GREG Taylor’s life course has in many ways been guided by the sea.

At 16 years of age, he starting training to be a navigator with the Merchant Navy - a job that took him away from Barrow and all across the world. Seven years ago Mr Taylor signed up with the Furness Coastguard after moving back to South Cumbria, taking up a job at Walney Four Offshore Windfarms where he is now deputy site manager.

With his navy days behind him, Mr Taylor now sees the work he does with the Furness Coastguard as one of the main ways he can ‘give something back’ to the communities of his hometown and the surrounding area.

He forms part of a team of volunteers that responds to emergency call-outs at all hours and days of the year. The Coastguard’s patch extends from Humphrey Head all around the Barrow and Walney coastline, up to Duddon Bridge.

One of the most obvious challenges for anyone in Mr Taylor’s shoes is the struggle to combat loneliness, carrying out what can often be lonely work at the time of year many people associate most with family and friends.

Mr Taylor acknowledges that the Coastguard’s work can come with significant personal strains during the darkest days of the year.

“We never really ‘sign off,’ bar being on holiday or something like that,” he explains, “since there’s always at least one officer on duty. This can be tough on our families, friends and partners. It’s not easy - but we keep each other going. It wouldn’t be possible to do the work we do without them.”

“Really, they [the volunteers’ families and friends] have as much input into the team succeeding as us Officers. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of our families and friends that allow us to do what we do on a regular basis.”

As for untimely call-outs over the festive period?

Mr Taylor says that on Christmas Eve 2015, the Coastguard received call-outs for two separate incidents involving wayward boats. The first occurred when reports of a drifting vessel in the Walney channel were relayed by Holyhead Coastguard, while the team was called out later on that same evening by a ‘false alarm with good intent’. In the first case, the Coastguard was able to locate the unmoored watercraft - which had suffered damage to its hull - before helping the owner to run the boat aground and secure it at Chapel Bed.

“In fact,” Mr Taylor adds, “The day before that Christmas Eve double call-out, we did get a report of a windsurfer who hadn’t returned at the time the individual had arranged. In the end, the windsurfer was okay, but the outcome could have been very different if the person hadn’t done the correct thing by letting relatives know what their expected return time would be.”

Annual call-out levels have more than halved since Mr Taylor joined the Coastguard.

As for emergency incident rates over the festive period, he says: “Because of the time of year and the weather conditions, there aren’t as many boats out. Although on the other hand there are also more people out and enjoying the beaches. So we usually see a reduction in vessel incidents and beach incidents, but we often also see a spike in respondents due to the time of year and also a rise in missing person searches.”

“It’s also a stressful time of year when things can really get to people,” he adds. “We urge anybody to call Samaritans if they’re feeling like they’re in a difficult place. And always let people know what times and what routes you’re taking or going back along if you’re going out.”