“I began volunteering with Coastguard soon after moving to Waiheke Island, when a friend invited me to come along and take part. I was immediately bitten by the bug and since then, I’ve stayed and grown with the unit and am now a Senior Master Skipper.
Coastguard can be a challenging service to be involved in, but it’s got extremely high returns when you help to save someone. I also thoroughly enjoy belonging to the Coastguard family. We’re a bit like a band of brothers and sisters in that we’re all extremely supportive of each other and passionate about what we’re doing. Time on the water is just one element of my position; there is much time spent beyond the boat, with fundraising, committee meetings, and our theory and practical training. But I really credit my team for sharing duties and supporting each other with everything.
There are very high standards at Coastguard, and volunteers are required to have professionalism and ability as well as being able to be rescued at the drop of a hat. I’m fortunate being a self-employed builder, but it can be difficult, especially when you’ve been at work all day and the pager goes off. Coastguard is like being an All Black who’s completed all the training and told they’re not on the team until 10 minutes before kick-off. Within minutes, you have to be on the boat fully committed and focused.
We see a lot of situations that probably could have been avoided. Boaties are not bullet proof and the sea sometimes takes prisoners, but usually takes victims. Having to deal with the families of those victims is a very sad occasion, especially in a local situation.
The sole reason that keeps me coming back day after day is that I’m making a difference and saving lives, and after 18 years of service, I’ve come across all kinds of situations. On one of my most memorable rescues, a boat had left Great Barrier Island and was taking on water. My crew and I helped save five children, a woman and an elderly man on board. I remember the children running up to me later and calling us heroes. There are no words to describe the feeling of bringing someone home. The fact you made a difference and people are alive because of what you have done is a hell of a buzz.”