A CHANCE visit to a café resulted in a whole new direction for former engineer Barrie Turner.
Visiting Carats Café in Southwick to think over a change of direction in his life, he happened to arrive when the National Coast Watch Institution (NCI) Newhaven crew was there recruiting for a new Shoreham station.
That was seven years ago and now the 53-year-old station manager is retiring from the volunteer post, saying goodbye to the Shoreham NCI Lookout Station, off Forthaven, at the peak of its game.
Mr Turner, who lives in Hove, hands over to deputy station manager David Dyke on April 24 then leaves altogether in October, at the annual meeting.
He has been involved from the start, when the NCI took over a bricked-up old searchlight building next to Shoreham Fort and started to create the lookout station.
He was made deputy manager while the station was set up under Pauline Bradbury from Newhaven, then became the acting station manager after a year, in May 2009.
We can’t really go any further operationally. It has taken a long time to get established and now we are very well known and respectedBarrie Turner, station manager
“The level of support I have had from Shoreham Beach Residents’ Association has been unrivalled,” said Mr Turner.
“You have to get your name out there and it took a while to find out where we fit locally. It is the local public support that keeps you going.”
The station is graded each year for Declared Facility Status, first achieving the standard two years after it was set up and passing every year since. In September, for the first time, they passed with a clean sheet.
Mr Turner explained: “There were no advisory notes, we passed with flying colours. We can’t really go any further operationally. It has taken a long time to get established and now we are very well known and respected.
“What needs to happen now is to concentrate on the PR, telling people who we are and what we do. That is needed all the time.
“Our remit is to spot, plot and report. Very often, there is no-one else watching and if we see anything the coastguard is not aware of, we pass it on. We don’t co-ordinate the response. Sometimes it is just as important to say that we haven’t seen someone they are trying to trace, as it helps locate the search area.”
Mr Turner did not have a maritime background, so the five months of training proved invaluable. He had been an engineer with British Leyland before being made redundant, then went into finance and insurance.
“Everything I have done here, I have learned,” he said. “But I have done kayaking and sailing, so I do know what it is like out there and what it is like to capsize and how helpless you feel. It is nice to know we can see those people and help.”
He will be taking what he describes as ‘a gap year late’ to spend more time with his family, and the plan is to move to Wales with his wife.
“For me, it is has only ever been about Shoreham,” said Mr Turner. “It is tempting to become a national trustee but I would find it difficult, wanting to know what is going on here at Shoreham. It has been my baby essentially.
“It has been the most rewarding thing I have done in my life. I have thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Volunteers from a team of 60 man the station during daylight hours, every day of the year, and report to the Solent and Portland Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre.