Registration number 2363
Status Registered


Function Service Vessel
Subfunction Lifeboat
Location Whitstable
Vessel type Liverpool Class Lifeboat
Current use Commercial Activity
Available to hire Yes
Available for excursions Yes


Builder Groves & Gutteridge Ltd, Cowes
Built in 1948
Hull material Wood
Rig None
Number of decks 1
Propulsion Motor
Number of engines 2
Primary engine type Inboard diesel
Boiler type None
Boilermaker None


Breadth: Beam
10.60 feet (3.23m)
2.00 feet (0.61m)
Length: Overall
36.50 feet (11.13m)


THE CHIEFTAIN is a twin screw Liverpool class lifeboat built by Groves & Gutteridge of Cowes, Isle of Wight in 1948. She is of double diagonal construction, has a mahogany hull and her engine is a Beta model 38 installed in 2009. The vessel was the Barmouth lifeboat from 1949 to 1982 and saved 132 lives.

The majority of Liverpool class lifeboats were carriage launched. THE CHIEFTAIN was slip launched and was the last lifeboat at Barmouth to be slip launched due to the estuary becoming silted up. She retains ninety percent of her original timber and all her original fittings. 

She arrived in Barmouth on 11 March 1949.   A 35' 6” (10.6m) Liverpool class boat, with two 18hp petrol engines, built by Groves and Gutterage of Cowes at a cost of £9,943. Her top speed with her original engines was just 7.25 knots.

She was named on 6 July the year she arrived, and just 3 weeks later, on 29 July, she was out on her first shout. An aircraft had crashed into the sea 6 miles off Barmouth and The Chieftain set out in strong onshore winds and a rough sea. The crew located the wreckage and found the pilot clinging to his inflatable dinghy, but there was no sign of the co-pilot. They searched the area and, sadly, eventually found his body which they recovered and brought ashore.

Many of her shouts were in heavy weather, and she was a wet boat in such conditions, providing very little shelter for her crew. Before even leaving harbour the bowman got a soaking, just from launching down the slip. One thing was certain, she had the full confidence of the men who took her to sea, and she did everything that they asked of her.

During her 33 year-long career in Barmouth, THE CHIEFTAIN worked hard, when boating for pleasure was beginning to become a popular pastime and the fishing fleet was about to be at its busiest.  She was called out 113 times during her working life, which is very nearly as many as all of her predecessors combined, and she has been credited with carrying her crew to save 132 lives, more than twice as many as any earlier boat.

During the 50s and 60s and well into the 70s, the lifeboat crews were summoned to a launch by the firing of maroons from the lifeboat house by the bridge.  The sound of these maroons could be heard for miles and the whole town was alerted and dogs howled as the crew made their way to the boathouse.  THE CHIEFTAIN always had a good audience as crowds thronged the quayside to see her launch and return.

2019: THE CHIEFTAIN was transferred to Whitstable under new ownership. Restored to her former glory in the 2000s, THE CHIEFTAIN now operates boat trips and seal safaris from Whitstable harbour in Kent.  She retains 90% of her original timber and all her original fittings. 

In June 2023, THE CHIEFTAIN was awarded the title of NHS-UK's Operational Flagship of the Year, in recognition of the day trips and open days planned as part of her 75th anniversary and her growing presence on social media.

Key dates

  • 1948

    Liverpool class lifeboat built by Groves & Gutteridge of Cowes, Isle of Wight

  • 1982

    Served as the Barmouth lifeboat from 1949 to 1982 and saved 132 lives

  • 2009

    Beta model 38 engine installed

  • 2010

    Restoration completed with 90% of original timber and all of original fittings retained

  • 2012

    Vessel selected to take part in Queen's Diamond Jubilee Pageant on 3 June 2012

  • 2014

    Vessel in private use based at Bristol 

  • 2023

    Received the 2023 Operational Flagship of the Year Award from National Historic Ships UK


  • July 2020

    A Sustainability Grant of £300 towards the cost of a cover was made from the Strategic Development Fund of National Historic Ships UK


Classic Boat: 1,000 Boat Pageant - Forces vessels and lifeboats, June 2012

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