Yorkshire Belle: Yorkshire's last pleasure cruiser still doing the job 75 years on

It’s a nostalgic survivor of the British seaside holiday’s heyday, offering an exhilarating trip on the briny and, on some trips, the sight of a quarter of a million soaring, shrieking and squawking seabirds.

This year Yorkshire Belle, Yorkshire’s last pleasure cruiser, is celebrating two anniversaries – 75 years since her launch and 40 years since Peter Richardson became the Bridlington vessel’s joint custodian.

Mr Richardson says he still feels lucky that it is his job to take the ship round Flamborough Head to Bempton Cliffs with its spectacular scenery. “It’s like having an office with an

ever-changing view”.

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Sam Richardson is pictured on the Yorkshire Belle in Bridlington harbour.Sam Richardson is pictured on the Yorkshire Belle in Bridlington harbour.
Sam Richardson is pictured on the Yorkshire Belle in Bridlington harbour.

To celebrate the anniversary on Sunday May 29, an invitation-only afternoon cruise has been organised for friends, supporters and town councillors, including Mayor Liam Dealtry, after an earlier public cruise.

It will be the start of a busy week or so for the Yorkshire Belle, which will be the second lead boat in a 70-strong flotilla on the Humber the week after to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

The event on Thursday June 2 – the official date of the 70th anniversary of Her Majesty’s Coronation – will be even bigger than the flotilla in 2012 that sailed the day after the Thames pageant to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and which attracted 10,000 people.

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It has been a tough few years for the Belle. The Beast from the East destroyed her pay box on the harbour in the terrible weather of 2018. Then sailing was suspended two years later due to the coronavirus restrictions.

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Ever-increasing costs, including fuel, do not make it any easier.

But she is still going strong, the last of the 1,300 vessels made by Beverley shipbuilder Cook, Welton & Gemmell, doing the job she was built for back in 1947.

Mr Richardson said he never imagined when he signed the paperwork to buy the boat with Roy Simpson in February 1982 that the job would go on so long. Mr Simpson retired from the business in 2013, with Mr Richardson’s son Sam becoming the new partner.

Mr Richardson said: “Obviously, as with any job, there’s times when it’s not as pleasant as you’d like but overall it’s been a pleasure.

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“It’s just giving passengers an excellent experience. That’s the main pleasure of the job and being lucky enough to go round to Bempton Cliffs and past Flamborough Head.”

He said one of the best things was “hearing the passengers’ comments when they get off, particularly when they have been round to Bempton”.

One of the marks of the esteem in which the vessel is held is that there is a good response to appeals for funds.

This season she is sporting new seating inside, the result of an appeal that raised around £3,000.

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“We’d like to say thank you to all those who contributed,” said Mr Richardson.

Increasingly regular sightings of dolphins are adding to the experience of passengers on the pleasure cruises.

Appearances of around 20 dolphins in Bridlington Bay, linked to a pod from Teesside, have been showing up.

Mr Richardson said: “Last year and this we have seen them more times than we did in the last 40 years. What they call nature tourism now is a much bigger part of our customer base.”