07 Dec 2018
From patrolling the streets to rescuing people at sea, a Tenby man is leading a double life as both a Dyfed-Powys Police officer and a volunteer with the RNLI.
PC Rob Garland comes from a family with an astonishing 180 years of combined service to the lifeboat service in Tenby, and gives up his free time to help people and animals in danger at sea.
He has spoken about his experiences as Dyfed-Powys Police celebrates its officers and staff who give up their time for other agencies as part of the UN’s International Volunteer Day.
PC Garland, who joined the RNLI at the age of 17, said: “Being in Tenby, I spent most of my time down the harbour, on the beaches and was always in and out of boats. It was a natural thing for me to do.
“My family have a long tradition with the Tenby RNLI. My great-grandfather was the coxswain (skipper), as was my great-uncle, while other uncles and my grandfather were also on the crew.
“It was kind of inevitable I was going to join.”
Not only does he have RNLI in the family, but PC Garland explained that the crew itself is a community who combine their efforts to get the job done.
“We have a great crew in Tenby, we all know we are there to do a job however we do have a laugh with it also,” he said. “We do lots of events within the community and work close in hand with all partner agencies at these events.
“However, when the pager goes off, everyone is immediately focused and the professional approach is unrivalled.”
The jobs PC Garland and the crew are called to range from helping disabled fishing trawler, heading out to broken down cargo ships that weigh over 150 times the weight of the lifeboat, or to children in an inflatable dingy being blown off the beach. He added that more and more, the crew is called to help animals in distress.
“Recent years have seen an increase in us going to dogs over cliffs, as the dog may still be alive in the water, and also to ensure the safety of the dog owner,” he said. “If they know help is on the way, it can and does stop them from taking extreme risks in going into sea or scaling down cliffs to get their pet.
“Being a dog owner myself, it’s hard to see a dog that has fallen 60 meters on the rocks below and the owner distraught trying to get to it. We do our best to recover the dog provided its safe for us to do so and to bring the dog back to the owner in a respectful and dignified way.”
PC Garland is on the crew of Tenby’s two lifeboats, and explained that the smaller inshore lifeboat d-class is used for searches and rescues in the surf, shallow water and confined locations - often close to cliffs, among rocks and even inside caves. The other boat is the bigger all-weather Tamar class, which can go to sea in any weather and is self-righting in the event of capsizing.
Looking back over shout-outs, he said: “Back in October 2017, we launched the all-weather boat into very rough storm 10 conditions during Storm Brian to reports or a person having been washed off the rocks.
“During the shout, I fractured my hand due to the impact of the waves on the boat, which was regularly being submerged by large waves. Thankfully it turned out to be a false alarm with good intent.
“I also remember launching in February 2016 s to a cargo ship which had suffered engine failure south of Caldey Island and was adrift. We launched to assist and to hold it off Caldey Island until a salvage tug arrived.
“The waves on this shout were some of the largest I have seen, they even dwarfed the cargo ship that was 94 meters in length. Thankfully, the cargo ship missed Caldey Island dropped its anchor to the east where we stood by for a few hours to ensure that it was no longer drifting.”
As a police officer, PC Garland fits call-outs around his shifts – even attending a shout minutes after getting back into bed following a night shift.
“I am aware that as a police officer my day job comes first,” he said. “I am a volunteer with the RNLI, however it does not pay my wages.
“Once I am home, having finished a shift, I will turn my pager on and answer the call should it come in. On my rest days or annual leave if I am in Tenby I will always carry my pager with me.
“It has come to the point where if my partner and I go out for a meal that I always leave my wallet and car keys with her, as I have left her in the restaurant taking them with me, which can take a bit of explaining to the staff.”