On September 5 the Frinton & Walton Heritage Trust launched their former RNLI lifeboat James Stevens No 14 at Titchmarsh Marina, Walton on the Naze, Essex after a ten-year restoration. Also at the launching was the RNLI Lifeboat Mary Gabriel that had made an early morning passage from Chatham across the Thames Estuary for the event.
In 1894 James Stevens bequeathed £50,000 to the RNLI to build twenty new lifeboats. The James Stevens No 14, launched in 1900 as a rowing and sailing Norfolk and Suffolk lifeboat, was stationed at Walton on the Naze from 1900 to 1928. She was launched 126 times and saved 227 lives. Fitted with a 40hp Blake engine in 1905, she was the first RNLI lifeboat to have an engine.
The Frinton and Walton Heritage Trust took over the hulk in 1999 and with the aid of a Heritage Lottery Grant they have had her restored. The James Stevens No 14 was originally launched with two centre boards but because an engine was fitted in the restoration there was only room for one centreboard, but she still has two lugsails. As a pure sailing lugger she only needed one stay, but as she will be motoring into a head sea, stays have been fitted on either side. Griff Rhys Jones performed the official launching and the plan is to use her for one-day charters with up to 12 people. The James Stevens No 14 was based in a boathouse and then in Walton Backwaters, but after this the lifeboats lay on a mooring near the pier. The Trust also has the 25ft 1932-85 RNLI boarding boat City of Leicester and they are planning to restore her.
More on this and other news in Sea Breezes Magazine - November 2009 Issue