Pwllheli RNLI Volunteer Lifeboat Operations Manager retires after 19 years


Pwllheli RNLI volunteer Cliff Thomas is stepping down as the station’s director of lifeboat operations, but will continue to volunteer for the charity as assistant launch authority.

Cliff has been a volunteer at RNLI Pwllheli for almost 50 years. He joined in 1975 as an inshore lifeboat crew aged 21, becoming an emergency mechanic on the all-weather lifeboat in 1981.

He says: “When I first joined the charity, all the crew lived and worked in the city, so they were always close by. Now a lot of the crew works out of town, so we need more crew to cover availability. If you’re considering joining the RNLI, do it – there’s a lot of satisfaction. It’s a fantastic feeling to know that you’ve made a difference in someone’s life.

After nearly 30 years saving lives at sea, Cliff retired from the ship’s crew in 2003, but not from the RNLI when he volunteered as Honorary Secretary – a role which has become the responsible for the operations of the volunteer lifeboats (LOM). Cliff has seen many changes over the years, including bigger and faster lifeboats.

“In 1979, the Oakley-class lifeboat was open and wooden and had two 35 horsepower engines with a top speed of eight knots. The old boat took two hours to get to Bardsey Island. Now , our state-of-the-art Shannon lifeboat is powered by two 650 horsepower engines with a speed of over 25 knots and we can get to Bardsey in half an hour.

Cliff explains: “As a LOM, when the pager rings, I phone the Coastguard who advise me of the nature of the emergency. I decide what resources to deploy, then call the crew to let them know which lifeboats will be launched. I also spend a lot of time meeting the public at the rescue station. But, I am not retiring from the RNLI and will continue to volunteer as a Deputy Launching Authority.

RNLI Pwllheli’s new Director of Lifeboat Operations, Andy Vowell, said: ‘It is a great honor for me to take on the position of Director of Lifeboat Operations at Pwllheli Lifeboat Station. I really look forward to working with everyone at Pwllheli and being part of a professional team ready to help and save lives at sea 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Notes to Editor

Attached are photos of:

  1. Cliff Thomas at RNLI Pwllheli Lifeboat Station. Credits: RNLI Pwllheli

RNLI press contact

For more information, contact Elizabeth Perry, RNLI Pwllheli Lifeboat Press Officer on 07806 800627 or email [email protected] You can also contact the RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 or email [email protected]

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The charity RNLI saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service along the coasts of the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The RNLI operates 238 lifeguard stations in the UK and Ireland and over 240 lifeguard units on beaches in the UK and the Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of the coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its lifesaving service. Since the RNLI’s inception in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved more than 142,700 lives.

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