HE steered it around the world and opened up new windows on humanity, but even Captain Cook would have struggled to get the Endeavour out of dry dock in Stockton.
Only around 25 nautical miles separates the Tees Barrage from Whitby, but the voyage saw the top of its masts chopped off, a crane called in to lift it over the lock gates and 60 tons of water taken in to its lower deck.
However, as Endeavour prepared to begin its new life today as a visitor attraction in Cook’s old home, at the start of the annual regatta weekend, its new owner said it had been worth the effort.
“Sometimes you just can’t let these fantastic things pass you by,” said Andrew Fiddler, a hotel owner and former Navy man, inset, who paid £155,000 at auction for the vessel last August Bank Holiday weekend.
It is one of only two life-size replicas of Cook’s Endeavour and had cost £2.5m when it was built 25 years ago. But its original purpose of training sea cadets had been scuppered, and it was reduced to hosting weddings.
“It was in an awful state, to be honest. It was it was unloved and very tired,” Mr Fiddler said.
“So buying it was the easy part. It’s cost another £1.5m to bring it back to life.”
In its new guise, it will offer up to 200 visitors at a time an authentic glimpse of what life was like on Cook’s original ship.
The vessel had been in Stockton for a decade, and although officials in Whitby were keen to see it as an attraction, Mr Fiddler said, their counterparts up the coast were reluctant to let it go.
“There were many obstacles in our way. After it was berthed, they built a barrage that was narrower than the ship, so it was landlocked. Then they built another bridge,” he said.
“So we approached the Canal and River Trust to take it down the river. But the masts were too high for the bridges. So we had to cut them off and get it as low as possible in the water. We cleared them by about half a metre, and we had to duck.
“When the crane took it out of the water, our hearts were in our mouths. It hadn’t been out since it was put there in 1993.”
Unlike the other Endeavour replica – which visited Whitby in 2000, having circumnavigated Australia – this one has no engine and was not designed to go to sea.
Its auction last year had attracted interest worldwide, but Mr Fiddler, a native of Sheffield who has business interests along the Yorkshire coast, said he was determined to keep it in the North of England – and preferably in Whitby, where the original Endeavour was built and launched in 1764.
“Once you’ve lost something like that, it never comes back,” he said.
The ship opened for previews last month during the weekend-long festival in Whitby that marked the 250th anniversary of Cook’s voyage. “We had 2,500 on board on those two days alone,” Mr Fiddler said. “The interest is just phenomenal.”