Happisburgh Lifeboat stalwart Cubitt retires after 38 years - for real this time

Cubitt Siely, centre, is retiring from his position as helmsman at Happisburgh lifeboat station. Pic

Cubitt Siely, centre, is retiring from his position as helmsman at Happisburgh lifeboat station. Pictured with daughter Charlotte and son Cubitt junior on the Atlantic lifeboat. - Credit: Archant

Danger, adrenalin rushes, seamanship and team work have been a major part of RNLI lifeboat crew member Cubitt Siely's life for nearly four decades.

Cubitt Siely, a volunteer crew member at Happpisburgh lifeboat station.

Cubitt Siely, a volunteer crew member at Happpisburgh lifeboat station. - Credit: Submitted

But now Mr Siely, who celebrated his 55th birthday yesterday, has steered his last lifeboat safely home to shore, stepped onto dry land, and into retirement - finally.

RNLI rules now say that inshore lifeboat crew, such as those at Happisburgh where Mr Siely lives and volunteers, must retire at 55. But a decade ago the age limit was 45, later increased to 50.

Mr Siely did retire as senior helmsman at 50 but was delighted when, within a year, the RNLI increased the age limit to 55 and he was able to rejoin as a helm.

He is guarded about the possibility of yet another age extension, saying: 'You've got to be a little bit sensible about your body and your age and know when to stop doing it.'


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During his 38 years of voluntary service with Happisburgh Lifeboat, there have been 251 launches and some 40 lives have been saved by Mr Siely and his fellow crew.

Although sad to finish, Mr Siely is pleased that his daughter Charlotte, 24 and 22-year-old son, also Cubitt, are following in their father's sea boots.

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Like dad, both joined the lifeboat crew at the age of 17. Charlotte has just qualified as a helm on the station's larger Atlantic 75 boat, while Cubitt junior is training to be a helm on the smaller D Class lifeboat.

'If I look back on the last 38 years there's nothing much I regret – except that I wish I was 20 years younger!' said Cubitt senior, who runs a family farm in Happisburgh.

'It's good to know my children are carrying on. They are the future.'

He first caught the lifesaving bug as a schoolboy when he would volunteer to be the casualty winched up the cliff during training sessions organised by the auxiliary coastguard which included his own father.

In his early days with Happisburgh Lifeboat Mr Siely remembers that it was only operational during daylight hours in holiday season. Today it is ready to launch 24/7.

Crew meet to train twice a week and there is almost as much satisfaction in an exercise well executed by a team which works well together as there is in an actual rescue, according to Mr Siely.

He plans to continue in his training co-ordinator role for the time being, and will become a shore-based deputy launch authority.

Tim Grimmer senior helm said: 'This is a fantastic commitment to life saving on the north Norfolk coast. Cubitt will be missed on the crew but we are glad he is staying part of the team at Happisburgh'.

? Cubitt Siely remembers a rescue which took place only a few months after he joined the Happisburgh Lifeboat crew when they launched to find a seven-year-old girl whose inflatable boat had drifted out to sea off Walcott.

As they drew alongside what appeared to be an empty boat about half a mile offshore, they heard a child sobbing and saw that she was curled up in the bottom of the boat.

'I remember her face when she saw us,' said Mr Cubitt. 'And how she clutched at one of the other crew. The boat could have turned over - it could have been so different. There was a tearful reunion with her parents on the beach. It gave me a buzz to be part of it all.'

In 2007 he helped rescue nine divers after a dive boat drifted on its anchor while they were diving.

Happisburgh Lifeboat managed to cram seven aboard with their equipment and Mr Siely co-ordinated other lifeboats and a rescue helicopter so that the final two were also safely rescued.

On another occasion he was among the crew who launched in very rough seas after a kite surfer got into trouble.

The kite surfer was swept unharmed on to the beach but Mr Siely and his fellow crew members needed all their expertise and '100pc focus' to bring the lifeboat safely ashore.

He recalled: 'They were the most extreme conditions I ever launched in. The boat was at the limit of its capabilities.'

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