RNLI: Award-winning Sussex coxswain retires after 21 years of saving lives at sea
Lifeboat coxswain Steve Smith has hung up his wellies and pager for good after 21 years’ voluntary service to the RNLI.
Steve, who works as a cabinet maker, has helped save numerous lives at sea and was honoured for his determination, courage and seamanship by being awarded the Framed Letter of Thanks from the RNLI chairman in 2011 for his actions during a particularly ‘hazardous and challenging’ rescue.
He first joined the team of volunteers at Shoreham RNLI in 2000 as inshore (ILB) and all-weather lifeboat (ALB) crew but quickly progressed to become an ILB helmsman, qualifying to drive and take command of the boat in 2001.
Steve said one of his first and most memorable shouts was the floods in Lewes and Uckfield in 2000, when the lifeboat crews spent 16 hours with the inshore lifeboat, inland, rescuing residents, traders and pets from their flooded homes and businesses after the River Uck burst its banks.
Steve said: “The RNLI has been a huge part of my life for the last 21 years and I feel honoured and privileged to be involved. I have made great memories over the years and have served with dedicated volunteers.
“I couldn’t have done any of it, particular my role as coxswain, without the support of the lifeboat crew and my family. It has been a team effort and I will miss it greatly.”
In 2006 Steve became deputy second coxswain on the all-weather lifeboat, as well as navigator, and trained in casualty care. He was also involved in a service that year involving a ‘runaway’ barge, when the all-weather lifeboat was launched to try to stop an enormous, 100m-long barge from straying into the busy shipping lanes in the Channel.
The empty barge, measuring 125ft across, and as a tall as a two-storey building was drifting down the coast towards Seaford, close to floating into the Dover shipping lanes, the busiest in the world.
It had broken free from the tug which was towing it and had suffered engine failure. The tug’s crew had managed to repair the engines but was forced to leave it as sea conditions worsened.
Amid 13ft waves and gale force winds, Steve and a fellow lifeboat crew member scrambled aboard the tug, set up a tow rope and managed to drop one of the barge’s anchors before being forced to abandon ship. They were then airlifted to safety by the coastguard rescue helicopter.
He was also involved in the rescue of the yacht Crazy H, which was in a mid-channel collision with a beam trawler in August 2011, one of the first big shouts for the station’s new £2million Tamar-class all weather lifeboat Enid Collett. During heavy rain and a force six wind blowing, the yacht with six people on board had suffered major damage.
Steve and another crew member launched the inflatable Y-class boat from the Tamar and went alongside the yacht. They cut the rigging and mast away while a tow rope was attached from the lifeboat and they stayed on board the vessel administering first aid to a woman on the boat who had fractured her wrist.
Steve was awarded the RNLI’s Framed Letter of Thanks from the RNLI chairman for his actions during the ‘hazardous and challenging’ service.
He also became the station’s lifeboat training co-ordinator in 2011, meaning he was heavily involved in training the lifeboat crew at Shoreham’s new purpose-built lifeboat station and on the new Tamar-class lifeboat.
In 2012, he became the lifeboat coxswain, taking over from Peter Huxtable when he retired from the role.