Covid challenges all in a day's work for Anne and Buckie RNLI
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RUNNING an RNLI lifeboat station for the first time would be few people's idea of an easy billet, but throw in a global pandemic to the challenge and it takes on a new dimension.
However, that is just what Buckie RNLI's Lifeboat Operations Manager (LOM) Anne Scott has been doing since she took over the post last summer from previous incumbent Joe Herd, who retired from the role after many years' service.
She is no stranger to the maritime search and rescue charity and its volunteers, having worked for the last 20 years as a fund-raiser for the RNLI. Her family association with the organisation goes back even further, with her father Ian Jack serving as a member of the Cromarty crew then, after that station closed, the one in Aberdeen. He was to receive the Silver Medal from the RNLI for bravery during his years of service.
Her uncle was the coxswain of the Broughty Ferry lifeboat.
However, nothing could have prepared her or the team at Buckie RNLI for Covid.
"It's certainly not what I expected, that's for sure," Mrs Scott said.
"A huge part of Buckie RNLI is the family spirit we have, so not being able to meet regularly face-to-face has been a huge challenge in many ways.
"However, as always we pulled together and have largely managed to get round many aspects of this thanks to social media. Due to the current Covid regulations the station is closed but we do get to see each other when there's a shout [emergency call-out].
"When the first lockdown came in during March face-to-face training – which would normally take place twice a week on a Thursday and Sunday – stopped before getting up and running again once a week when the Covid rules relaxed later on last year.
"However, we're back to keeping in touch through Zoom and Teams until further notice."
While a large number of the public would associate the RNLI with images of lifeboats speeding out to sea to save lives the daily reality is somewhat different, with the shouts being the tip of the iceberg to a certain extent.
Mrs Scott continued: "My day-to-day role could basically be described as bringing together the shore and sea-based side of the station and liaising between the two to help ensure we're in the best position possible to save lives at sea.
"We have a saying in the RNLI that we are one crew and all save lives in different ways and one of the most important roles of a LOM is bringing that all together.
"The coxswain is in charge of the lifeboat but one of my jobs is to make the crew have everything they need to do their job safely and effectively.
"There's a lot of responsibility on the shore side, too. The Deputy Launching Authorities, for example, are, as the name suggests, tasked with authorising the launch of the lifeboat.
"We've a volunteer fund-raising team whose efforts, like their counterparts up and down the country, are vital to keeping the RNLI's maritime life-saving mission running. Covid restrictions meant that our usual Harbour Days and face-toface fundraising were postponed last year, which obviously had a huge impact on income. We are extremely grateful for the support of organisations throughout the area, who have found imaginative ways to fundraise during this time.
"Being a LOM is a very responsible role, there's no getting away from that. The first time my pager went off after I took over from Joe it was scary, but at the same time very good, very rewarding.
"Alongside that, there's the inevitable paperwork which has to be done on an ongoing basis.
"There's a saying we have in the RNLI that we all save lives in different ways and that's very true in Buckie. We're a team, we're a family."
The RNLI have had their roots deep in local communities since first being formed back in 1824 and getting back to the grassroots once the scourge of Covid has passed remains a huge 2021 priority for Mrs Scott.
"Obviously it's difficult to say how 2021 is going to turn out but the vaccine gives up hope of a return to normality of some sort in the not too distant future.
"What I really want to do is get back to having a lot more involvement in the community which we are very much part of.
"Whether that's being able to open up the station to visits to getting out to schools and other groups to spread the safety message.
"The community has always been generous to the RNLI and has continued to be so during the pandemic; we want to show them how their money has been spent and to thank them for it.
"We're looking forward to getting back where we belong."
For more information about Buckie RNLI, or to enquire about joining the crew or fund-raising team, visit the lifeboat station Facebook page.