Saving lives at sea for three decades

Glenn Goodberry kitted up for a shout  w130302a
Glenn Goodberry kitted up for a shout w130302a
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FOR 30 years Glenn Goodberry dedicated his life to saving the lives of those in danger off the Whitby coastline, and last week he was honoured with a long-service medal.

As lead mechanic for Whitby’s RNLI lifeboats, Glenn is responsible for ensuring both the inshore lifeboat, the OEM Stone III and the £1.2m all-weather George and Mary Webb are ready for service at a moment’s notice.

Glenn Goodberry in the boat's engine  w130302d

Glenn Goodberry in the boat's engine w130302d

For the former carpenter, his journey with the RNLI began in 1982 when his friend and lifeboat crewmember Tony Sparsis introduced him to the then coxswain, Peter Thompson.

Glenn joined the crew and after a year graduated to the role of helmsman on board the White Rose of Yorkshire, Whitby’s lifeboat at that time.

In those early years Glenn said he became hooked on the adrenaline rush he got each time a call came in, but the reality of the role soon became apparent. His first major job was to search for a woman who had been knocked overboard from a small cabin cruiser. Glenn said: “It was a very poor night and this poor chap, his partner had been washed overboard. He put out a mayday and spent all night searching for her. It was a long, cold night and sadly his partner was never found.

“When you first join you think you are going to rescue everybody, but sometimes you are recovering bodies. It’s a fact of life.”

w074721a Rough Sea Rescue DJ'Whitby Lifeboat, RAF Leaconfield Sea-King and a Great North Air Ambulance all took part in the rescue of 3 fool hardy people who went put to sea in a small cabin cruiser. In the the severe conditions the cabin cruiser was capsized and two casualties were plucked from the sea on the west side of the pier with one being winched into the sea-king from below the abbey. Picture shows Lifeboat heading towards casualty'In NEWS.. PICTURE BY DOUG JACKSON

w074721a Rough Sea Rescue DJ'Whitby Lifeboat, RAF Leaconfield Sea-King and a Great North Air Ambulance all took part in the rescue of 3 fool hardy people who went put to sea in a small cabin cruiser. In the the severe conditions the cabin cruiser was capsized and two casualties were plucked from the sea on the west side of the pier with one being winched into the sea-king from below the abbey. Picture shows Lifeboat heading towards casualty'In NEWS.. PICTURE BY DOUG JACKSON

For the young lifeboatman, they are able to recover from these tragedies thanks to the comradeship and support of their senior colleagues.

At the start of Glenn’s career coxswain Peter Thompson guided him through the early years. “He instilled a lot of confidence in the crew,” said Glenn. “When you first go to sea you are worried and frightened, but you look at people like Pete and Mike Coates and you put your trust in them and your training carries you through.”

Now, after three decades, Glenn finds himself in the role of elder statesman, alongside coxswain Mike Russell. He added: “I get a lot of joy seeing a daft young lad come through the door and in five years you have got a fine lifeboatman.”

In 1993 Pete Thompson retired and Glenn took up the role of mechanic, the first time he had received a salary for his role on the lifeboat. A daily maintenance schedule ensures the role is full-time, but he keeps with him a lesson learned during those early years.

Glnen Goodberry sweeps snow from the top of the all weather lifeboat  w130302c

Glnen Goodberry sweeps snow from the top of the all weather lifeboat w130302c

One Monday he returned to the boat to discover its lights shining dimly - he had left some systems on and the lifeboat’s battery was drained. Had the crew received an emergency call, they would not have been able to immediately respond. “That was a harsh lesson that I will never ever forget,” said Glenn. “Now it’s check, check and double check.”

However, his role does not stop when an emergency call is received, as Glenn travels on each call-out to monitor the lifeboat’s systems, including two MAN v10 engines that each create 860bhp and are capable of propelling the boat at a top speed of 25knots. He is also responsible for monitoring communications.

One of the most tragic incidents Glenn has witnessed occured in November 2007. He was stood in the boathouse and saw a yacht, named Last Call, heading past, approaching atrocious seas. Glenn tried to reach the craft on the radio to warn them of the danger. Unable to make contact, he explained what happened next: “I said to Howard ‘go push the buttons’ because I’ve got this sick feeling that something’s going to go wrong.”

Battered in 30ft waves, the yacht overturned almost as soon as it left the harbour. Two male passengers were thrown overboard, while a female was trapped on board. Despite the lifeboat launching immediately, all three lost their lives. “You look at that and you think to yourself, three people have just lost their lives in the space of three minutes,” said Glenn. “You feel sick, a sense of hoplessness. Despite your best efforts there’s nothing you can do for those people and they stick with you forever.”

Glenn Goodberry aboard the all weather lifeboat   w130302b

Glenn Goodberry aboard the all weather lifeboat w130302b

With his entire life dedicated to the RNLI, the 54-year-old father of two said that he has had to make sacrifices in his family life.

From being called away halfway through a meal at the Marine, to missing Christenings, disruption of family life is an everyday occurance when lives are on the line.

“Because of the hours we’re on call, you’re restricted as a dad and a husband to what you can do,” he said, and so the support of wife Angela is invaluable. However, she is chairperson of the fund-raising group Friends of Whitby Lifeboat and Glenn said: “She’s always been there to support me in what I do. It’a massive commitment and it does have an impact so if you didn’t love the job you wouldn’t do it. But there’s not a day when I don’t want to come to work.”