New lifeboat for the Western Isles

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The Western Isles is to be given a new lifeboat.

Leverburgh RNLI’s new Shannon-class vessel – named the Stella and Humfrey Berkeley – was launched into the water for the first time at the RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat centre in Poole this week.

The RNLB Stella and Humfrey Berkeley is the 13th Shannon to roll off the RNLI’s production line. Each costs £2.2 million to build and is capable of reaching speeds up to 25 knots.

The lifeboat will now be put through sea trials in and around Poole, with arrival at Leverburgh on Harris scheduled for April 21. An official naming ceremony is planned for Saturday July 14. It is anticipated the boat will enter service during the first week of May.

Between now and then, Leverburgh’s volunteer crew will undertake additional training to familiarise themselves with how their new Shannon will work.

Leverburgh RNLI lifeboat station was established just five years ago, initially for a trial period of one year. Following a successful year for the new volunteer crew, the decision was taken to make the station permanent.

The station is currently home to RNLB the Royal Thames, one of the RNLI’s Mersey-class lifeboats. While the Royal Thames has served Leverburgh and her previous stations well, the boat is reaching the end of its working life.

The Shannon is the latest class of all-weather lifeboat to join the RNLI fleet. It is the first modern all-weather lifeboat to be propelled by water jets instead of traditional propellers, making her the RNLI’s most agile and manoeuvrable all-weather lifeboat yet – even in the shallowest of waters.

These features make the Shannon particularly suitable for serving the often-challenging Sound of Harris, and beyond. The new lifeboat is also capable of reaching speeds up to 25 knots, which will mean the crew can reach casualties in a shorter space of time.

Leverburgh RNLI’s Honorary President, Hamish Taylor, said, on behalf of the station: ‘Over the five and a half years of its service, and with more than 80 service calls already carried out, Leverburgh lifeboat station, its operating systems and crew have steadily matured in skills and experience, so the imminent arrival of the new boat is a natural development which will significantly enhance the effectiveness of the station.

‘Throughout this time also, the communities of Harris and North Uist have taken the station to heart and have been consistently and practically supportive. Without such support the station would be a lonely and isolated one, so we extend our heartfelt thanks to these wide communities which the station seeks to serve.

‘The arrival of the Shannon in Leverburgh not only brings improvements in lifesaving capabilities, it also brings with it new opportunities to get involved in the work of the RNLI. Leverburgh RNLI is seeking to add to its volunteer crew numbers, including the recruitment of an additional volunteer coxswain.

‘This is a fantastic opportunity to take on a leadership role within the crew, gain access to specialised training and make further contribution to your local station.’

Anybody interested becoming a crew member or coxswain should contact the Leverburgh lifeboat operations manager, Chris Ross, at or on 07899 786574.