Bridlington's last pleasure boat will not sail this season for the first time since 1947

The Yorkshire Belle cruising off Bempton CliffsThe Yorkshire Belle cruising off Bempton Cliffs
The Yorkshire Belle cruising off Bempton Cliffs
The last pleasure cruiser still operating in Bridlington will go a season without sailing for the first time in over 70 years.

The Yorkshire Belle's owners confirmed last week that the historic boat will not take to the water for the remainder of the summer for 'practical' reasons surrounding safety and social distancing.

The Belle was built in 1947 and has offered cruises to visitors every season since then. She has been owned by the Richardson family since 1982.

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In a statement to their 9,000 Facebook followers, the Richardsons said: "It is with great sadness and heavy hearts that we announce we will not be sailing this season.

"After much careful consideration we have decided that it would not be practical, safe or enjoyable for us to carry passengers.

"We feel that with the restrictions and measures we would have to put in place for the protection of our passengers and crew, the essence of our cruises and the enjoyment we wish to give our passengers would be lost.

"We also feel this is the best way to protect our historic vessel to try to ensure her future in Bridlington for years to come, and that we will one day still be here to offer our unique cruises when the world returns to some sort of normal state.

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"This is not a decision we have taken lightly, but one that we have made with the comfort and safety of our customers at the forefront of our minds."

In a normal season, the Belle would sail daily from Bridlington Harbour to a range of destinations including the Flamborough lighthouse, Bempton Cliffs seabird colony and Filey Bay. The season lasts from Easter until September.

Bridlington's pleasure cruising industry has a long and eclectic history. Victorian fishermen would take passengers out to sea in their own cobles until 1899, when the town's first paddle steamer, the Frenchman, arrived. From the 1930s until the 1950s, there were five rival boats, including the original Belle and the Bridlington Queen, as well as numerous smaller vessels.

The first Belle was requisitioned by the Royal Navy during World War Two, and used as a patrol and defence vessel in the Humber. In 1941, she hit a mine and sank with the loss of all the men on board, only three years after she had been built.

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The replacement Belle was built six years later in the same Beverley shipyard with capacity for 207 passengers. Her ownership has changed many times over the years, and in the 1970s she was even used on the Humber ferry service between Hull and New Holland, carrying foot passengers.

Peter Richardson and business partner Roy Simpson bought her in 1982, and by 1998 the Belle was the last remaining pleasure boat working in Bridlington after her rival the Flamborian was sold and taken to Dorset.

Peter had no prior connection to the sea and had worked in the Huddersfield textile industry before buying the Belle, and fears that if he had not stepped in, she would have ended up on the south coast.

Reflecting on his decision on the boat's 70th anniversary in 2017, Peter attributed the Belle's sustained success to the rise of nature tourism. Bempton Cliffs is the only mainland location in the UK where visitors can see gannets, but in the 1960s there were just 21 breeding pairs - there are now more than 13,000.

Roy Simpson retired in 2013 and ownership passed completely to the Richardsons. Peter's son Sam qualified as the Belle's captain.

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