The RNLI has confirmed Arbroath’s all-weather lifeboat will be launched down the slip of the 221-year-old Angus station for the final time in less than six weeks.
And news of RNLB Inchape’s departure after more than 30 years of lifesaving service has been met with a flood of sadness and anger.
The Mersey-class boat’s symbolic departure on March 17 was announced by Arbroath RNLI in a Facebook post on Thursday afternoon.
It drives home the reality of a decision taken by RNLI chiefs last April to reverse a plan for a Shannon-class replacement lifeboat.
Atlantic 85 RIB allocated to Arbroath
Under the outcome of a lifesaving review, Arbroath was allocated a high-speed Atlantic 85 rigid inflatable.
It prompted fury locally that one of Scotland’s oldest RNLI stations – and the last with a slipway launch – was to lose all-weather capability.
The charity has repeatedly rejected suggestions it is a downgrade for Arbroath.
Critics of the decision have been equally forceful in their condemnation of the replacement boat as a “rubber dinghy”.
Arbroath was promised the £2.5 million Shannon ALB for almost a decade before the controversial u-turn.
Sacked figure unsure he’ll watch Inchape depart
And former Arbroath RNLI operations manager Alex Smith says he does not know if he will watch Inchcape head beyond the breakwater one last time.
The final launch will be just days short of the boat’s naming ceremony in April 1994.
The RNLI sacked Mr Smith in June after 22 years of service, citing a “breakdown of trust”.
He said: “We all knew this was coming, we just didn’t know when.
“There is still a lot of bitterness around this whole thing and the way it was done by RNLI management.
“Every day people speak to me about how angry they are about the town losing its big boat and the way they think I was treated.
“I’m not sure if the RNLI will ever recover from the damage it caused to its reputation in Arbroath.
“Certainly this generation will find it very hard to forgive them for what’s happened.”
Well cared for lifeboat
“If the RNLI had stuck to their promise this would have been a celebration of how well it had served the town, to be replaced by an even more capable boat,” he said.
“The Inchcape has done a great job, saving lives and protecting her crew and I would have been sad to see her go.
“She was the major part of my whole RNLI career.
“This boat got such good care that it still looks like it could have arrived yesterday.
“It’s been protected in the shed and well looked after during all that time.
“But with everything that’s happened I’m just not sure I’ll go down to see her launch for the last time.”
The RNLI said more details of the final launch would be shared soon.
An Atlantic 85 has been berthed at Arbroath since last summer, initially for crew familiarisation.
It is yet to be confirmed if that craft will remain on station as the Inchcape’s permanent replacement.
Arbroath also has a D-class inshore lifeboat, RNLB Robert Fergusson.