Littlehampton's Blue Peter lifeboat to be retired.

The original Blue Peter 1 lifeboat Image copyright RNLI
Image caption The The original Blue Peter 1 lifeboat was funded by the programme's viewers

Littlehampton RNLI is to say goodbye to its Blue Peter lifeboat, almost 50 years after the programme's appeal bought its first boat for the station.

The first Blue Peter 1 began service when the lifeboat station reopened in 1967. It has since been replaced with three others bearing the same name.

The BBC children's programme's appeals went on to fund seven RNLI lifeboats stationed around the country.

The current Blue Peter 1 is due to be retired in May or June, the RNLI said.

The boat may be kept by the charity as part of its relief fleet, or to be used for training purposes, a spokesman said.

The first Blue Peter 1 lifeboat and its later replacements have launched on average 70 times each year, he said.

Image copyright RNLI
Image caption The current and fourth Blue Peter 1 lifeboat will be the last to carry the programme's name at Littlehampton

Littlehampton RNLI station was established in 1884, but closed in 1921 due to a reduction in shipping at the port, and difficulties maintaining crew numbers.

It was re-opened in 1967 with the first Blue Peter 1 - a D-class inshore lifeboat.

Nick White, lifeboat operations manager at Littlehampton RNLI, said: "It is with a tinge of sadness that we say goodbye to Blue Peter 1.

"From my generation onwards as children we all watched Blue Peter; the presenters were our distant friends."

He said the lifeboat was being replaced by a craft with "enhanced performance and additional capability" funded by a private donor.

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