Four decades of Lifeboat service comes to an end at midnight on the 22nd November 2016, Happisburgh RNLI Station will see the end of an era when Cubitt Siely retires from the crew after 38 year service, which is the maximum time any crew member can spend on the crew of an inshore lifeboat. In this time there has been 251 service launches saving 40 lives at Happisburgh. Cubitt almost stood down twice before, when he was 45 and 50 when each time the retirement age had been put up but this has not happened this time so after all these years he is retiring from the crew but not the station.
Cubitt joined the crew at the start of the season in 1979, this was when Happisburgh Lifeboat only operated from Easter to October each year and only in daylight. One of his first callouts was to an inflatable boat drifting off the coast at Walcott; on arrival on scene the crew spotted the inflatable, ½ mile off the beach. When they got alongside they found a 7 year-old little girl crying in the bottom of the boat. This brought home to Cubitt why he had joined the crew and became part of the RNLI family.
In the late 80s he was passed out as a Helmsman by the Divisional Inspector. Cubitt has always taken a full part in the crew, working hard to improve on his own skills and help others do the same; in 1994 he was appointed to Senior Helmsman. There have been many changes over the years; the D Class Lifeboat operating all year round and 24hrs a day with improvement in equipment.
Another callout that sticks in his mind was to a Dive Boat 2.5 miles off the coast, which had lost nine divers. Happisburgh Lifeboat was called, along with Cromer and Sheringham Lifeboats, Happisburgh Lifeboat being first on scene with Cubitt at the helm and they soon found seven of the divers and picked them up. He recalled how tight it was to get all seven divers and equipment onto the D Class Lifeboat. Cubitt coordinated the other lifeboats and helicopter and the other two divers were soon found and picked up by Sheringham Lifeboat before being taken to Sea Palling. He remembers the great feeling of successful team work.
2009 brought the arrival of the Atlantic 75 on a two year trial, which in 2010 was made permanent. This meant more new skills to learn and the thrill of working as part of a team with the best equipment helped the station achieve their goal by pulling together. Cubitt remembers a call out on the Atlantic, with two other helmsmen as his crew, launching into a north-easterly force seven wind to the aid of a wind surfer – the launch was textbook with the boat and crew performing as one even though they were stood down by the Coastguard as the wind surfers had made it ashore safely.
Cubitt has never been far from the sea or Lifeboat; even on holidays he has spent time visiting other Stations around the country. He would start by speaking to the souvenir seller and after a few calls the crew would be there to show him round and chat about the way they work. He has always been impressed by the way in which the RNLI “family” support each other.
Cubitt will be missed from the crew. The Siely name will still be on the crew list with his daughter Charlotte, who has just passed out as Helm of the Atlantic Lifeboat, living up to her father’s high standards. She was joined by her brother on 16th November 2011, as soon as he turned seventeen; Cubitt junior is now working towards becoming a helm of the D Class lifeboat.
Cubitt had his last Sunday training exercise on the 20th November,