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Lifesaving Spirit rides out delay until May.

Volunteers behind a new independent lifeboat service in Northumberland are counting the days to starting lifesaving duties.

It was originally hoped Blyth's new all-weather lifeboat ( bought after a pounds 120,000 community fund-raising campaign ( would have been on call by now.

There has been a two-month delay in getting the boat into service but yesterday the Blyth Volunteer Lifeboat Service (BVLS) said it was confident it would be only a matter of weeks before that happened.

Final crew training is still being carried out and the BVLS is waiting for the delivery of specialist equipment for the boat, but it should be all systems go next month. The BVLS was set up last summer amid anger over the RNLI's decision to withdraw Blyth's offshore lifeboat Windsor Runner and leave the town with just an inflatable inshore rescue craft.

Volunteers bought the new boat from the independent lifeboat service at Caister in Norfolk and it arrived in Blyth three months ago.

It was originally hoped to have the 38ft Spirit of Blyth and Wansbeck in service by Easter but that proved too optimistic and a month ago volunteers said they were aiming to launch the service in another four weeks.

Yesterday, BVLS spokesman John Tuttiett said: "We are plodding away quite steadily and the boat will be in service in a matter of weeks. There is no doubt about that.

"Crew training is progressing very steadily and we now have almost a full-strength team of about 20 crew members. We are also waiting for new radio and plotting equipment for the boat to arrive and be installed before we get going properly.

"We will be making a number of new announce-ments about the service in the near future, but things are well on course and the boat is currently out on exercises three days a week."

Community support is vital if the new service is to be maintained and recent fundraising efforts have suffered because of the huge public response to the Asian tsunami disaster appeal.

The BVLS was set up because of fears lives would be put at risk off the Northumberland coastline.

A mystery benefactor came up with the cash to buy the boat, formerly called Bernard Matthews.

Before taking up maritime rescue duties, the BVLS must prove to the Coastguard it can provide a reliable, year-round service.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 25, 2005
Words:389
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