Margate RNLI bids farewell to its Mersey class lifeboat

Lifeboats News Release

Margate RNLI has bid farewell to its all-weather lifeboat ‘Leonard Kent’ which has retired after nearly 30 years of active service.

Leonard Kent last launch 30.04.21 01

RNLI Margate

Leonard Kent last launch 30.04.21 01

In May 1992 Margate’s new lifeboat RNLB Leonard Kent was named by HRH Princess Alexandra and the Mersey class all-weather lifeboat has served the town faithfully ever since. It was nearing the end of its service life however, and following a routine coast review the RNLI made the decision to replace the all-weather lifeboat with a B-class inshore lifeboat.

With the replacement lifeboat’s entry into service, crew members past and present, station officials, fundraisers and supporters gathered on Friday 30 April to witness Leonard Kent’s last launch before its retirement. Manned by crew members from Margate, the lifeboat set out for Ramsgate on the first leg of its passage to Poole whereafter it will hopefully start a new chapter in its career outside of the RNLI.

During its time at Margate, Leonard Kent launched on 419 occasions saved 21 lives and aided 599 people. In 1999 along with RNLI lifeboats from Ramsgate and Dover Leonard Kent was on service for 32 hours following a collision between a container vessel and cruise ship which led to a fierce fire raging for five days on the container vessel. It was believed to be the longest service attended by a lifeboat from Margate since RNLB The Lord Southborough (Civil Service No.1) took part in the Dunkirk evacuation in May 1940.

Earlier in 1996 and at the other end of the scale, Leonard Kent took part in a night-time search after a man failed to emerge from a late-night swim off Cliftonville. After around an hour of searching along with the inshore lifeboat, a rescue helicopter and Ramsgate RNLI inshore lifeboat and with hope fading fast, a sharp-eyed crewman on the lifeboat briefly caught sight of the casualty’s head in the lifeboat’s searchlight beam and he was quickly recovered. He was over half a mile offshore at the time and apart from the effects of cold was none the worse for wear. He walked away unaware of the lucky escape he had and following his rescue the coxswain always considered Leonard Kent to be ‘a lucky boat’ for anyone in need of assistance off Margate.

Since the decision, the volunteer crew have undertaken an intensive programme of transition training and assessments for the new lifeboat. This has mostly taken place at Ramsgate with the help of colleagues from their own lifeboat station and other neighbouring stations operating a similar lifeboat, training that included launch and recovery procedures at Margate.

The station has been allocated a B-class lifeboat from the RNLI’s relief fleet which will operate for a period before a brand-new boat, built especially for the station, takes up its role at Margate later this year. It will operate alongside Margate’s existing D-class inshore lifeboat.

Peter Barker, Lifeboat Press Officer, RNLI Margate said: ‘Since the decision to replace the all-weather lifeboat the crew have worked hard training for the new class of boat, at times with restrictions due to Covid-19, a period throughout which full operational lifeboat cover at Margate has been maintained.

‘The commitment of the volunteer crew has shown that whatever the lifesaving provision, they will maintain the 160-year-old tradition of being part of the local community, saving lives, and assisting those in the waters around Thanet. We ask the community to support us.’

Photo 01: Margate all-weather lifeboat Leonard Kent prepares to launch for the final time (RNLI Margate)

Photo 02: Margate all-weather lifeboat leonard Kent (right) heads for Ramsgate escorted by Ramsgate lifeboat, Ramsgate inshore lifeboat and Margate’s new B-class inshore lifeboat (RNLI Margate)

Notes to editors

· Margate lifeboat station has been operating since 1860. To learn more about the lifeboat station go to: https://rnli.org/find-my-nearest/lifeboat-stations/margate-lifeboat-station

RNLI media contacts

For more information please contact:

· Peter Barker, RNLI volunteer Lifeboat Press Officer on 07974 064304 or Peter_Barker@rnli.org.uk

· Paul Dunt, Regional Media Officer (South East) on 0207 6207416, 07786 668825 or Paul_Dunt@rnli.org.uk

· RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789.

RNLI online

For more information, please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the RNLI News Centre.

Key facts about the RNLI

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.

Leonard Kent last launch 30.04.21 02

RNLI Margate

Leonard Kent last launch 30.04.21 02

Key facts about the RNLI

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 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and 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.

Learn more about the RNLI

For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.

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