'Gamechanger' lifeboat funded by Freemasons enters service

Chris Bowles, wearing a sash, and Gary Allen, wearing a chain, from East Anglian Freemasons,

Chris Bowles, wearing a sash, and Gary Allen, wearing a chain, from East Anglian Freemasons, unveil the plaque on the new lifeboat with its crew. - Credit: Richard Pryor

Saving lives at sea has just been made a lot easier off Sea Palling thanks to a new lifeboat which cost more than £56,000.

Sea Palling Independent Lifeboat took delivery of the new Humber 6.3m Ocean Pro Rib in late May, then after training and sea trials an official presentation took place in late July.

The £56,384 boat was paid for by the Mark Benevolent Fund (MBF) - one of the Freemason's international charities. 

Keith McCully, head of the Freemasons' Ancient and Masonic Order of the Scarlet Cord in East Anglia, made the recommendation for the grant. 

The new lifeboat Canon Portal in action.

The new lifeboat Canon Portal in action. - Credit: Richard Pryor

Mr McCully said: “We had previously supported Felixstowe Independent Lifeboat and I heard that the vessel at Sea Palling was in need of replacement and would need a major fundraising effort.

"The Mark Benevolent Fund is able to act quickly and we made a strong case for this major upgrade in lifesaving provision along the North Norfolk coast."

The lifeboat, which is named Canon Portal in recognition of the founder of MBF, replaces Lionheart, an older vessel which was coming to the end of its lifespan.

The new lifeboat Canon Portal on shore.

The new lifeboat Canon Portal on shore. - Credit: Richard Pryor

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Canon Portal is larger than Lionheart, and the extra space and new seat layout allow for more deck room to treat casualties and store equipment.

Its engine is more powerful, with a top speed of 45 knots.

The boat also has a bigger fuel tank than its predecessor and is equipped with a large touchscreen display which is linked to a thermal night vision camera.

The plaque displayed on the new Sea Palling lifeboat.

The plaque displayed on the new Sea Palling lifeboat. - Credit: Richard Pryor

Mark Skerrett, Sea Palling Independent Lifeboat chairman, said: "We have been fortunate to be supported by Norfolk Freemasons for several years with grants to pay for servicing the lifeboat and tractor, the purchase of our mobile welfare unit and other donations, but to receive a new lifeboat is a gamechanger.

"Replacing Lionheart was necessary, as she was 14 years old and even with many upgrades over the years, it was needing more annual maintenance which was getting expensive.

"Receiving Canon Portal from the Freemasons has saved us a major fundraising challenge and our funds can be spent on other necessary equipment for the crew.”

The public can see it the new lifeboat in action at the station's open day on Sunday, August 21 from 11am to 4pm.