THE engines are in and almost ready to fire up as the last stages of work are carried out to restore a tragedy-hit lifeboat.
The George Elmy is being returned to its original glory as part of a project by the East Durham Heritage Group, which bought it after it was sold on eBay in 2009.
The boat was used by the Seaham RNLI team when it was called to rescue the crew of a fishing coble which had got into trouble off the coast on Saturday, November 17, 1962, and was returning to harbour when it capsized, claiming the lives of eight men and a boy.
The campaign to restore the Liverpool Class boat has topped £91,500 in donations and a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The vessel will go on show inside revamped buildings in the North Dock as part of its development into a marina led by Durham County Council.
A date for the boat’s return is yet to be set, but the group hopes it will be in the spring.
Until then, work will continue at Fred Crowell’s yard in South Shields.
Allan Brooks, the project’s treasurer, said: “The cabin is on and we are going to start up the engines shortly, in the next week or two.
“Then we will have some trials along the river, but before that we’ll need to have it inspected to make sure it is seaworthy, and we will get a certificate, a bit like an MoT.
“After, we’ll bring it back to Seaham, and we hope that will be by sea, depending on the conditions.”
In addition to the installation of the two Perkins diesel engines to power the boat, the cabin and woodwork, its livery has been returned to its original state.
Allan added: “It’s been painted, its name is on and the RNLI is on the side, the flag’s up, and now it just needs starting up.
“A lot of it has had to be done from scratch. It is emotional to see it now. When we first got it back, it was a queer sensation when we went on board, because we know what happened to it.
“It’s been a long hard slog, but it’s been worth every minute of it.”
Ernie Cooper, Malcolm Cooper and Bill Coates, who are also among the group’s members, have been spending two days a week at the yard helping Fred with the work.
A trailer has been bought to get the boat in and out of the water when it comes back to Seaham.
More details about the project can be found at www.seahamlifeboats.oneuk.com.
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