A new RNLI lifeboat station has been officially opened in Cowes.
An Atlantic 85 RIB will be based at the restored Customs Watch House, replacing a small temporary facility at Shepards Wharf Marina.
With the new lifeboat house, the boat and its crew will be able to offer quicker response times. The new facility also means the boat can be stored safely undercover.
Lifeboat's long history
Lifeboat Operations Manager Mark Southwell said, "For 300 years boats have been launched from here to provide a public service through HM Customs. A lifeboat station is a wonderful new use of an historic maritime site in this town.
"Clearly the volunteers, who make up all the crew and those on-shore, are overjoyed and much impressed with the quality of the refurbishment and the thought that has gone into making the building operationally efficient."
Plenty of training
Crew members underwent an intensive on-site training programme for the move, under the watchful eye of the RNLI's Divisional Inspector Richard Weeks. They learned how to launch and recover the lifeboat on an especially designed trolley, using rails embedded in a new metal slipway and a powerful in-station winch.
Actress Celia Imrie, who owns a home in Cowes, launched a £1 million appeal to fund the move, in April 2011. Over £700,000 has been raised and it is hoped the remaining amount will be achieved by the end of 2012.
The current Atlantic 85 'Tabby Cat', after 4 years of service, will be replaced by the new 'Sheena Louise', on Friday 8 June.
For now, the RNLI's rib 'Tabby Cat' will enjoy the shelter of the newly restored Customs Watch House building, next to Cowes Parade.
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