Saying goodbye and welcoming RNLI’s new Lifeboat Operations Manager
With typical poignancy, not only did Sunday 9th of June mark Lifeboat Operations Manager Robin Rafferty’s 70th birthday, it was also his last day serving at RNLI Hunstanton after over 30 years of service. Rigil Kent, former Deputy Launching Authority, has now taken over the role. Here, Town & Around chat to them about their dedicated service at the RNLI.
Robin joined the RNLI in 1987. He was on the crew for 13 years, and served 5 or 6 years with the Auxiliary Coast Guards in Hunstanton and then became Lifeboat Operations Manager in 2003 and has served in the role ever since.
Explaining the tasks involved in the role, Robin said: “We’re available for taking the phone calls to launch the boat and we have to do the service returns, keep a radio log and also ensure that the crew are safe. One of the hardest things you have to do is to stop the crew from launching if the conditions are too rough.”
A day for reflection, the tragedies Robin experienced over the years is at the forefront of his mind: “When I was on the crew there were children that drowned and one got buried in a hole under the cliffs. Stuff like that sticks with you. We just want to see people safe.”
Though he has officially retired from service, Robin says that he wants to still be in the background, available for any assistance that the team may require.
Filling his position is Rigil Kent. Rigil, a longstanding member, says: “I’ve served 28 years in the RNLI. I joined when I was 16, but you’re not allowed to go to sea until you’re 17 so I was just helping out at the station.”
Humorously recalling his day of proper initiation, he says: “On my 17th birthday I was dumped in the North Sea and saw the boat disappearing into the distance. That’s what they used to do in those days—throw you overboard and see how you reacted! I remember hearing the Jaws theme tune in my head thinking they’ll be back for me in a minute.”
Just like Robin, Rigil initially started as a crewmember and has been in various roles throughout his time at the RNLI: “I’ve been on the crew, I’ve been a helmsman on the boat, a commander on the hovercraft and for the last 5 or 6 years I’ve been a Deputy Launching Authority.”
Acknowledging Robin’s legacy and his new role, Rigil admitted: “I am very nervous—it is a large pair of shoes to fill, Robin’s done a really good job. He’s looked after the station for many years. I just hope that I can do as good a job.”