Restoration work reaches new stage

THE campaign to restore the world's oldest surviving motor lifeboat has reached a new stage with the fitting of 80 ribs to the vessel.The Frinton & Walton Heritage Trust is currently rejuvenating James Stevens No.

THE campaign to restore the world's oldest surviving motor lifeboat has reached a new stage with the fitting of 80 ribs to the vessel.

The Frinton & Walton Heritage Trust is currently rejuvenating James Stevens No.14 - Walton-on-the-Naze's second lifeboat - at Titchmarsh Marina.

The oak ribs had to be steamed for up to two hours before fitting to the lifeboat by boat builder Peter Chroston. They have now been nailed into their final position in the boat.

“Sponsor-a-Rib” has proved to be as successful as the previous “Sponsor-a-Plank” campaign, with only four of the 80 ribs still to be sponsored. The trust has received increasing support from former residents of Walton, with donations coming from Australia, Canada and California.

Rachel Baldwin, chairman of the restoration committee, said: “It is very pleasing to see the support that the project is getting from former inhabitants of the town, as well as from descendants of the boat's original crew.”

Various descendants of Joe Wyatt, who was a crewmember on James Stevens No.14 between 1906-28, have sponsored 11 ribs on the starboard side. David Clark, a descendant of one of his brothers, made a significant donation, while a granddaughter of Joe Wyatt's sister, Jesse, has made another.

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The next stage in the restoration will involve “stopping” the narrow gaps between the planks on the outer skin with a mixture of red lead and putty, following the original building instructions of 1900. Following this will be the removal for inspection and restoration of the iron keel and then the fitting of the new keelson and engine beds.

The trust bought the former lifeboat, which is included in the top 150 ships and boats on the National Register of Historic Vessels, in 1998. When they discovered it, it had been used as a house boat and was moored in a mud berth.

Its aim is to restore it to seagoing condition and use it as a floating exhibit, illustrating traditional boat building methods and early lifeboat design, while offering hands on practical experience to the general public.

The trust is also launching a new sponsorship campaign. One of the significant features of the James Stevens No.14 was her large dipping main lugsail and standing mizzen and the trust is now inviting sponsorship for areas of sail.

As with the planks and ribs, £25 will sponsor part of the new sails for the lifeboat, which will be made using traditional methods and original sail plans.

For details of sail sponsorship and the few remaining ribs call 01255 675308 or 01255 677946 or visit the website: www.James-Stevens-No14.org.uk

Sharon.Asplin@eadt.co.uk

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