Skip to main content

Live Tides

All tide tools


View all

Incident reporting

Life-threatening emergencies on the river:
Call 999 and ask for the Coastguard

For near miss, safety observations and incident reporting click below


Make a report
People of the Thames

Storm force

Storm Smith-Suckoo

Storm Smith-Suckoo in uniform with Tower Bridge in background People of the Thames

At the start of the RNLI’s 200th anniversary year, Storm Smith-Suckoo, one of around 60 volunteers based out of Tower Lifeboat Station, the charity’s busiest, charts his multiple links with the river that have taken him around the world.


A family first

“The Thames was the place that my maritime career all started, so it holds a strong personal connection for me.

“I am Second Officer and Relief Chief Officer with Trinity House.

“I joined as a Third Officer and have worked my way through the ranks, completing my Chief Mates Unlimited in June 2022.

“The role involves maintaining aids to navigation, including lighthouses, around the UK coast.

“I am the first member of my family to have links with the river and the world of maritime.

“As a kid, growing up in Charlton, it was not a pathway I would ever have thought to pursue, but it is now central to my life.”

Safety calling

“In July 2013, I was on board the tall ship Astrid when she sank off Cork in Ireland, with lifeboat and helicopter crews helping in the rescue.

“When I was back in London after university, I signed up as a Tower Station volunteer, following a conversation with the commander, Craig Burn, who I had worked with previously.

“For me, it’s a sense of giving back to the maritime community.

“Last year crews from Tower launched 612 times, saving 14 lives.

“As of December 2023, crew have had 10,387 ‘shouts’ since the station opened in January 2002.

“Unlike other RNLI stations, we don’t have a pager system at Tower. It’s crewed 24/7, with the day split into two,12-hour shifts.

“I do a minimum of two shifts per month on average.

“I like to mix it up, sometimes doing nights, sometimes the day shift.

“This year, as I was home in London and off work from my full-time job at Trinity House for the first time in four years over the festive period, I opted to volunteer on both the Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve night shifts.

“I clocked off at 6.30am on Christmas morning, and then caught up on a few hours’ sleep, so I could enjoy the festivities.

“On New Year’s Eve, we had a crew dinner at the start of our shift and reflected on the year gone by.

“Our last call of the year came in at 23:47.”

The spice of life

“There is a variety of things to do, whilst on station, from boat and casualty care equipment checks, through to hoovering and cleaning.

“Our priority is always to be ‘boat ready.’

“Some days we will go on patrol on the river whilst carrying out onboard training.

“This might involve looking at extracting someone from the foreshore, using some of the kit we don’t use regularly.

“It’s a station superstition that if the ‘Q’ word is mentioned in full, then something generally happens.

“A routine day gives us a chance to ensure the station is operating efficiently, that all the kit is ready and in the right place.

“We support Thames CPD training courses on the river with the Thames Skills Academy and boat operators too.

“Additional courses, such as Sea Survival, are also available at the RNLI training centre in Poole.”

Ahoy sailor!

“I enjoyed PE at school, but the traditional sports of football, rugby and basketball were never my forte.

“Then, aged 11, I discovered sailing, courtesy of a powerboat taster day at the AHOY Centre, Deptford which I heard about through Greenwich Adventure Play Centres.

“I had found my niche.”

Career tips

“Last November, I was pleased to be invited by the PLA and the Greater London Authority to speak to the London and Thames Waterways Forum about how my career afloat has taken shape.  

“My message to anyone thinking about following in my footsteps is simply: Do it!!

“The skills you learn and the people you get to meet are second to none.

“No two days are ever the same.  

“No matter how many times you have put a boat alongside a certain pier, the tide and other environmental conditions are always ever so slightly different.

“You have to adapt your approach each time.”

Expanding horizons

“It’s also helped me see the world.

“In just one year during my training I visited 17 countries and 50 ports, mainly in Europe and Africa.

“I spent Christmas 2017 in the heat of Ghana – conditions far removed from a traditional British Yuletide.”

Pilot ambition

“My year-ten work placement at school was spent with the PLA.

“The two weeks featured my introduction to maintaining an aid to navigation, aboard Hookness.

“I got to see the workings of the maintenance yard at Denton too.

“At the VTS Office in Woolwich, I met Frank Hart. Our paths were to cross again in later life as RNLI volunteers.

“I also enjoyed seeing the work of Chris Healy and the other harbour launch crew members.

“Once I obtain my Master Unlimited Licence, my goal is to return to the PLA and join their team of pilots.”

2023 highlight

“During London International Shipping Week last September, I was on board Galatea, moored at HMS Belfast, hosting a variety of events, including for the Merchant Navy Training Board and visits for local sea cadet units.

“I had the privilege to be at the wheel, passing under Tower Bridge, as we headed back to sea. Though it’s a task I have executed many times before on smaller vessels, the sheer size of Galatea made it extra special.

“My Mum was on Tower Bridge watching too!

“It’s a moment I will never forget.”

Musical youth

“My early ambitions were very music focused.  

“I am a classically-trained pianist, but loved playing in jazz bands whilst at school and university, finding the music more fun and open to interpretation.

“I no longer play as much as I’d like, but it’s something that never leaves you and I hope to get back into playing regularly in the near future.

"Birdland by Joe Zawinul and Gonna Fly Now, the theme from Rocky are pieces I particularly enjoy playing in a big band. They have so much energy behind them.”

From east to west

“Though I now live in Plymouth, I get back to London often when on leave.

“I do miss the hustle and bustle of the capital, but Devon is a great place to get away from it all too. The coastline is spectacular.

“I am lucky to have the best of both worlds, I think.

“I miss my family and friends whilst away at sea, but working three weeks on then three weeks off provides plenty of opportunity to relax and explore new places.

“Best of all, I get to drive big ships.

“That is ultimately why I came to sea.”

Quick fire

  • First memory of the Thames? Riding along the Thames path as a child, on the back of my Dad’s bike.
  • New Year’s resolution? It would have to be to keep pushing myself to be the best I can be and take every opportunity that is presented.
  • Recommended Thames-side restaurant or pub? I have three: The Cutty Sark in Greenwich, The Tattershall Castle at Victoria Embankment and The White Cross in Richmond.
  • Other hobbies? Photography and cycling.

Essential information

Receive key updates

Subscribe Now
Back to top