Karla takes Command
Lifeboats can be called out at any time – as the experience of Minehead crew member Karla Thresher has shown.
Just as she was kitting up to go afloat for a crucial promotion assessment the station received an emergency call to rescue two boys cut off by the tide three miles away at Blue Anchor.
Immediately Karla found herself in charge of the station’s D class boat and speeding to the scene - with her RNLI assessor and fellow crew member Phil Sanderson both aboard.
But there was a doubly positive outcome to events: the boys managed to scramble back to the beach safely and two hours later Karla, aged 28, was passed out to become a D class helm – the first woman qualified to take command of a Minehead lifeboat in the station’s 117-year history.
Her success means she will now be called on day or night to lead rescue missions anywhere between Hinkley Point and Lynmouth in the five-metre, 25-knot inflatable D class – regarded as the workhorse of the RNLI’s fleet.
And in theory she could at any time find herself in charge of an all-female team: health service worker Karla is one of five women crew members at the station.
Karla’s promotion comes 12 years after she first signed up as a member of the shore crew and follows 18 months of intensive training, including a week spent at the RNLI College in Poole. It’s also reinforced a long-standing family link with the Minehead station – her great-uncle Harold Bushen was coxswain there 50 years ago.
Karla said being called out on a real shout just as she was about to undergo her final assessment was a stroke of luck.
“It really helped me get over my nerves: I was so intent on reaching those boys that it took my mind off everything else,” she said.
“It’s a huge thrill to be the first woman helm at the station but I couldn’t have done it without the support of the rest of the crew – the men as well as the women.
“But managing finally to continue the family link is probably the most rewarding part of it.”
Minehead RNLI local operations manager Dr John Higgie said Karla had devoted a huge amount of determination and effort to achieving her coveted promotion.
“She has made great strides in terms of personal fitness and has really thrown herself into learning all the theory, as well as mastering boat handling,” he said.
“She is a wonderful ambassador for women in the RNLI.”
And Minehead RNLI chairman Bryan Stoner said the whole station was immensely proud of Karla’s achievement.
“She’s utterly dedicated to the RNLI – and now she will be an invaluable asset to us, not only as a helm but in passing on her knowledge and skills to the next generation of lifeboat crew,” he said.
For further information or for interview requests contact:-
Chris Rundle, press officer, RNLI Minehead 01984 639026 or 07786 630523
Key facts about the RNLI
The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.