Ceremony for Portishead’s lifeboat station

PUBLISHED: 09:12 26 June 2015 | UPDATED: 09:12 26 June 2015

A big crowd watched the crew show off their skills. Photo by Nicholas Leach.

A big crowd watched the crew show off their skills. Photo by Nicholas Leach.

Archant

The curtain was brought down on a mammoth £2million fundraising drive as Portishead’s new RNLI lifeboat station was officially opened on Saturday morning.

About 1,000 people attended the ceremony and service of dedication as the community had a rare chance to thank the volunteers who give up so much time to keep people safe.

The ‘exceptional’ new facility near the marina will allow the volunteers to hold meetings, launch the lifeboat and run a shop at the same place.

The base was officially opened on Saturday and the building handed over to the RNLI, which has teamed up with the Portishead Lifeboat Trust now it has a modern facility.

The fundraising was launched in April 2013 and thanks to the staggering support from people in Portishead, and across the country, the facility was ready for the RNLI to use just two years later.

RNLI chairman Charles Hunter-Pease said: “We can call this building a life-saver.

“To sustain an independent lifeboat for so many years takes an incredible level of effort from volunteers and the community. We are delighted to be able to work with them.”

Dr Liam Fox MP and Portishead Town Council were thanked for their support, but special praise was lavished on the people of Portishead for doing everything they can to support the trust and the RNLI.

The good feeling towards the lifeboat crew and volunteers was evident as hundreds of people turned up to enjoy the service in the sunshine, with Portishead Town Band, The Highly Strung Band and Perfect Cure providing entertainment throughout the day of celebration.

Mr Hunter-Pease said: “This wouldn’t have been possible without the kindness and generosity of fundraisers and donors.

“One of our most senior crew members said: ‘Our fundraisers and donors are the real heroes and they allow us to do what we do’.”

Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence added: “This has been a real team effort.

“Whether people have donated £5, £5,000 or £500,000, that contribution is really valued by the RNLI.”

Teaming up with the RNLI brings to an end a long-term objective of the Portishead Lifeboat Trust.

The multi-million pound station is a far cry from the small cold base volunteers have had to work with in the past.

Lifeboat operations manager Bob Crane, who joked the crew were now spoilt with heating in the changing rooms, said: “Fourteen years ago we had a concrete garage. It wasn’t long enough to put the tractor and boat in so the tractor was kept 50 yards up the road.

“Things improved over the years with the garage being extended but it was tight and still only had four inches of room either side – quite unlike this magnificent hall we now have.”

The RNLI started using its new base in April however Saturday was the first time people got to thank those who have served voluntarily for Portishead Lifeboat Trust over the years, and those who gave money to support the fundraising.

Mike Roberts, chairman of the Lifeboat Management Group, said: “Vessels running into danger has been an issue for centuries. For 25 years a safety boat was provided by the sailing club, but when that ended some forward-thinking people looked to form a lifeboat service and managed it thanks to the commitment of the town...

“Boating is safer than it was. But the Bristol Channel, River Severn and River Avon are places where danger can just be moments away.

“In the first two months we have already had six shouts from here.

“For the operational team this new facility makes this service even more effective.”

After the speeches and a service of dedication by Deputy Lord Lieutenant Reverend Philip Auden, the crew demonstrated their skills with a practise launch.

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