10 October 2014

Jason Hughes, Cowes

Age: 47

Station: Cowes

Role: Trainee Crew Member

Day job: I’m a commercial property developer. It’s a family business that rents out shops and offices, and buys and sells properties.

How long have you been with the RNLI, and how did you first get involved?

I joined the crew as a result of meeting the Lifeboat Operations Manager Mark Southwell through my local sailing club (Gurnard Sailing Club).

‘It was, to us, a simple towing job, but we made two people so pleased to see us.’
Jason Hughes
Volunteer Crew Member, Cowes

I spent a lot of my childhood in Salcombe in Devon in the 1980s. Salcombe lifeboats were quite well-known to a lot of people; my parents were friends with a lot of the crew. As a teenager I used to attend the Salcombe Lifeboat Disco every Summer, which was a big fundraiser for them. I’d be there with the flags and the tin. And when I got into sailing myself 20 years ago, I became a member. When I moved to this area, I met Mark who said: ‘Have you thought about becoming a lifeboatman? Because you have quite a few skills that would come in handy.' And that was it. It seemed like a logical progression.

What’s the best thing about it?

It’s a bit of a cliché but it really is giving something back to the community. Being a yachtsman you appreciate what can happen out there when it doesn’t go quite to plan. You can go out to help somebody in a bad situation. This morning’s shout is a classic. It was, to us, a simple towing job, but we made two people so pleased to see us, it makes it all worthwhile. It’s just going out there and being of some use to people.

And the worst?

Having to recover a body from the water and helping the police with their enquiries, which is very serious and pretty grim.

Or when the pager goes off at 2am or 3am – that’s not great. But we’ve got a really good group of people here, and you get down here and you all perk each other up and you get the tea on, and it’s all okay.

Tell me about a particular rescue that stands out in your mind.

My first ever shout was half a mile round the corner to rescue a jetskier who had broken down. He didn’t even want us to get him back into Cowes, just back to shore.

Then last year, towards Christmas time, we had a body recovery. Some poor chap had decided that enough was enough and he’d gone into the water and we had to help the police to get the body back. Suddenly it’s very, very serious, and these are the two extremes that we have.

What have you learned in your time at the RNLI?

I’ve been a supporter of the RNLI for as long as I can remember. When I was a child I remember being with my mum rattling a tin. But it’s not until you become involved that you get to know the whole organisation, and what’s behind it, and the support the crews get.

Also, the RNLI will teach you. You think you know how to do something from your Yachtmaster, for example rigging a tow, and then your RNLI instructor says: ‘Actually, have you thought of doing it this way or that way?’ Then I can take that skill off to my sailing and teach people on yachts.

What other hobbies do you have?

I am a qualified cruising instructor with the RYA and I hold a commercially endorsed Yachtmaster certificate. My children sail (or in the case of my eldest, used to sail) dinghies. I don’t tend to sail anything under 10m – it’s a bit too wet for me! I don’t have my own yacht – it’s cheaper to sail other people’s yachts, which I do a lot of.

What do your family and friends think of your involvement with the RNLI?

I’m married to Sarah and have twin boys, Joey and Harry (13) who are aspiring lifeboatmen. I have two older children, Zeffi (20) and Peter (23).

My children are incredibly proud. They get really good bragging rights to say their dad is on the lifeboat when they go to school. Zeffi has had a boyfriend or two who are sailors or part of the sailing fraternity, and when I’ve got my crew shirt on, they say: ‘Respect!’

Where do you call home?

Home is Gurnard on the Isle of Wight where I’ve been for 6 years now. Before that I was in Banbury in Oxfordshire, which is as far from the sea as you can possibly get!

What’s up next for you? What are your plans for the future?

I am aiming to become a full crew member. I’m on target to pass all my training units and get crew training at the College in my first 12 months.