A STALWART of the lifeboat community will be swapping his waterproofs for something a bit more up market when he travels to Buckingham Palace next week.

Martin Steeden, the volunteer coxswain of Swanage’s RNLI lifeboat station, was thrilled to receive an invitation to the Royal Garden Party.

The lifeboat tradition is strong in Martin’s family – he’s served at Swanage for 34 years and now his two sons, Gavin and Matt, also volunteer on the lifeboat crew, alongside his nephew James.

Martin’s father-in-law was the decorated Swanage lifeboat coxswain Victor Marsh.

“You could say it has developed into something of a family tradition,” said Martin.

“It can prove quite interesting at family get-togethers. There were two lifeboat shouts during my sister-in-law’s wedding.

“A significant percentage of the men in the congregation had to dash off during the ceremony.”

Martin has been on almost 1,500 lifeboat launches, and has played his part in the rescue of around 400 people.

In 1988 he proudly accepted the ‘Thanks of the Institution on Vellum’ in recognition of his actions in rescuing crew members from the boat, Renee, which got into trouble three miles out in strong gales and heavy seas.

But Martin maintains his most memorable shout came in 1996, when he was one of the RNLI volunteer crew sent to rescue five people from the yacht, Be Happy, which was battered by a hurricane 20 miles out to sea.

“The conditions really tested both the crew and the lifeboat that night,” he recalled. “One crew member was badly injured and the starboard engine failed.

“As I was both acting mechanic and the first aider on board, my hands were rather full.”

Martin will attend the garden party, next Tuesday, with his wife Karina.