Laurie's always a lifesaver

ALWAYS READY: Laurie Baker, 77, was named Coastguard Central Region Volunteer of the Year.
ALWAYS READY: Laurie Baker, 77, was named Coastguard Central Region Volunteer of the Year.

Laurie Baker's willingness to battle rough seas and strong winds to save lives has been recognised.

The selfless New Plymouth resident was named Coastguard Central Region Volunteer of the Year, honouring his dedication and commitment to the service.

Baker celebrated 40 years with Coastguard Taranaki on February 2.

The 77-year-old told the Taranaki Daily News the award was unexpected because there were other volunteers who poured in just as much work as he did.

The overall volunteer of the year will be named at the Coastguard New Zealand Conference in September.

Baker was a "keen yachtie" and decided the organisation would allow him to use his boating skills to save people.

His most dramatic rescue was seven years ago when, aged 70, he spent 21 hours in rough seas off Cape Egmont.

Darkness had fallen by the time the crew reached a stricken boat, with winds of 90 knots per hour, accompanied by 12 metre swells.

The strong winds almost carried the rescue crew to Whanganui and they had to turn back to Taranaki.

"I was on the radio down below for almost 12 hours talking to Maritime New Zealand because RCC [Rescue Co-ordination Centre] wanted us to keep in contact and find out where we were going," Baker said.

"When we got back here, I said ‘that's it. I'm 70 and getting too old'."

Wife Heather said it was not easy living with a volunteer who was always putting his life before others. "To live with a volunteer, you have got to take it on the shoulder," she said.

Baker, who was also a baker by trade, always had a heart for volunteering. He spent 30 years as a volunteer firefighter before joining Coastguards, formerly known as Close to Shore Rescue, in 1974. Baker was made president of Coastguard Taranaki in 1991, at a time when the organisation had about 50 members and a bank balance of $2000. It was also struggling to pay off debt incurred from taking over the marine radio repeater.

Baker was made a life member of the organisation in 2001.

Taranaki Daily News