A HISTORIC lifeboat is set to sail to its home port for the first time in 50 years following a restoration.
The George Elmy was involved in a tragedy on November 17, 1962, when the Seaham RNLI boat was called to the aid of a fishing coble.
After rescuing the vessel’s crew, she was struck by a freak wave as she returned to harbour and nine of the 10 people on board died, including a nine-year-old boy.
The 62-year-old boat has been returned to its original glory at Fred Crowell’s boat yard in South Shields, after being bought from eBay by East Durham Heritage Group in 2009.
Last week, the boat took to the River Tyne for the first time since its revamp and underwent further trials on the river on Friday.
Mr Crowell said: “We’ve been working on it for 18 months so it was brilliant to finally see it on the river. The trials have gone well and it will soon return home to Seaham.
“The boathouse where it was originally has also been restored and it will act as a museum and visitor centre.”
The campaign to restore the Liverpool Class boat has topped £91,500 in donations and a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
In addition to the installation of the two Perkins diesel engines to power the boat, the cabin and woodwork has been returned to its original state.
The restoration was overseen by the East Durham Heritage Group, whose members have been spending two days a week at Mr Crowell’s yard helping with the work.
The boat was built by the East Cowes yard of Groves & Guttridge, and arrived at Seaham Harbour early in 1950.
After the tragedy, the George Elmy served as a relief vessel and then in reserve, before being sold out of Royal National Lifeboat Institution service in 1972.
The boat will be moored at the Royal Quays in North Shields until the boathouse in Seaham’s North Dock is completed.