Familiar faces at lifeboat ceremony

Michael Vlasto, former operations director of the RNLI
Michael Vlasto, former operations director of the RNLI

Two familiar faces will return to Fylde for the naming and dedication of the new Lytham St Annes lifeboat.

Michael Vlasto, retired former operations director of the RNLI, and his wife Helen will be guests of honour at Saturday afternoon’s ceremony.

Helen Vlasto cuts a lifeboat station-shaped cake to officially open the St Annes station in 2003

Helen Vlasto cuts a lifeboat station-shaped cake to officially open the St Annes station in 2003

Both the Vlastos are no strangers to the station. Michael was previously inspector of lifeboats for the Western Division of the RNLI, in which Lytham St Annes was a member, between 1984 and 1990.

And it was Helen who officially opened the current station on St Annes seafront in 2003.

Michael was in charge when the last brand new Lytham St Annes Lifeboat – the Tyne class Sarah Emily Harrop – was named at Preston Dock in 1990.

He was appointed RNLI chief in 1997 before retiring in 2013 after 38 years’ total service.

The Shannon craft

The Shannon craft

On Saturday afternoon, Michael will name the new Shannon class lifeboat the Barbara Anne while Helen will name the Inshore D class lifeboat MOAM.

The new Shannon class lifeboat Barbara Anne, arrived in St Annes in February.

It is named after an RNLI supporter from Winchester, Miss Barbara Anne Cameron Roberts, whose bequest funded a major part of £2.2m cost.

The balance needed was provided by other donations and the local Shannon Appeal to raise £275,000 which was met by a variety of donations and events organised by well wishers, supporters and the general public.

The £48,000 inshore lifeboat MOAM arrived on station 18 months ago but her naming was delayed until a joint naming ceremony for the two new lifeboats could be arranged.

Her name was requested by the anonymous donor of the major part of her cost.

With a speed of 25 knots compared to her predecessor the Mersey craft Her Majesty The Queen’s Mersey craft’s 17 knots, the Barbara Anne is larger, faster and safer to operate.

Peter Whalley, lifeboat operations manager at the St Annes station, said: “It will be good to see Michael and Helen again.

“Helen opened our new boathouse and Michael was an excellent Inspector when in charge of our Division.”

Fylde mayor Coun John Singleton, who included the Shannon appeal among his three mayoral charities, will also be at the Saturday’s ceremony along with his wife Geraldine.

He said of the RNLI: “These ordinary people doing extraordinary tasks are special. They deserve our admiration and applause and I wish the crew and future crews a safe time saving lives.”