Ilfracombe lifeboatman aims to restore old vessel for pleasure trips
A MAN who has crewed Ilfracombe lifeboat for more than 20 years has purchased an old lifeboat which he is hoping to bring back to life.
Lifeboat enthusiast Stuart Carpenter, 37, is hoping to offer unique boat trips on the 37-foot former RNLI Rother class vessel called The Hampshire Rose.
Stuart, who is an RNLI mechanic and helmsman and has crewed Ilfracombe lifeboat since he was 16, bought the ship in October last year.
He said: "She was built in 1975 and served from then until 1990 at Walmer in Kent.
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"The Queen Mother attended her naming ceremony and famously dropped her handbag in the sea. A navy officer had to dive in and get it for her.
"She was named the Hampshire Rose after the famous sailor Sir Alec Rose who led the fundraising appeal for her."
From 1990 to 1992 she formed part of the RNLI relief fleet but after that she went into private ownership.
Stuart said: "Only 14 of these were built and just three are currently for sale."
In a bizarre coincidence, the Hampshire Rose was previously owned by former Ilfracombe lifeboat coxswain Dave-Paul Clements.
Stuart said: "He sold it to someone in Portsmouth seven years ago.
"This person didn't use it as much as they thought they would and put it up for sale.
"I'm a real lifeboat enthusiast and as soon as I saw it I knew I wanted it."
Stuart, who also works as a manager of Denmans Electrical wholesalers, said the boat is mechanically sound but in dire need of painting and restoration.
He said: "We are going to replace part of the rear deck and repaint it in lifeboat colours.
"It's been hard work, some parts of the boat have 16 layers of paint on them.
"Fortunately I've had a lot of help from several fellow lifeboat crew members who have been great."
Stuart is planning to offer half hour pleasure cruises on the boat which will include sightseeing information as well as a history of the boat.
He said: "I love lifeboats and I thought this would provide something a bit different to the wildlife, fast-thrill or diving trips which are offered in Ilfracombe.
"It makes business sense and also appeals to me personally.
"It's a niche market but who wouldn't want to have a trip on a nice old lifeboat? It looks just like the old toy boats you used to play with in the bath."
The Hampshire Rose is due to be lifted into Ilfracombe Harbour on March 24 and Stuart hopes to start offering trips around Easter.