Ramsgate RNLI assist in saving historic boat from sinking

Lifeboats News Release

On Tuesday 27 November at 4.50pm Ramsgate RNLI received an unusual call from the Ramsgate Royal Harbour Master Rob Brown asking for their assistance with a museum boat that was rapidly taking on water and in danger of sinking in the inner harbour.

The 'Cervia' being pumped out.

RNLI/Karen Cox

The 'Cervia' being pumped out.

The Cervia is a tug which was built during the Second World War in 1945 for the Ministry of War and originally named Empire Raymond. In her long career she assisted in the rescue of the Cunard liner Queen Elizabeth when she went aground in 1947. She also capsized and sank with the loss of her skipper and four crew whilst towing the P&O liner Arcadia from Tilbury Docks.

Raised two days later she made a trip to Ramsgate for a refit. She was sold for preservation to the Medway Maritime Museum in 1971 but returned to towing work in the North Sea two years later, ending up back in Ramsgate as a port tug before being placed into Ramsgate Maritime Museum in 1985, firstly in dry dock and then in the inner marina.

Sadly, in this incident, she had developed a hole in her hull about the size of a football and water was pouring in fast. The crew found themselves fighting against the rising water but initially managed to control the ingress.

When daylight arrived, the battle appeared to be lost and the tug was now sitting on the sand as the pumps onboard were unable to control the flow. It then became a joint venture with the Fire Brigade and the RNLI pumping the seawater out, and divers inspecting the hull.

During the day they managed to control the water with sandbags using the more powerful pumps of the fire service so that eventually they were able to stem the majority of the water and place a plate over the hole.

An inspection and assessment of the hull is due to be carried out and hopefully this grand old lady, the largest boat in the harbour at 320 tons will live on and remain part of our Maritime Heritage.

Although the RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea sometimes it is called on to offer expertise and support to other emergency services in other situations. We are grateful to our volunteers for giving up their valuable time to help support the town’s museum and to all the public who provide the funding as we rely entirely on public donations.


Media Contacts

Karen Cox volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer email coxinthebox63@gmail.com (07779) 848431

Paul Dunt RNLI Regional Media Officer London and South East. Email paul_dunt@rnli.org.uk (07785) 296252.

The crew onboard the Cervia manning the pumps.

Neil Morgan

The crew onboard the Cervia manning the pumps.
The plume of water being pumped from the sinking tug.

RNLI/Karen Cox

The plume of water being pumped from the sinking tug.

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The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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