Behind the scenes at the Porthdinllaen Lifeboat Station
- Credit: Archant
It’s a year since the doors of Porthdinllaen Lifeboat Station opened. We speak to its coxswain about what it’s like to work this part of the coast
Mike Davies’ life has been spent enjoying the waters around the Lleyn Peninsula. As a young boy his days were made up of trips to the beach and exploring the waters around Abersoch in his dinghy with friends.
Despite travelling around the world working for the Merchant Navy, it was still this beautiful part of North Wales that captivates him. So when a job as the coxswain for the Porthdinllaen Lifeboat came up he jumped at the chance.
‘As a young boy, the beach was my playground,’ he said: ‘The Lleyn is a very special place to me. I loved nothing more than spending the days on the sands in Abersoch.
‘It was when I was back on a break from the navy I heard about the job. I never thought I would get it. I was very lucky. I was leaving a job that I loved that had taken me all over the world to come to another job that I knew would also be brilliant. It was fantastic.’
There has been a lifeboat station at Porthdinllaen for 151 years – but it was in 2003 that Mike took the job. For two of those years the 56-year-old and the volunteers who run and crew the lifeboat dedicated their time to the £11.2 project to get a new lifeboat and station. The old building was no longer fit for purpose as well as not being big enough a new Tamar lifeboat named John D Spicer. The slip the boat used to get into the water was also in desperate need of attention. The new station was built over the two years, with the crew and the boat operating from temporary premises.
Mike, who has volunteered for the RNLI since he was 17, said: ‘The previous station was too small, to the point where there wasn’t enough room even for the crew’s kit. They had to share. The only thing that was their own was their boots.
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‘When work for a new slip started, the old one just fell away and disintegrated. It was definitely good timing that the work was being done.’
There have been tragedies where vessels and people in distress have not been reached or found – and times when they have not been able to save personal friends. It is at these times the job is the most difficult. But there has also been much to celebrate. In the station’s history the boat has rescued thousands of people including by the current team.
Mike explained: ‘It is very difficult when we are not able to save someone. There have been some very tragic events including a child who has still never been found and a local fisherman, who we all knew, who could not be rescued.
‘But there are also some really happy stories. Recently we were able to help a father and daughter who were stranded and in tricky waters. The rescue helicopter couldn’t get anyone down onto the boat because the weather was so bad. We were able to get to them. Seeing the relief on someone’s face is quite incredible. They were very happy to see us.’
A year after the official opening, which was performed by TV commentator David Dimbleby, Mike and the crew are preparing to open up the station to the public again. Despite being off the beaten track – the station is hidden down in a cove near Morfa Nefyn Golf Club – thousands of people visit the station to find out more about the work they do. It is a part of the job Mike loves.
He said: ‘To see our modern new lifeboat inside its new home fills me with pride. It was a challenging two years maintaining business as usual whilst operating out of temporary accommodation.
‘Seeing John D Spicer safely housed in her new home has made everything worthwhile and is the culmination of a long project and the realisation of a dream for us. But it is such a highlight being able to share what we have achieved and what we do with the public who come to visit us. Children’s eyes light up, it is exciting to see how captivated they are.’