Meet Charlie, Chief Officer of 50m/165' ' motor yacht Malahne based in Antibes, who spends any free time he has serving as a coxswain onboard the Antibes Lifeboat.
The SNSM station in Antibes is made up of 34 volunteers, including 24 operational and 10 dedicated to administrative tasks, fundraising, running stands etc.
Volunteers are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to help anyone stranded at sea. They are located at the foot of the Port Vauban harbour master's office and are happy to welcome anyone visiting every Saturday morning.
We took them up on that offer and paid them a visit so Charlie's team took us out on one of their training exercises just off the ramparts in Antibes. It was a great opportunity to get a first-hand look at the monumental work they do and it gave us a chance to talk to Charlie about his experiences.
What's the main mission of Antibes Lifeboat?
Our main mission is to go out 365 days a year, 24 hours a day and save lives at sea.
How did you first get involved in the work of Antibes Lifeboat?
I first started at the age of 14 actually. I heard an add on Riviera Radio and they were looking for volunteers. Obviously at 14 I wasn't allowed to go out to sea at any rescues but I helped the guys out at the station. I was washing down the boat and doing the basic things and part of the training. Then, at the age of 16 I did my first rescue and I've been here ever since.
How do you manage both the role of being a yacht officer and working with Antibes Lifeboat?
So yes, I am also a Chief officer onboard a yacht named Malahne, based here at IYCA in Antibes. So, managing both that and my role as coxswain at Antibes Lifeboat can be quite tricky. In the summer I'm obviously out for the season with the yacht, so I try to make up for that as much as I can in the winter. And then if it happens that the yacht is here in the summer, I will be on call for the Lifeboat. I'm very lucky that our captain is really nice; he used to be part of RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) so he lets me go out when I need to during the day.
I give any of my time I have to help out at the Lifeboat station. We are on call 24/7 and each of us carries a pager that will ring when there is an emergency. Most of the time that is at 4am in the morning, and from when that pager goes off we have 15min to get out of bed or stop what we are doing, come down to the Lifeboat Station and go out to sea.
What's the most common reason you get called?
The most common reason for our call outs, I'd say 80% are people with battery failure, fuel failure, very basic things things that people can easily check before they go out to sea. The other 20% would be something more serious, things like medical emergencies, accidents, boat sinking or on fire.
Have you ever had a moment where you felt like you're in danger while saving someone?
There is always a sense of danger when going out to sea. We normally go out to sea when other boats are in the port, meaning we mostly go out when it's a bit rough. As far as real danger goes, I recall one rescue that happened before I was a coxswain, when I was a rescue swimmer. We went out to a vessel that had ran aground off he ramparts in Antibes with two casualties onboard. There was probably around 3 or 4 meters of swell and two of us swimmers went in to extract the casualties from the rocks. This was about 4am, where most the big accidents happen. We managed to get to the vessel, we extracted the casualties and managed to bring them back onboard the Lifeboat but obviously their boat was a write off. It was still a successful mission since the most important thing is that we saved the people.
How can someone join?
To join is pretty easy. You need to be able to speak fluent French since everyone down here is French, so that's the main thing. You need to live within 15min of the Lifeboat Station, so down by the Antibes port Vauban. Lastly, you need to be able to swim and that's all we ask, after that all the training can be done in-house.
How can yacht crew help and is there something they can do to make your job easier?
To help us out you guys can give us a call and come down to help us out with any mechanics or washing down and polishing the boat. If any of you speak French, then you can become part of the crew, if you can give enough time to be here. And after that any donations would be much appreciated.
Antibes Lifeboat is currently collecting money for an Inshore lifeboat (R. I. B)
We are trying to raise around 100k Euros to buy ourselves a new Inshore rescue boat so we are able to get on scene faster with hopefully a medical crew and also so we are able to go out during the day. The big boat we have now takes up 8 crew minimum to go out and that can be tricky during the day when most people are at work and only available after 5pm. Hence it would be really good to have a smaller boat that needs only 3 crew members so we are able to do our missions more easily and during the day. We would really appreciate any donations that would go towards that.
To find out more and send a donation in any amount visit the donation page.