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Appeals: The Vigilant Trust

His Majesty's Customs Cutter Vigilant sailing up the river Tyne at Newcastle, on 31 August 1904. HMCC Vigilant is the only surviving revenue cutter with sails and the sole surviving vessel from the 1911 Coronation Spithead Review. It is the seventh customs vessel to bear this name: the first, on coming to the end of her service, was sold in 1774; the 11th, launched two years ago, mainly works to prevent drug smuggling. The Vigilant Trust, which bought this vessel two years ago after she was discovered being used as a house boat in Shoreham, Kent, is urgently appealing for pounds 25,000, to be raised by the end of March, to prevent the boat being scrapped.

Customs smacks, the precursors of revenue cutters, have been used in Britain since the 15th century. Later known as revenue cutters, following the creation of the Board of Customs in 1671, they prevented, as they do now, smuggling at sea. The trust would like the cutter, once restored, to be on public exhibition in Portsmouth dockyard alongside the Mary Rose.

The trust has spent the last year moving the boat, with voluntary help from customs officers, to a covered slipway at Portchester Shipyard, in Portsmouth Harbour. Here, the boat has had its woodwork removed and catalogued in preparation for a restoration survey which has been completed by a shipbuilding firm: the estimated figure of pounds 100,000 is based on a cost-only basis. Restoration work must begin in early April - otherwise the shipbuilders will be forced to withdraw their offer. The trust has been promised a 50 per cent grant by the National Heritage Memorial Fund but has only raised half of the amount necessary to match this figure.

For further information, contact: The Vigilant Trust, Custom House, Lower Thames Street, London EC3R 6EE, telephone 071-283 5353.

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