The Richard Vernon 46’9” Watson class Lifeboat, ON 931 Served at Angle and Wicklow 1957 to 1988 Built 1956 by J Samuel White at Cowes. She was the RNLI’s exhibition boat at the first London Boat Show, held at Olympia in January 1957. She then went to Angle, Pembrokeshire where she served from 1957 to 1987. She is credited with 71 lives saved whilst at Angle. Her final service was the remainder of 1987 into 1988 at Wicklow as relief Lifeboat and she was sold out of service in 1989.
Originally built as an open cockpit boat powered by 2 x 4 cylinder Ferry Diesel engines the Richard Vernon was converted by the RNLI in the 1960s by fitting a wheelhouse roof and the engines were replaced by 6 cylinder Ford diesel engines with the exhaust route changed from up the mast to through the hull. Gearboxes are substantial “Self Changing Gears” commercial hydraulic clutched gearboxes with additional recoil start still fitted. Originally built as non-self righting, the boat was converted to self-righting by the addition of an inflatable airbag on the aft cabin roof. This was removed before she left RNLI service.
The Richard Vernon is registered as a National Historic Ship. The boat is in very good order throughout. Outside she is in the condition as she left the RNLI, minus the self-righting bag. Unusually for an RNLI Watson class Lifeboat the boat was recovered up the slip at Angle Lifeboat station bow first and the forward bulwark/toe boards still have the gap to accommodate the winch lines although the large fairleads were removed. All deck fittings remain as she left service, including the Fisherman’s anchor and Francis searchlight. A 19kg Bruce anchor is used as the “working” anchor. Internally the wheelhouse and engine room are as per RNLI condition, the engines are well serviced with recent rebuild of the injector pumps and new diesel lift pumps. Gearboxes and prop shafts/seals etc are fully serviced and work to design spec.
Fuel consumption is still as per the RNLI speed v consumption graphs, about 3.5 gallons per hour at cruising speed. All the electric circuits with the exception of the bow thruster are on the original wiring loom through the circuit breakers in the engine room and aft cabin. This means that armoured, shielded cable is used throughout the boat to reduce VHF interference.
It also means that substantial wiring supplies higher power consumption items such as the fridge/freezer via circuit breakers. 12v supplies to instruments and VHFs are via separate transformers by each installation. Lighting throughout the boat is by LED bulbs, including the navigation and riding lights. Fire extinguishers are in date. The forward cabin has been converted with the addition of bunks in the wing compartments to port and starboard with a 3rd bunk space across the boat under the steps into the cabin. The engine heat exchangers are inn the forward cabin, making this a warm, dry sleeping cabin. The fore-peak contains the heads, some hanging storage and the Lewmar 8hp bow thruster with its substantial 24v battery supply. This is charged by the starboard engine when cruising or by a Sterling battery charger/conditioner when connected to shore power.
The aft cabin has been very tastefully converted to allow comfortable cruising whilst retaining the look and feel of a Lifeboat. A small galley area comprising a 2 burner Origo spirit stove, a glass topped sink with mixer tap and a selection of hardwood cupboards has been custom-built professionally into the chart table/radio/radar area. The original heater, supplied from the port engine has been retained and ducted to heat the aft cabin and wheelhouse, a calorifier supplies hot water to the sink. 100litres of freshwater is carried in a bag tank under the wheelhouse deck with a filler on the starboard deck. 12v and 24v sockets are positioned around the cabin. Upholstered seating for up to 8 people is based around a hardwood table /chart table with a superb RNLI flag made of marquetry in the centre. A considerable volume of storage is under the seating with access to the propellor scuttles and bilge compartments. The seating area may be converted into a large double bed sleeping area. All buoyancy air cases have been removed to allow airflow through the bilge compartments.
The aft cabin also has a “wet” bench seating area just inside the watertight hatch which also contains a Waeco fridge/freezer which runs off 12v, 24v or 240v automatically. All the woodwork in the aft cabin is hardwood or marine ply.
The deckhead is insulated and hardwood lined, painted gloss white. Electronics fitted include: In the wheelhouse Icom VHF and DSC JRC Raster scan 2000 radar Lowrance chart plotter Garmin GPS Raymarine depth sounder Bowthruster joystick In the aft cabin ICS Navtex Sailor VHF and DSC Lowrance chart plotter 24v automatic bilge pumps are fitted to each main watertight compartment throughout the boat. The wheelhouse scuppers are blocked externally but could be easily re-instated. The Richard Vernon had an out of the water refit and annual maintenance in June/July 2019, with the hull and red fenders fully painted, the underwater hull was maintained as required, antifouled and all-new zinc anodes fitted. Decks and superstructure were thoroughly cleaned and polished, no repairs required. Engines, fuel systems and gearboxes were fully serviced.