Young people

New lease of life for Rotary Service

New lease of life for Rotary Service

It was in treacherous seas in the English Channel back in 1987 that the lifeboat Rotary Service came into its own.

Based at the RNLI lifeboat station in Dover, the 50-foot steel-hulled craft came to the rescue of a 1,500-tonne cargo vessel being battered in a hurricane.

Acting Coxswain Roy Couzens was later awarded an RNLI silver medal and the Maud Smith Award for outstanding and bravery and seamanship after saving three men from the stricken vessel, while her six volunteer crew received RNLI bronze medals.

Today, Rotary Service rests at the boatyard in Lowestoft, where she was built, and is being carefully refurbished by a team of volunteers.

“Rotary Service is being well looked after,” explained Scott Snowling, chairman of the 50001 Youth Training Trust. “Her hull and superstructure have been stripped of many years of paint, and her new ex-RNLI livery of Oxford blue, rail red and aircraft grey has begun being applied.”

By the end of her service life in 1997, the vessel had been launched 411 times, saving 177 lives.”

The Rotary Club of Westminster West initiated the campaign in 1968 to raise £200,000 to fund a lifeboat, which was supported by Rotarians nationwide.

By 1974 and named Rotary Service, she was delivered to Falmouth where she was called out on service 45 times and saved 17 lives.

Rotary Service was then redeployed to the Dover lifeboat station and was officially named by Her Majesty, the Queen Mother, in 1978.

By the end of her service life in 1997, the vessel had been launched 411 times, saving 177 lives, before being sold out of service for use as a pilot boat in Cornwall and latterly as a pilot boat in Castletownbere in County Cork, Ireland.

Rotary Service is now enjoying a fresh lease of life in the Suffolk port thanks to the enthusiastic volunteers.

Formerly known as the Thames Class Lifeboat Trust, the 50001 Youth Training Trust works with young people aged between 12 and 25-years-old from vulnerable backgrounds across the UK.

Ultimately, the aim is to have her fully kitted out with new engines and re-designed interior to offer training voyages for youngsters.

That goal is several years away since the work is being funded by charitable donations, sponsorship and grants.

Internally, Rotary Service is being stripped out. The volunteers have begun painting and sealing, removing old and redundant wiring, and preparing for new equipment to be installed.

“Unfortunately, at the moment, the engine room is still bare and we have no firm options for our engines at present.

“However, we’ve begun to go out to engine manufacturers seeking sponsorship for the repower,” explained Scott.

“We are still some time from completing the full project, however we are not giving up.

“We are extremely proud of the work that all individual Rotarians put in to raise the funds for Rotary Service’s purchase back in 1973 and very humbled that we have the support of Rotarians now.

“For us being able to take a vessel like Rotary Service with such an amazing life-saving past, and to use her for such a life-changing role in the future, is a wonderful opportunity to inspire our young trainees and demonstrate how our town’s heritage can have a huge impact on the future.”