The Retirement of the RNLI Leonard Kent – by Simon King

I was walking down the shoreline in Margate with Amanda and David, complaining to them after a passing seagull had offended my favourite summer scarf, when David pointed out towards the lighthouse, cutting me off. A procession of yellow-suited and booted sailors were accompanying a boat as it was towed out to the water’s edge.

From the distance we could make out that it was an RNLI designated boat, but were too far to start making any photographs. I had only my M6 (loaded with Fomapan 400) and 50mm Zeiss, no other lenses, so began to jog forward in case I missed out on anything that was going on.

The procession moved slow, and we quickly caught up with them, and I snapped a few frames while David went over to chat with one of the sailors. He was told that this was to be the final voyage of this ship, the Leonard Kent, and her crew, as the vessel was to be retired and replaced by a new “B-Class” Inshore Lifeboat.

I photographed the scene until the boat was put out into the water, where it started on it’s way to enter service outside of RNLI control in Poole. Aside from myself, David, and Amanda, only a couple of photographers were also documenting as this all unfolded, and I think one was the RNLI in-house shooter. It was one of those right-time, right-place, always carry a camera type situations, and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to made record of this sombre and unexpected, very small slice of very local and very niche history.

I liked the detail of this sailors interlocked fingers, and moved close to capture it.

Later on, all that was left of the scene were the tread-marks of the vehicle which had driven the Leonard Kent out into the ocean.

Thanks for reading! I recently published a collection of photographs from some time spent in Bulgaria, which can be found here. I buy all of my film from Analogue Wonderland.

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