Remembering the maiden voyage of seaside pleasure boat

From: Rev Canon Jean Calvert, Darlton, Newark, Nottinghamshire.

THE article about Bridlington Harbour (Yorkshire Post Magazine, January 26) reminded me of many happy day trips to “Brid” when we were young.

Time spent on the sands, a dip in the sea, and a fish and chip tea at the Silver Grill cafe always ended up with a walk along the harbour to watch the boats, before boarding the coach for the journey home with a stick of rock and a crab or a bag of shrimps to take back. Happy days!

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But what really caught my eye was the mention of pleasure boats. I well remember the Yorkshire Belle, the Yorkshireman and I think there was one called the Bridlington Queen, and one or two others. But of great interest to me is the Thornwick.

The Thornwick was built in a small privately owned shipyard at Howdendyke near Howden where we lived.

The main work there was on river barges and tugs and the occasional yacht so the contract to build a pleasure boat was a one off. It must have provided much needed work in the 1940s at the end of the war.

My father was the joiner and shipwright responsible for all the woodwork, the interior fittings and fixtures, and also for the launch which was often sideways on that stretch of the river. He had to make sure that the tide was at the right level, the slipway was well greased, and the chocks knocked away simultaneously as soon as the naming ceremony was done and the bottle of Champagne cracked over the hull. On the day, she slid down into the river without a hitch.

After all the inside work was finished and she was ready to be taken to Bridlington, the shipyard workers and their families were invited to sail with her. I can’t remember the exact date but it must have been about 1948.

So on a sunny Saturday morning, with my father, 
brother, a friend, and a group of other passengers, we boarded the Thornwick and set off down river arriving at Hull in the early afternoon.

There we took on some officials, probably the owners, and most important, the river pilot who was to navigate us around Spurn Point and out to sea.

Spurn Point...well known, even notorious for rough waters. Even experienced sailors have been known to be affected as shipping is tossed around when the river and the sea meet. That day was no exception.

As we rounded Spurn, the boat was tossed up and down, down and up, from side to side, rolling around until we reached calmer waters out to sea. Any food we had eaten earlier that day was soon lost overboard.

The crew advised us to go amidships but by then it was too late and most of us had turned a paler shade of green. I have never felt so ill.

Anyway, we followed the coast and by the time we approached Bridlington we all began to feel much better. The Thornwick sailed into the harbour in the early evening, welcomed by the sound of hooters from other boats moored there and a crowd of people waiting on the harbour wall to greet us.

Transport was waiting to take us home and we said our goodbyes to the Thornwick, taking away with us our memories of such an eventful day. What of the Thornwick now, I wonder?

The Yorkshire Post article mentioned that she is on the Thames so what is she doing down there so far from home! Perhaps she is still taking passengers on pleasure cruises along the river there. I would love to know.

Whatever she is doing, I’m sure she still flies the flag for Yorkshire and the words of the Christening ceremony more than 60 years ago still apply – “May God bless her and all who sail in her”.