Portsmouth’s new lifeboat - Norma - named after the woman who donated it

RESCUE BOAT The Norma T lifeboat, also pictured inset, was funded by Bob and Norma Thomas.    Picture: Paul Jacobs (112617-6)
RESCUE BOAT The Norma T lifeboat, also pictured inset, was funded by Bob and Norma Thomas. Picture: Paul Jacobs (112617-6)

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A NEW lifeboat for Portsmouth has been officially named after one of the people who helped pay for it.

The state-of-the-art lifeboat was bought by Bob and Norma Thomas, from Portchester, who wanted to honour the hard work of the city’s life-saving volunteers.

RESCUE BOAT Funded by Bob and Norma Thomas.    Picture: Paul Jacobs (112617-6)

RESCUE BOAT Funded by Bob and Norma Thomas. Picture: Paul Jacobs (112617-6)

On Saturday, the couple were guests of honour at a service of dedication where the lifeboat was officially named Norma T.

The ceremony, at the RNLI lifeboat station in Ferry Road, Eastney, finished with a rescue demonstration at sea.

Mrs Thomas, 55, said: ‘It is really nice. My husband wanted to name it after me and I wasn’t sure at first.

‘But when you read in The News about all the lifeboat launches and they mention Norma T it is very nice.

‘The naming ceremony was wonderful and the crew have given us a very good day.

‘They are a very close crew here and it is like one big family.’

The Norma T lifeboat has been in service since October last year.

She was put into use just 15 minutes after going on service when two windsurfers and a catamaran drifted off the seafront at Hayling Island.

Since then, the boat has been launched 59 times to help people in the waters around Portsmouth.

Mr Thomas, 56, said: ‘I decided to name it after Norma. I never sail without her so it seemed right to name the lifeboat in her name.

‘We have always admired the skill, dedication and courage of the lifeboat volunteers.

‘For us the important thing is not about the donation but about the hard work the volunteers put in.

‘They are so professional that I think people forget they are a volunteer service who rely on donations from the public.

‘When the opportunity arose for us to get involved, we were very pleased. It was great timing for us because the station’s lifeboat needed replacing.

‘We have been planning it for about four years so it is excellent.’

Mr and Mrs Thomas founded their own company making and selling conservatory blinds.

After 10 years it was a national success and when they sold the company in 2001 they decided to give £150,000 to purchase a lifeboat.

Barry Taylor, the lifeboat operations manager, said: ‘It is unusual the person a lifeboat is named after can actually be at the naming and service of dedication.

‘Lifeboats are often named after people who are no longer with us, so this is something of a rarity and we’re all excited.

‘It gives us a chance to personally thank Bob and Norma for their generosity.

‘Without their kindness we would not have a modern lifeboat to help us launch our rescue missions.’

Norma T is an Atlantic 85 class rigid inflatable boat.

It can remain on service for three hours at full speed.