PLANS are under way to welcome a lifeboat back to its harbour as its restoration enters its final phase.
Work has started at a shipyard to return the George Elmy to the original state when it was launched to carry out rescue missions from Seaham.
The boat was involved in a tragedy in November 1962, when eight men and a boy died.
It had been sent out to rescue a fishing vessel and was returning to port when it capsized.
It was sold to a number of owners before it was spotted on eBay in 2009 and bought by supporters who have returned it to the North East.
The George Elmy Restoration Group, launched by East Durham Heritage Group, hopes to put it on show in a history centre which could be created as part of the redevelopment of the North Dock.
The work on the boat was able to go ahead thanks to the generosity of supporters and a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which helped the appeal top £91,500.
The boat is undergoing work at Fred Crowell’s yard on the Tyne, with new planking, primers and gunnels among the areas already completed.
Its engine is to be refitted and work done on the deck, where a shelter was added to its structure during its use on the seas.
Videos, entitled Fred and George, have been made during the process so far and have been posted on YouTube to show supporters how work is progressing.
Ernie Cooper, a member of the restoration group, said: “As we are taking the boat to bits and old parts off, we are getting a few surprises.
“There’s been quite a bit more planking needed than we thought because of cracking that has come with age and there was some decking which, when we uncovered it, was ruined.
“We are still getting people making donations when they come in to the shop, which is wonderful.”
In addition to the work on the Liverpool-class lifeboat, members of the group run an education programme to pass on the story of the George Elmy and its place in the area’s history.
The celebration day for the boat’s return to Seaham has been pencilled in for Sunday, June 24.
More information about the project can be found at the group’s shop in Church Street from 10am to 2pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, or the group’s website www.seahamlifeboats.oneuk.com