role after almost four decades of helping to save lives at sea. Martin will be handing over when the new Shannon class lifeboat goes on operational service towards the end of April.
Martin, who joined Swanage RNLI in 1977, has mixed emotions leaving the role but feels it’s the right thing to do: ‘I am very proud and feel very privileged to be a part of the overall history of Swanage RNLI. There are RNLI coxswains around the coast and I’m so proud to been able to be in this unique position and part of RNLI history.’

Swanage RNLI’s new Shannon class lifeboat George Thomas Lacy arrives in the town at midday on Friday 8 April. Martin will be a part of this momentous day when he helms the current Mersey class lifeboat Robert Charles Brown, which with the D class lifeboat Phyl & Jack, will lead the new lifeboat into the bay for the first time.

Martin continues: ‘A lot has changed in my time on the lifeboat, and during my time as coxswain, and I know that this is the right time for me to move on. With the arrival of the Shannon and the new lifeboat station, it’s fitting that there should be a new generation of coxswains and crew who will take their turn as part of the station’s history.

‘I have very much enjoyed my time as coxswain, we’ve got a good crew at Swanage and there is a good feeling among the volunteers who do it because they want to. I am really proud that this is a legacy that I will leave behind and I am delighted that there is such talent and passion that the handover will be seamless.’

Martin joined the crew at Swanage RNLI in 1977, before progressing to mechanic in 1985 to 2003, and taking on the role of coxswain in 2000. His legacy will live on at the station as his two sons Matt and Gavin are volunteer crew, with Gavin an assistant coxswain.

Martin was also fundamental in establishing Swanage Lifeboat Week, a fixed date in the community’s calendar. He still plans to be very much a part of the event:

‘When I took over as coxswain the crew, who were already giving up their time to training and respond to shouts, were also being asked to get involved in fundraising activity every other weekend. I thought it would be best to combine this activity into one whole week during the summer - something a lot of the other stations in other parts of the country were doing and I aimed to emulate their success.

‘It’s been a fixed date in the town’s calendar for around 15 years now and proved a real success. We have some holiday makers who return each year, some bringing with them tools needed to take part in some of the events, like the raft building! It’s continued to grow year on year and over the last couple, we’ve raised around £30,000 during this week alone.’

Martin will officially stand down as coxswain when the Shannon class lifeboat officially goes on service, towards the end of April. His final duty will be to take the Mersey class lifeboat back to RNLI HQ in Poole. Dave Turnbull, RNLI mechanic at Swanage lifeboat station, will take over the role.