Type: Motor yacht
Draft: 3ft 6ins
Displacement: 9.6 tons
Engine: Perkins 432 Diesel
Construction: Mahogany on oak
The former Moelfre lifeboat Charles and Eliza Laura earned awards for gallantry before the men of Dunkirk were ever born. A 12-oar, 15-man pulling-and-sailing vessel, she saved her first lives on her delivery trip in 1910, after she left the river Mersey, when she was called to the yacht Drake sinking with two people on board. Rigged with a standing lug foresail, mizzen and jib, she proved her sailing qualities during her most dramatic rescue in 1927, when the ketch Excel, bound from Birkenhead to Ireland with a cargo of coal, started shipping water and was soon out of control in a heavy south-westerly gale. Second coxswain William Roberts commanded the lifeboat.
The Excel had been in tow of a German tanker, when the tow-rope parted. There was little time left to rescue the three men aboard her. Heavy seas made it impossible to go alongside, so the coxswain took the desperate measure of driving his ship over the crest of a big wave on top of the Excel where they stayed long enough to take off her crew before her stern dropped and they slipped off again. The gale was now approaching hurricane force and the Charles and Eliza Laura was holed in five places, but they went on with rescuers and rescued holding on desperately, sailing through the sea more than on it. They brought the boat home safely after seventeen and a half hours on the storm-swept ocean. Her coxswain and one other received the RNLI Gold Medal, the rest of the crew got the bronze. One died from his injuries.
In 18 years, the ship went out on 35 similar occasions and saved the lives of 84 people and a dog. Then, on 11th February 1929, she broke from her moorings in heavy seas and was damaged too badly to be considered for repair to lifeboat standard. She was therefore sold out of service.
Douglas Kirkaldy, famous coxswain of the Ramsgate lifeboat at the time, bought her and sailed her home from Anglesey in 1940. That is when her name was changed to Salvor, but she continued much as before, first in the Trinity House Lightship service and then as a stand-by lifeboat. At this time, she was commandeered by the Navy and became HMS Salvor. A naval crew took her to Dunkirk and she was returned after the war to Douglas Kirkaldy who stipulated that she should be burned at his death - a request no-one was prepared to obey.
Eventually, she was found rotting at her moorings at Richborough, Kent, by Reg Cornwell, a timber preservation specialist who "could not let this grand old servant of the sea die". He pulled her out and spent a year restoring her. He then took her back to Ramsgate harbour where a warm welcome awaited her. She goes out on fishing and pleasure trips but is treated with awe by those who know her history.
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