TEN people will be with their families to enjoy Christmas thanks to Minehead’s volunteer RNLI lifeboat crew.

The station has been officially credited with having saved 10 lives over the 41 operational launches it has logged so far this year.

Seven of the casualties were paddle-boarders, who were driven to the point of exhaustion after trying to combat difficult weather conditions.

Two more were a couple who became marooned on a rock in the dark to the west of Greenaleigh Farm after being cut off by the tide while scrambling back along the beach from Hurlstone Point in November.

Minehead’s RNLI local operations manager Dr John Higgie said the tally of 10 lives saved was unusually high – but illustrated how perilous local conditions can be.

“In an average year we might record one or two lives saved,” he said.

“But there was a consistent pattern to these rescues because in each case those we saved had failed to take account either of the wind direction, or the direction and speed of the tide - or both.

“The couple at Greenaleigh luckily had the sense to carry a mobile phone to call for help. 

“If they hadn’t been able to do that they would have been stuck there all night and half the next morning as well and the outcome would have been rather different.

“These may only be statistics on a page but to reflect on them in terms of the empty seats at so many Christmas dinner tables really puts them into context.”

The RNLI is launching its seasonal appeal for funds to continue its work.

Its 5,000-plus volunteers remain on standby to respond to emergency calls over the Christmas break, as they have on 1,200 occasions over the last decade.

Dr Higgie said: “There’s no feeling quite like bringing someone home safe to their families – especially at Christmas.

“But as lifeboat crew, we couldn’t rescue people without donations from the public which fund the kit, training and equipment we need to save others and get home safely to our families.”

To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal, visit: RNLI.org/Xmas.