RESTORERS of a tragedy-hit boat hope to meet a deadline which would see it sail to its home harbour for the 50th anniversary of the disaster.
The George Elmy is being returned to its original state by the East Durham Heritage Group which bought the wreck after it was sold on eBay in 2009.
It prompted a campaign which raised £91,500 in donations in an outpouring of support from the community and a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Saturday, November 17, will mark five decades since the day the Liverpool Class lifeboat capsized after a rescuing the crew of a fishing coble, claiming the lives of eight men and a nine-year-old boy.
A civic service attended by the Right Reverend Justin Welby, the Bishop of Durham, will be held at noon in St John’s Church and include the reading of poem written in the aftermath of the deaths.
A preparations continue for the event, the team of historians will press on with work on the boat at Fred Crowell’s Tyneside yard with the aim of completing the refit in time for the ceremony.
They have suffered several setbacks because of complications in the repairs or difficulties in replacing sections of the vessel.
While they will be up against it to complete the work in time for the anniversary, they say they will try their best to complete the refit.
George Maitland, one of the restoration group’s members, said: “We will be disappointed if it is not ready, but we are keeping our fingers crossed.
“It’s been a much longer job than anybody expected because of the nature of the work and we have to do it properly.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do something like this and it’s really looking good.
“It’s been painted in the RNLI’s blue livery.
“Most of the top sides and the decking is done, steering, gears and the engine are fitted and Fred’s building a shelter.
“We’re also waiting for another engine to be fitted.”
A series of videos chronicling the restoration project on the boat, which was turned into a fishing vessel after it was taken out of use as a lifeboat, have been uploaded to YouTube and can also be found via the group’s website.
Work is also continuing at the former lifeboat house in Seaham’s North Dock, which will be used to store the craft and linked to a heritage centre which will feature information about the boat’s past and the town’s maritime history.
The construction is being carried out by Durham County Council as part of its revamp to turn part of the harbour into a marina.
The history group is also keen to recruit new members as the scheme progresses and would like to hear from anyone who is interested in East Durham’s past.
More details about the project can be found at www.seahamlifeboats.oneuk.com