Tabby Cat’s Replacement Ceremony Was Emotionally Purrfect
It was a moment of mixed emotions when, after crews and supporters of Cowes RNLI bade a sad farewell to the lifeboat that had served them so well for four years, they went on to warmly welcome the brand new replacement.
The carefully choreographed ceremony, enlivened by a commentary from crewman Peter Tarrant, music and loud cheers, was watched by large crowds at the new station, the
adjoining Island Sailing Club, and The Parade. First the ever-faithful relief Atlantic 85 RIB, Tabby Cat, was pushed out on its trolley through the handsome wooden doors of the new boathouse. Waiting on the forecourt was the vicar of St Mary’s Church, Cowes, the Rev Richard Emblin, who gave a blessing and a prayer.
Then, with the aid of a winch, the trolley trundled steadily down the metal slipway, with the boat fully manned. The two lusty outboards took the craft out into the harbour where it rendezvoused with its replacement Atlantic 85, Sheena Louise, crewed by other crew members of the station. Also hovering nearby was Calshot’s Tyne class all-weather lifeboat, whose crew had made a special cross-Solent journey to provide a backcloth to the event.
There then came a quite literally touching moment when the two craft were positioned so as their inflatable bows could briefly come together. After this example of ‘rubber necking’ it was the new-comer’s turn to be carried ashore on the trolley, to a rapturous greeting from one and all.
So, a week after the new lifeboat station became operational it now had a new RIB, which just happened to be the very first 85 to have been built at the RNLI’s East Cowes-based Inshore Lifeboat Centre. And Lifeboat Operations Manager Mark Southwell loudly pointed out that the volunteer helmsman, Scott Armiger, worked at the centre and had helped in its construction.
With the lifeboat finally at rest in its new home – what better excuse could there be for a reception in the station? Present were station members, fund-raisers and special guests led by the mayors of both Cowes (David Walters) and East Cowes (Jane Rann). Also
present were members of the former independent Cowes lifeboat, including Chris Greenham who had been its long-serving chairman.
A clear example of the goodwill enjoyed by the RNLI in Cowes is that the huge finger buffet laid-out in the training room was donated by Barry and Sally Cass of the Duke of York public house. Another culinary high point was the cutting of an iced cake with a
sword deftly wielded by Mark.
Having once served in the building when it was a Customs Watch House, Mark has decorated a wall in the station with fascinating memorabilia of its old role which spanned a total of 300 years. This collection was further added to at the event with the presentation of an old photograph showing the former watch house from the harbour.
Just what will become of the departing Atlantic 85 was not known made known at the event. But having not long ago undergone a thorough refit it is very clear Tabby Cat will, as a part of the RNLI’s relief fleet, quite definitely be re-homed somewhere around the coast of the UK.
Photos: Cowes RNLI Volunteers arrival of new lifeboat and departure of old – at Cowes.
- Departing and arriving Atlantic 85s go nose to nose. Photograph Nick Edwards.
- Helm, Richard O’Callaghan, waves farewell as the Tabby Cat is launched for the last time. Photograph Dave Davies.
- The Sheena Louise approaches the new Cowes lifeboat station. Photograph Nick Edwards.
- The Southwell family join helmsman Scott Armiger to cut a commemorative cake made by station volunteer Lyn Davies. The Southwell’s are (left to right) lifeboat operation manager Mark Southwell, daughter Gabriella, wife Louise, and son Robbie. Photograph Nick Edwards.
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