A long serving member of the Whitstable Lifeboat Station has retired from the crew after 38-years of service to the RNLI.
Lifeboat Helmsman Richard Judge joined as a launcher in 1980 following his father Mike into the crew at the age of 17 and then progressed to the seagoing crew before being made up to Helmsman at the age of 24.
Richard recalls that the station was equipped with its first Atlantic 21 lifeboat and covered the same area as it does today however most of the crew were drawn from those who lived or worked around the harbour and that it was much more informal in those days.
“I have no idea how many calls I have been on as I have not kept count”, he considers that one of his most memorable calls was to a large sail training yacht with 13 persons onboard aground in a north westerly gale between Seasalter and Faversham Creek. “We managed to tow the vessel off but it was pushing the capabilities of the lifeboat to it’s limits”.
He was also the helmsman when the lifeboat was launched to the coaster Johnno taking water off Leysdown in a force 7 gale. This was possibly the largest craft ever assisted by the Whitstable lifeboat and all three of the coaster’s crew were taken off the grounded vessel.
He also remembers an incident when the lifeboat was called to a 10-year old boy who had broken his arm and had it in a plaster cast and had been told not to go swimming so the lad went out on a lilo instead and had to be recovered a 1/2-mile offshore.
Say’s Richard,”The RNLI has had to become more formal over the years in how it trains and manages people and with changing health and safety legislation the institution has had to move with the times. When I started nearly all the crew had professional seagoing experience but today those people are just not available and all the training has to be done ‘in house’ as it were”.
“I have enjoyed my time on the crew and found it very rewarding and would do it all over again. I am grateful for the tolerance of my family over the years and the support of all the other members of the station from the fund-raisers to crew and management and I am very proud that my son Rob has recently been made up to helmsman and we have both served alongside each other as helms during my last few weeks as a operational member of the station”.
Former Whitstable Lifeboat Honorary Secretary Larry Lamberton said “Richard used to come over to the station when he was a young lad and we would find him some tasks. When he was old enough he joined the crew eventually become a helmsman. He has served the station with enthusiasm and dedication for 38-years and is a man with considerable experience, just the right sort of chap to have with you on a call’.