A new career for Margate’s former Mersey class RNLI lifeboat Leonard Kent

Leonard Kent during its time at Margate lifeboat station (RNLI Margate)

When it retired from active service at Margate in April 2021, the town’s Mersey class RNLI all-weather lifeboat faced an uncertain future but RNLB Leonard Kent has now been allocated to a new home at Newcastle Co. Down in Northern Ireland where it will continue its lifesaving work.

Old lifeboats that are replaced may become part of the RNLI’s relief fleet, covering at stations while their own lifeboat is away for refits etc. They may find a new home with overseas lifeboat organisations or be sold ‘out of service’ for other roles. Leonard Kent’s predecessor, the Rother class lifeboat RNLB Silver Jubilee, is now privately-owned in New York State USA, preserved in virtually the same condition and livery as when it was a serving lifeboat at Margate.

Leonard Kent initially spent some time at the RNLI Support Centre at Poole but was considered worthy of further service and subsequently earmarked to replace Newcastle’s existing Mersey class lifeboat from where it will operate until building work at the station has been completed and their new Shannon class all-weather lifeboat has arrived.

Leonard Kent was moved to a boatyard at West Cowes on the Isle of Wight and treated to a life-extension programme including upgrading the electronics to the latest Systems and Information Management System (SIMS). Leonard Kent had been built at the then FBM Marine shipyard at Cowes in1992.

After a trip from Poole to Northern Ireland by both road and sea, Margate’s loyal and much-loved Mersey class lifeboat will soon once again be saving lives at sea, this time the Irish Sea.

Derek Amas, Lifeboat Operations Manager, Margate RNLI said: “It was a sad occasion when Leonard Kent launched for the last time from Margate but it is rewarding so see it continuing its life saving work. The lifeboat was much loved by the crew, bringing them safely back to their families for nearly 30 years, we send our very best wishes to everyone at Newcastle and hope their new lifeboat continues its faithful service at its new home.”