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Scott Chasserot

Things you only know if you’re a Thames lifeboatman

Danielle Goldstein

…according to Craig Burn, 47.

London lifeboat crew live on the river

‘When the coastguard’s bell goes we have to launch the lifeboat within 90 seconds. Up on the coast the crew can live away from the pier and answer pagers, but that’s impossible in London because of the traffic. So I work four days on and four days off, and live at Tower Lifeboat Station, next to Waterloo Bridge. It’s pretty awesome.’

Most lifeboat crew are volunteers

‘We have five full-time members at Tower and a superb volunteer crew of 55 people who do at least two 12-hour shifts per month. Around the coast the majority of the crews are volunteers, carrying pagers to their day jobs and dropping everything when they go off. Lots of people don’t realise we’re a charity and assume we’re paid for by the government, but we rely on public donations to keep saving lives.’

All kinds of animals end up in the river

‘We’ve rescued lots of dogs from the river, some baby ducklings and a swan with a broken wing, and I’ve seen a great big dead python down by Tower Bridge. We’re not an animal rescue service, but we’d rather get involved to prevent a person going in after an animal and getting in trouble.’

Thames swimmers are eccentric types

‘The most bizarre job I’ve ever been to was up by Battersea, where there was a person swimming in the Thames like a porpoise. I asked him to get out and his reply was: “No – I’ve been watching videos of dolphins swimming and I’m practising!” We were there for over an hour trying to persuade him to get out of the freezing river while he dived under and came back up.’

Find out about RNLI’s Mayday fundraising campaign at

Now discover the things you only know if you’re a pub quiz mistress.

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