Eyes are being peeled at Coastwatch ahead of busy season for volunteer team
PUBLISHED: 06:00 03 June 2018
Binoculars are at the ready at Gorleston Coastwatch ahead of the busy summer season.
The station’s watchkeepers are responsible for surveying the coast, keeping an eye out for suspicious activity and potential danger.
Following a recent appeal by this newspaper, five people have enquired about volunteering at the station, with four joining up in Caister.
Ivor Hacon has begun his training in Gorleston and will spend the next few months learning the syllabus before a watchkeeper test.
Mr Hacon said: “I saw the article and thought it was an interesting thing to get involved with.
“It’s something to contribute to the community. I’m a trained pilot and I’ve always been interested in navigation.
Steve Mulley, deputy station manager, said the new recruits were a great bonus for the station - taking the total number of volunteers to 42 - but more would be welcome ahead of the busy summer.
“Suddenly now the air show has come around everyone who never does weekends have put their names down for the Saturday and Sunday,” he laughed.
“It’s a pretty busy port anyway and it will get busier with the planned windfarms.
“Plus in summer we operate an additional four hour shift, keeping watch from 8am to 8pm, and people fall over, go on holidays - so our arms are always open to more volunteers.”
The station was one of the very first to be established by the National Coastwatch Institution in 1995 and 90-year-old retired sailor, Ken Speller, is one of the station’s longest serving watchkeepers, having volunteered for 15 years.
He said: “It’s fun. It’s a good group of people, it gets me out the house and it’s good exercise walking down the pier.”
Volunteers at the station maintain a log of all activities in the area, which can be used to assist the Border Force in tracking suspicious vessels and tackling drug smuggling.
Watchkeepers can also offer vital local knowledge and provide potentially life-saving alerts to the coastguard.
Watchkeepers, Garry Hitchings, said: “We’ve had people jump in. A few years ago it happened and we called the coastguard who were able to save them.” For volunteer details call 01493 440 384.