RNLI volunteers ready for action if the callout comes over Christmas

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A crew from Portsmouth's RNLI station, in Ferry Road, Southsea, will be on call throughout the festive period in case there is an accident at sea.

The volunteers will be poised to leave their turkey-laden plates behind should they receive an emergency call.

John Shaw, an RNLI helmsman, is one of six volunteers who will be on call around the clock from Christmas Eve until New Year's Day.

'My other half has got used to it now, at least,' said 37-year-old John, of Garnier Street, Landport.

'I've been on call on Christmas Day for a good few years now.

'It's not too bad. Obviously it means you can't drink and you can't go too far away.

'The only time I was ever called out was about five years ago when a man fell overboard after going out on his dinghy somewhere near the harbour entrance.

'Unfortunately he had a heart attack and passed away.'

John, who has been a volunteer with the RNLI for 10 years, is urging anyone thinking of going out on the water over the next week to stay on the land.

He said: 'If anyone is thinking about going out on the water in the cold conditions on Christmas Day, I would say: don't.

'It's far better to wait until the warmer months, nearer the summer, than to risk it.

'But if you are going to go out, make sure you wear a lifejacket.'

Across the country, the number of RNLI lifeboat launches during the festive period has risen.

Last year, the charity's volunteers in the UK and Ireland were called out 106 times over the Christmas and new year period.

Of these incidents, 59 per cent took place during hours of darkness.

Crews from Portsmouth's lifeboat station were not called out last year.

Andrew Ashton, the RNLI's divisional inspector, said: 'It never ceases to amaze me that the families of volunteer crew and shore helpers remain as committed to saving lives at sea during the festive season as the volunteers themselves.

'This dedication to helping others is at the very heart of the charity - even in these difficult economic times our volunteers put others before themselves time and again.

'Not forgetting our army of fund-raisers who continue with their efforts through the winter months attending all manner of outdoor events, and our supporters who continue to donate.

'It is an appropriate time of year to recognise this commitment and to say "thank you" on behalf of those who have been rescued.'

If you are interested in helping to save lives at sea, you can become a volunteer or make a donation to the RNLI by visiting rnli.org.uk