Cemaes Bay Lifeboat

by Peter

The recently restored Cemaes Bay Lifeboat was officially dedicated at a well attended ceremony in Cemaes Harbour on Sunday.

Large crowds from all over Anglesey witnessed the Reverend Geraint Edwards bless Charles Henry Ashley, the lifeboat first launched in Cemaes over 102 years ago and which saw service up until the 1930’s.

The restored 38 foot Classic Watson lifeboat looked mightily impressive as it glided along in the bay outside Cemaes Harbour wall, the enthused crew pulling in unison as the boat ploughed its furrow through the flat calm waters.

While at the end of the pier, a small crew dressed in traditional naval uniforms manned small cannon, and periodically a salvo crackled through the air momentarily reducing the crowds to a stunned silence.

Nearby on a hotel balcony and facing the harbour, a local country music band and a choir of school children entertained the crowds. Along the pier, various charities such as the Anglesey branch of MacMillan’s Hospice and the RNLI ran stalls.

Local MP Albert Owen met with crew members of the lifeboats as well as MCA personnel and David Williams, a local boat owner and one of the driving forces to rescue the Charles Henry Ashley from oblivion.

Also at the event were the “Robert and Violet”, the RNLI Moelfre Lifeboat and the Holyhead lifeboat, both of which are self-righting. Officials from the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) based at Holyhead attended, representing an important link in the teamwork that is crucial when the emergency services have to respond.

We should remember that while the Charles Henry Ashley (CHA) is now fully restored, it is not commissioned for active service and should an incident arise off the north west Anglesey coast, it would be either or both the RNLI Moelfre and Holyhead lifeboats that would be called out.

Following its decommissioning in 1932, the CHA lifeboat was put into storage where it remained for over 30 years until it was sold at auction for about £600.

Thereafter a local group of maritime enthusiasts carried out renovation work on the vessel. The lifeboat was damaged in the 1990’s and moved to a caravan park near Lligwy on the east coast of the island.

By 2000 the lifeboat was rescued from scrap by the sterling efforts of the Amlwch Heritage Trust, and following numerous negotiations between the Trust and boating enthusiasts led by David Williams from Cemaes.

Much work has been done recently to restore the boat, boosted by support from the Wales Co-op, Medrwn Mon and a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

A particularly difficult challenge was to dry out the timbers but under controlled to ensure the shape of the lifeboat was not adversely affected.

Numerous businesses have made contributions including paints, varnish, lifejackets and parts for the engine.

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