Martin hangs up the drysuit after 30 years

Martin Hopkinson has ratired after 30 years with Staithes lifeboat
Martin Hopkinson has ratired after 30 years with Staithes lifeboat

WHen Martin Hopkinson joined the crew of the Staithes lifeboat 30 years ago it was because he wanted to “give something back”.

And he certainly did that because in that time he has been credited with saving 78 lives.

But now he has hung up his drysuit for good after a distinguished service which saw him put his life at risk on many an occasion to help save others.

One of the most dangerous and dramatic incidents was when Staithes piers were being lashed with water and two fishermen were trapped at the end.

They had managed to make contact with the lifeboat crew via a mobile phone but the conditions were horrendous.

Recalling that night Martin said: “It was in the days before the piers were rock armoured. I went out to have a word with them and they were hanging on to the end of the concrete verge.

“I told them to stay where they were while the lifeboat went out through the piers - it was the only way it could go - but it was a bad tide and I got washed off my feet and slid down the pier.

“The water was going up and down and they were clinging on. I told them whatever you do don’t jump until I say but as soon as they saw the boat they just jumped and bounced in.”

One of the more complex rescues Martin took part in involved a family that had been cut off by the tide and were on the beach.

Martin said: “The coastguard and helicopter couldn’t get to them and we had to go in on a line, put them in a dry suit and swim them back out through the surf. It was quite complicated because there were so many of us going in and out.”

Martin of Cliff Road joined up when he was about 18 and at the time he was a fisherman and had a boat, Rachel-Ann, with his brother.

“I was drawn to the sea and in those days there were a lot of fisherman involved with the lifeboat.

“You never know when you are going to need it and I felt it worked both ways.”

However, he has decided to retire from the crew and while he couldn’t possibly recall the number of shouts he has been on in 30 years - the first was to recover the body of someone who had committed suicide - taking pride of place in his home is the certificate which credits him with saving 78 lives.

Since retiring from the crew Martin (49) will to spend more time with his disabled daughter and take up his cycling hobby again.

“It has been some of the best times I have ever had. The whole set up of the RNLI from training to everything else is the best in the world.

“It is good it’s voluntary, we don’t have the cut backs like other government agencies.”