Bobbing on her moorings in the harbour, the pleasure cruiser Yorkshire Belle this year celebrates her 70th birthday.
The ship - a remnant of a bygone age with her traditional cream livery, flared bow, wooden decks and plenty of polished brass - has carried as many as half a million passengers in the last seven decades and should, with a fair wind, go on to carry many more.
She was built by Cook, Welton & Gemmell’s Beverley shipyard in 1947 as the replacement for the original Yorkshire Belle which was lost with all hands in the Humber when she struck a mine in World War Two.
Her owner Peter Richardson bought her with his business partner Roy Simpson in 1982 despite Mr Richardson never having worked on a ship before.
Mr Richardson is now the longest owner she has ever had, notching up an impressive 35 years on board on February 1. ”It was quite a change for me,” he recalls. “I didn’t live in Bridlington, I lived in Huddersfield and I worked in textiles. Funnily enough it all came together, I was made redundant in 1981 and my business partner who I bought it with had lived here for some time and had already been working on pleasure boats.
“Yorkshire Belle had been advertised for sale and up to us approaching them, the owners had no one from the area showing any interest, although there were people from the South and Bristol area. Had we not bought her she might have left Bridlington in 1982.”
The vessel takes visitors on one-hour trips to Flamborough Head, as well as extended cruises to the Bempton Bird Sanctuary where tens of thousands of seabirds gather to breed every year in an amazing noisy spectacle, which can’t be properly appreciated unless you see it from sea-level.
While the trips to the Head are not as popular as they used to be nature tourism “has increased and is still increasing,” Mr Richardson says. These days the relatively few puffins are far outnumbered by the many thousands of large, yellow-eyed gannets cruising the cliffs.
He said: “Bempton is the only place in mainland Britain where you can see gannets. They are truly spectacular. In 1969 there were only 21 pairs - but there’s now 13,000.”
Mr Richardson loves his job (“It’s more a way of life”) so much that he wants to continue, despite being 71: “My son Sam is taking over. He’s part owner with myself and a fully qualified skipper. I am gradually easing off and he is taking control. He is the same as me - he loves the vessel and doesn’t want anything to happen to it. He will try as hard as he can to keep it going.”
The Richardsons are organising a special trip to celebrate her birthday, provisionally on May 26, and will be inviting along local VIPs, crewmembers and people who have had anything to do with her in the last 70 years. Sam Richardson added: “I think she is very important. There was a time when there were many boats like her - and she’s of course the last one.”