The pressure of balancing work and home life can seem difficult sometimes but imagine adding volunteering into the mix, in a role that could pull you out of bed in the middle of the night to save someone’s life.
Two of the staff at Sussex Yacht Club do just that, dedicated their lives to their love and respect for the sea in two jobs, one of them unpaid.
Senior boatswain Ben Coe, 51, and assistant boatswain Ed Leckie, 40, are both volunteer lifeboatmen with the RNLI at Shoreham Harbour Lifeboat Station.
At any point in the day, they may have to down tools at work or dump their shopping to rush to the aid of a stricken sailor.
Ben, an RNLI deputy mechanic and crew member, learned to sail as a child at Sussex Yacht Club and he now enjoys his work there.
Ben said: “My job is to run the boatyard, so that’s lifting the boats in and out of the water, looking after the moorings and doing odd bits and pieces of maintenance on the boats as they are needed.
“We also maintain all our own machinery and boat hoists, so we’re always busy.
“I love getting out on the water, so it really suits me. It’s a job that’s lovely in the summer months but it can be a bit bleak in the winter.”
Ed, also a deputy mechanic, and a helmsman, had always wanted to join the RNLI but it was not until he moved to Shoreham that he lived close enough to make his dream possible.
He explained: “I grew up by the sea in Cornwall and had loved the lifeboats since I was small.
“So, as soon as I moved to Shoreham, I was straight into the lifeboat station to introduce myself within the first week of arriving. However, it took another four years before I managed to convince my family that it was a good idea for me to join.”
Ben and Ed carry pagers, which can go off at any time with an emergency lifeboat call.
Ed said: “We’re fortunate to have an understanding employer. Sussex Yacht Club is very supportive of our work with the RNLI.
“I’m also very lucky to work with Ben, who is both my boss and a good friend of mine, too. We’re quite close. We need to be able to trust each other implicitly, since both our work at the yacht club and our voluntary work with the RNLI can be dangerous at times.”
Ben added: “So long as we’re not in the middle of lifting a boat, Ed and I jump into our cars and head off to the lifeboat station as quickly as we can, which can mean we’re there in just two minutes.
“The coxswain picks the crew, which is dependent on the incident, who’s available and the boat we’re taking out. We’ll then get a briefing and put on the right kit, which could be as much as five layers and a life jacket.
“We might be going out to anything from a swimmer in trouble or an injured fisherman to a broken-down boat or someone vulnerable. We’re there for everyone and are on standby to all ships using the shipping lane, in case they get into trouble.”
Ed’s family are used to it by now and during the night, the may not even notice he has gone.
He said: “They are very understanding. They know that it’s very important and it’s practically the first thing that they tell people about me.
“You just never know when someone is going to find themselves in trouble and need our help. It can be in the middle of the night, when we’re at work, out shopping or eating our dinner. If the pager goes, then we’re straight out of the door.
“But I’m on autopilot, so in 30 seconds, I’m awake, dressed and starting up my car. It’s certainly something that’s always in the back of your mind, you never quite switch off.”
Ben said they can be on as many as six or seven shouts a week and some have lasted up to ten hours.
He added: “The nature of people needing our help is very unpredictable, so it’s entirely possible to be busy at work in the boatyard one minute and then, just five minutes later, going out of the harbour into a storm.
“I’d advise anyone thinking of taking a boat out to ensure that their vessel is suitable for the conditions, to check the weather in advance and wear a life jacket. Always carry the means to summon help, such as a VHF radio, flares and a mobile phone, but remember that phones only work inshore and are not a reliable means of communication.”
Ed feels closely connected to Shoreham life and says he can never walk down High Street without seeing someone he knows.
He said: “I’m really looking forward to the new Sussex Yacht Club HQ being built, since I think it will open it up to so many more people. We all live by the sea, so making sailing more easily accessible to everyone from the community is a positive step forward for the town.”