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The Ryder Lifeboat

photo of the Ryder lifeboat being launched at Looe in 1930
The Ryder lifeboat being launched at Looe - 1930

The RYDER lifeboat, now restored and on display in Polperro Harbour, was built in 1902 and served as the Looe lifeboat until 1930.

During her 28 years at Looe, the RYDER was launched on 12 occasions, saving a total of 37 lives in the process. She was built in London at a cost of 835, funded by a legacy from Mr William Ryder of Brixton, London and went on station at Looe in May 1902. She was crewed by a coxswain, second coxswain, bowman and ten oarsmen, and fitted with a lugsail and mizzen. Her first coxswain was Edward Toms, succeeded in 1912 by his brother Thomas Toms.

photo of last Ryder lifeboat crew (1928)
Last Ryder crew at Looe, 1928

When the Looe lifeboat station was closed, the RYDER was sold to a Mr Taylor of Birmingham who converted her to a twin-engined cabin cruiser and renamed her 'Halmay 3'. By 1958 she was owned by Elliot Baker, a New Zealander who used her as a houseboat in Bristol Docks before selling her to Mr J. Haughton of Bristol for 150 in 1962. She was given a fibre glass coating and moved to moorings on the Fleet side of Chesil Beach before being sold again in 1987. Shortly afterwards, she had sunk and was eventually raised and left derelict inside Chesil Beach.

Ryder lifeboat lying derelict on Chesil Beach 1987 In September 1987 she was about to be burned by a party of Royal Engineers helping with a beach clean up when she was spotted by the Secretary of the Weymouth RNLI, Barney Morris, who had her identified her as the old Looe boat RYDER. The local Royal Engineers commandant, Lt. Col. Ron Overd, who happened to be a Looe man, organised her recovery to premises at Brewers Quay, Weymouth where she was restored and eventually put on display.

In 1995 the Polperro Harbour Trustees, aware of her existence, considered how the RYDER might be recovered for, if a new owner could not be found, she was again due to be burned. Agreement was reached for the boat to be gifted to the Polperro Heritage Museum and on 5th April 1995 she was transported to the yard of C.Toms & Son at Polruan for restoration.

'Project Ryder' was formed with the intention of fund raising and restoring the RYDER to her original seaworthy condition. Grants and donations from public bodies, local businesses and individuals enabled restoration work to be completed in 1998. On 1st August that year the boat was re-dedicated by Dick Jolliff, a retired fisherman and lay preacher in Polperro and the inaugural celebrations were led by round-the-world yachtsman Tony Bullimore.

Ryder lifeboat restored, Polperro 1999
Ryder lifeboat restored, Polperro 1999

The RYDER is the only surviving Standard Self-Righting Lifeboat - the mainstay of the RNLI for over 80 years around the shores of Britain - to be displayed afloat, and one of only three to have been restored to its original condition. Now 100 years old, the RYDER can be seen at her mooring in Polperro harbour outside the Heritage Museum in the Warren. For details of the Ryder's centenary year events in 2002 click here.

Ryder lifeboat moored in Polperro harbour, September 2000
Ryder lifeboat moored in Polperro harbour, September 2000

Following the tragic loss of Daniel Kebble of Polperro while out fishing on January 8 2000, his father Terry, with Trustees Fr. William Braviner and Chris Curtis, Harbour Master, have set up the Harbour Lights Trust Fund. This will take the form of very low interest loans, with easy repayment terms to help local fishermen to purchase safety equipment.

Daniel was also a very keen member of Project Ryder, and with his boat the Harbour Lights, used to tow the old lifeboat to various local maritime events. The Trust Fund presented a full set of crew lifejackets and a personal EPRIB (Emergency radio beacon) to the Ryder crew in memory of Daniel. It is hoped that this will further the current campaign to raise the awareness of the need for safety at sea and in particular, the wearing of lifejackets.

Details of the Lifejackets Campaign - click here.

Tony White
edited by Jeremy Rowett Johns, Polperro Heritage Museum © 2000

Please visit our sister website, www.talland.org to learn about the most heroic of the Ryder lifeboat's rescues - that of the French trawler "Marguerite" - click here

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