Behind the scenes as historic Lowestoft trawler needs your help

Mincarlo “LT412" has opened in Lowestoft for the summer season.

Mincarlo “LT412" has opened in Lowestoft for the summer season. - Credit: Mick Howes

Gently nestling in Lowestoft harbour she is the last of her kind and a reminder of the town's large fishing fleet from the 1960s.

Mincarlo “LT412" is a sidewinder trawler - the only surviving fishing vessel built in Lowestoft with an engine and hull made in the town - that regularly attracts thousands of visitors each year as a popular floating museum.

And now the trust overseeing the unique tourist attraction is appealing for more volunteers to allow it to continue to give visitors an insight into the fishing industry.

Moored on the Heritage Quay at South Pier, Lowestoft, Mincarlo opened for the new summer season this week - having been a 'must-see’ for holidaymakers since 1998.

Ships manager and volunteer guide Tim Colledge aboard Mincarlo.

Ships manager and volunteer guide Tim Colledge aboard Mincarlo. - Credit: Mick Howes

Ships manager and volunteer guide Tim Colledge said: “We have built up a good reputation and on average 12,000 to 15,000 visitors - including a good number of holidaymakers - come to see us each year, although Covid has had a significant impact.

"But to remain open we are looking for more volunteers.

Ships manager and volunteer guide Tim Colledge aboard Mincarlo.

Ships manager and volunteer guide Tim Colledge aboard Mincarlo. - Credit: Mick Howes

"Anyone interested does not necessarily need to come from a fishing background although it would be helpful."

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With a lot of written information featuring around the ship, together with audio-visual televisions to explain things, it means there is always something to assist along with "someone on board who went to sea and can answer other questions."

Mincarlo “LT412" has opened in Lowestoft for the summer season

Mincarlo “LT412" has opened in Lowestoft for the summer season. - Credit: Mick Howes

As the summer season started this week, Mincarlo is now open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm, weather permitting, until the end of October.

Volunteers usually attend for one full day a week or maybe just a morning or afternoon.

Mincarlo “LT412" has opened in Lowestoft for the summer season.

Mincarlo “LT412" has opened in Lowestoft for the summer season. - Credit: Mick Howes

With Mincarlo owned by the Lydia Eva and Mincarlo Charitable Trust Ltd - a registered charity which also owns the preserved herring drifter Lydia Eva - captain Paul Mitchell, chairman of the trust, said: "We currently have 12 volunteers on the Mincarlo and when open need a minimum of two, preferably three on board.

"Future volunteers don’t have to have a fishing background, we have enough knowledge currently onboard, but sadly if we don’t get in some new volunteers we worry that the knowledge will be lost."

Mincarlo “LT412" has opened in Lowestoft for the summer season.

Mincarlo “LT412" has opened in Lowestoft for the summer season. - Credit: Mick Howes

A tour of the vessel allows visitors to walk through the ship, to see the galley and the mess deck, then view the accommodation where 10 people used to sleep in bunks - with the skipper having a cabin of his own close to the wheelhouse.

Mincarlo “LT412" has opened in Lowestoft for the summer season.

Mincarlo “LT412" has opened in Lowestoft for the summer season. - Credit: Mick Howes

Visitors can look at the engine room containing machinery from AK Diesel Engineering in Kirkley with the ship also being built locally at Brooke Marine in 1960 for W.H. Podd Ltd.

Mr Colledge said: "Everything on the ship is local with much sourced from Lowestoft.

Mincarlo “LT412" has opened in Lowestoft for the summer season.

Mincarlo “LT412" has opened in Lowestoft for the summer season. - Credit: Mick Howes

“The wheelhouse always generates a lot of interest as does a visit to the former fish room which has been converted into a museum."

The exhibits show the range of the fishing industry in Lowestoft and as well as the Mincarlo also has models and photographs of other trawlers and drifters, Lowestoft skippers and photos of the navigation school where pupils were trained before going to sea as ‘Deckie-learners’.

Ships manager and volunteer guide Tim Colledge aboard Mincarlo.

Ships manager and volunteer guide Tim Colledge aboard Mincarlo. - Credit: Mick Howes

Mr Colledge said: "This trawler would go to sea for 12 days fishing in German Bight and Dogger Bank areas of the North Sea where the catch was flat fish, mainly plaice, but also prime fish such as halibut, dover and lemon sole.

Mincarlo “LT412" has opened in Lowestoft for the summer season.

Mincarlo “LT412" has opened in Lowestoft for the summer season. - Credit: Mick Howes

“When the Mincarlo finished fishing around 1978 she was sold and was put to work as a safety standby ship for the offshore gas and oil industry in the southern North Sea.

"At that time the fish room was converted into a medical centre to fit 60 survivors if anything happened on the rigs, and they needed a complete evacuation of personnel.

Mincarlo “LT412" has opened in Lowestoft for the summer season.

Mincarlo “LT412" has opened in Lowestoft for the summer season. - Credit: Mick Howes

"Previously the fish room would have been partitioned and have 20 ton of ice stored to cover the fish when they were caught.

"This room is now the small home to the fishing industry museum."

Mincarlo “LT412" has opened in Lowestoft for the summer season.

Mincarlo “LT412" has opened in Lowestoft for the summer season. - Credit: Mick Howes

Maintenance

Mincarlo “LT412" has opened in Lowestoft for the summer season.

Mincarlo “LT412" has opened in Lowestoft for the summer season. - Credit: Mick Howes

While it is free entry to board Mincarlo, the trust relies on donations to - literally - keep it afloat.

Mincarlo “LT412" has opened in Lowestoft for the summer season.

Mincarlo “LT412" has opened in Lowestoft for the summer season. - Credit: Mick Howes

Captain Mitchell said: "The Mincarlo's success is down to the trustees, volunteer crew members and the generous donations of visiting locals and visiting holidaymakers.

"The coronavirus pandemic has had a real impact on the trust with the loss of a few volunteer crew members to the point we are desperate to recruit new volunteers.

"The pandemic also resulted in the loss of 20,000 to 25,000 visitors - on average £12,000 to £15,000 a year in donations.

"To keep the vessel safely maintained and open to the public costs £8,000 to £10,000 a year."

Mincarlo “LT412" has opened in Lowestoft for the summer season.

Mincarlo “LT412" has opened in Lowestoft for the summer season. - Credit: Mick Howes

With Mincarlo needing to go into dry dock for maintenance at the end of this season - for checks which happen every five years - this costs "upwards of £30,000."

Any persons interested in becoming a volunteer are welcome to visit the vessel for a tour, to meet the current crew members and see if they would like to join.