Yorkshire Belle in dry dock in Hull as she gets ready to sail again

As the last pleasure cruiser still operating out of Bridlington, Yorkshire Belle occupies a place in many people’s hearts.

Last year sailing was suspended due to coronavirus restrictions for the first time in 73 years, piling up the bills for her owners, who launched a fundraising campaign in December warning she was at risk.

Just over half of the £30,000 target was reached. But she is now ready to go again after weeks in dry dock in Hull having annual maintenance and safety checks.

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It still won’t be easy. Owner Peter Richardson says they will only be able to just cover fuel and crew costs as they will start with just a quarter of the normal number of passengers due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

Peter Richardson, the joint owner with his son Sam, of the Yorkshire Belle on board the pleasure cruiser as undergoes annual maintenance and tests at John Dean's drydock in Hull Picture: Gary Longbottom

They'll be starting again on the May Bank Holiday weekend, kicking off with an RSPB charter on May 29.

The first public cruise will be on Sunday 30th at 9.45am when they'll head out to Bempton Cliffs for the visual spectacle of thousands of nesting seabirds, including puffins, razorbills, guillemots, kittiwakes and gannets.

They got a council grant but weren’t successful with bids to the Lottery and others and the £16,000 raised has all gone already

Mr Richardson said: “It still leaves you short. You still have to put in your own money. There’s insurance, harbour dues...”

Sam Richardson, joint owner with his father Peter of the Yorkshire Belle, emerging from the hull

This year the masts came off for revarnishing and there’s been lots of welding jobs.

Mr Richardson first clapped eyes on Yorkshire Belle when he was a boy - he didn’t want to go on any of the four others operating at the time - and went on to buy her with his business partner in 1982. Of the four, two were scrapped, one is a houseboat on the River Seine, and the other a clubhouse on the Medway.

He says passion keeps him going, the desire to keep the last of the 1,300 vessels built by Beverley shipbuilder Cook, Welton & Gemmell doing the job it was built for back in 1947.

And he's most looking forward to being out on the sea again "feeling the motion of the boat" and seeing the joy of the passengers.

John Dean, owner of the drydock in Hull, where the Yorkshire Belle is undergoing annual maintenance and tests

The work has been taking place at Deans Marine Services on Lime Street, Hull, where owner John Dean mixes paying jobs like the Yorkshire Belle, with some ingenious remodelling of vessels, which he saves from the scrapyard.

Mr Dean, who has been on the river since he was just two, also provides skipper and engineering services to tugs, barges and work boats on the rivers Hull, Humber and Trent.

A typical job is doing up a big, old rustbucket of a dredger, which he bought for £1 and is moored up alongside five other projects in in his wet berth.

It had been “arrested” by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency for not being seaworthy leaving the Humber and had been laid up at Grimsby, where it had been stripped of “everything that was worth anything”.

“They asked numerous scrapyards to take it away, but no one wanted it, so they asked me,” said Mr Dean. So far they’ve renovated one side.

“You can’t tell but last year we put £40,000 into it,”he said. “If we get any time we will renovate this side, cut the top off and put a brand new one on, and turn it back into a working dredger.”

Four years ago Mr Dean was tasked with clearing the River Hull for East Riding Council of sunken boats which were blocking the channel.

One of them was an 80ft barge, which just had a bit of its roof protruding above the waterline.

After refloating it by sticking plastic buckets in the portholes and then pumping it out, it came down to Hull. Having bought it for £1 from the council, it was subsequently sold for £30,000.

He says he could make more money by going to work for a firm, but adds: “I’m John Dean the second, and everybody knows me, and that means more to me than being rich.”