“I’ve spent the last two Christmases with my flood bag packed in the car, on standby!” – Jen

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I joined Penarth lifeboat station as a trainee crew member in July 2008. I had recently moved to the area and wanted to get involved in the community somehow. A colleague who was already a helmsman at the lifeboat station suggested I became a crew member. I was told when I visited the lifeboat station that if I wanted to join it would be a serious hobby I was taking on and that I needed to give as much time as possible to the training. The appeal for me was the challenge of learning a new skill (actually a huge set of new skills!) and meeting and getting to know people in the area. I also had a draw to learn the skills as my aunt had sadly drowned whilst out on a yacht back in 1960, and I wanted to be part of a team who had the ability to go out and help people like her who get into difficulties.

Within two years I became a fully trained crew member and I am now training to be a helm myself. The excitement and discipline of a shout is immense. Putting into action the training you have been doing. In the first year when the pagers went off I’d find by the time I got in the water to launch the boat I’d have shaky legs and thought, god I’ve got to get fitter! But I soon realised it was the adrenaline giving me shaky legs! I’ve learnt to channel the adrenaline now to better use. It’s especially helpful using it to help wake me up properly before getting on the boat when we have our shouts in the middle of the night.

I joined the Flood Rescue team, West Division in 2012; learning how to stay safe in fast flowing water and how to execute different rescue scenarios.

I’ve spent the last two Christmases with my flood bag packed in the car, on standby! It’s like having a shout that you know is coming, you just don’t know when and you’re continually making adjustments in your life just in case the call comes in and you have to go. My family and boyfriend are extremely understanding and so is my work, which I am extremely grateful for. In fact some of my presents this year were items for my flood bag! Waterproof mobile phone holder and gadgets that will charge my mobile phone without a plug point.

This Christmas the West flood team were all on standby but to different areas. Seeing the support the RNLI Flood Rescue Team gave to those people in both North Wales and Aberystwyth who were either completely stranded or flooded out of their homes makes me very proud to be part of the team. Being one of those people who can put a smile on someone’s face who really has got a lot on their plate is a great feeling.

Life in Cardiff is great as the adventure facilities continue to expand. The white water rafting centre has been great for a bit of fun on the water as well as training days for the Flood Rescue Team – we’ve even put cars in there to train with. Indoor surfing at the centre is my next challenge! I’m so lucky to have adventure races right on my doorstep with the Cardiff Burn running in Cardiff giving me a chance to get my bike, kayak and running legs out. With talk of a real-snow indoor ski slope coming to Cardiff too it really is an exciting place to live!

Jen Payne is a Cardiff local who volunteers as a crew member at Penarth RNLI lifeboat station.

The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea. The RNLI relies on public donations and legacies to maintain its 24-hour rescue service. To find out more about the RNLI and how you can donate, click here: http://bit.ly/1f4Mlhd

Jen was photographed at Penarth lifeboat station by Ffion Matthews

If you’re interested in the history of the RNLI in Wales, Phil Carradice recently wrote an interesting piece on them for BBC Wales Blogs.

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