Former RNLI lifeboat to open for visitors in Littlehampton next month

A former RNLI lifeboat will open for visitors in Littlehampton next month.

On Monday, May 27, Littlehampton Harbour welcomed home the ‘Sir William Arnold’ Lifeboat 5202 – an Arun class lifeboat built in Littlehampton at Osbornes.

A harbour spokesperson said: “She entered on high water this lunchtime escorted by the Littlehampton RNLI Lifeboats. Lifeboat 52-02 is with us for an extended period, visitors will be able to get up close to this and other fantastic vessels on our Waterfront Festival on July 20th to 21st 2024.”

Conservancy officer Gareth Carthew said the harbour is ‘excited to have such an historic vessel back home’ in Littlehampton.

He added: “We understand that she will soon be opening to the public again as a museum ship, which will add another attraction to our beautiful harbour.”

The former RNLI, St Peter Port, lifeboat served Guernsey between 1973 and 1997 but is now in private ownership.

Lifeboat operations manager, Nick White, said: “The Arun Class was the first RNLI-developed 'fast afloat' lifeboat. Fast because Aruns could reach around 16 knots, previous traditional lifeboats had a top speed of eight or nine knots.

"Afloat refers to the fact that this class is moored afloat, the propellers are exposed beneath the hull to help achieve speed, traditional boats protected the props in tunnels so that boats could be slipway or carriage launched. The only previous fast afloat boat was the 44' Waveney Class, a US Coastguard design. The first, 44-001, was actually an American boat bought by the RNLI to trial.

“The prototype Arun, 52-01, was built by William Osborne at Littlehampton and named Arun. She looks distinctly different without the deck cutaway which has become a feature of many larger classes of lifeboat.

"If ever you see 52-01, which is still a working boat and most recently based in Scotland, she looks quite strange with a high freeboard and a very rectangular wheelhouse.

"The cutaway was introduced for 52-02 onwards to make it easier to reach survivors in the water. 52-02 was St Peter Port lifeboat, serving Guernsey between 1973 and 1997. A quick count suggests 16 medals for gallantry were awarded to crew during the tenure of 52-02.

“The first two Aruns were 52', the first three were wooden, and numbers 03 to 07 were slightly longer at 54' with a rounded stern instead of the original flat transom. A mould was produced from 53-03 so that all subsequent boats could be built of GRP, and from 52-08 onwards, the design reverted to 52' with a flat transom.”

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