Fylde’s RNLI volunteers have said a touching farewell to their long-serving lifeboat.
Crowds gathered as the Her Majesty The Queen Mersey lass craft sailed away from the St Annes lifeboat station for the final time after almost 19 years’ service.
It has been replaced by a state-of-the-art £2.2m Shannon craft Barbara Anne, which arrived at the station in February and entered full service earlier this month after the completion of intensive crew training.
The Her Majesty the Queen took over as station lifeboat at the RNLI’s Lytham St Annes base on St Annes promenade in December 1999.
Since then, she has launched on service to vessels or people in danger more than 140 times, rescuing more than 100 people.
As well-wishers watched her departure on Saturday lunchtime – timed for 12.30 to coincide with her operational number, the Her Majesty the Queen was towed out to sea and then sailed to Fleetwood.
She was then taken by road to the RNLI’s headquarters in Poole, Dorset.
There, said an RNLI spokesman, it is likely she will join the relief fleet of lifeboats, standing by to take over if another craft is damaged or needs repairs, before she is eventually sold.
Among the crew on board as the lifeboat left the station for the last time was Martin Jaggs, coxswain at St Annes for much of the time the Her Majesty The Queen was in service and now back there as station mechanic after a spell in a regional role with the RNLI.
Peter Whalley, lifeboat operations manager at the St Annes station, said, “The new boat is faster, larger and more manoeuvrable than the Her Majesty the Queen but it’s sad to see the old boat go.
“She has served us well over the years and there are many people who were so glad to see her come over the horizon to rescue them.”