Grand old pleasure boat returns to region

Back when David Spinks was a boy, it used to be an annual treat on the scale of a holiday abroad in today's more affluent era.

Back when David Spinks was a boy, it used to be an annual treat on the scale of a holiday abroad in today's more affluent era.

Dressed in best school cap and blazer, he would set off from North Walsham to Yarmouth by train with his grandfather John Kilby, and then the day would unfold from ring doughnuts on the promenade, to lunchtime Brown Windsor soup, to the final highlight...a trip round Scroby Sands on the Brit, the resort's smartest pleasure boat.

Throughout his working life, running the family-owned Ladbrook Manufacturing Ltd, in North Walsham, Mr Spinks retained fond memories of those days out at the end of the 1940s and wondered what became of the Brit when she disappeared from Yarmouth in 1951.

But it was only in retirement that he carried out the detective work that unravelled the colourful history of the boat, tracking the vessel - now named Coronia - to her present home port of Scarborough.

Following telephone conversations with Mr Spinks, 70, the present owner, Tom Machin, who has written a book on the history of the vessel, has been inspired to bring the grand old lady back to Yarmouth for the first time in nearly 60 years.

On Tuesday, she will make the 20-hour voyage down the East coast and moor for three days on the River Yare at Town Hall Quay, close to her former base next to Haven Bridge.

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Mr Spinks has been invited on board for a private excursion to Scroby Sands windfarm, organised on behalf of power firm Eon.

'We are still seeing if it is possible to run a public trip as well, on the Wednesday evening, before we return to Scarborough,' said Mr Machin.

Mr Spinks has not got any grandchildren himself, but said his grown-up daughter Caroline was excited by the boat's return and was planning to accompany him on the voyage.

He said of his painstaking research: 'I remembered her as such a fantastic little boat, with bags of character, I was determined to find out what happened to her.'

After making little head way initially, the breakthrough came when someone at Yarmouth's Time and Tide museum suggested he research a website devoted to the Little Ships of Dunkirk.

There he discovered that after being built in Yarmouth in 1935 and plying the seas locally until 1939, she had been taken over by the Admiralty in 1939, becoming HMS Watchful during the war era and helping with the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk.

After returning to Yarmouth during the era Mr Spinks remembered her, she was sold to Scarborough Cruisers in 1951 and renamed Yorkshire Lady.

In 1968 she was renamed Coronia but continued sailing out of Scarborough until 1985 when she left for the Mediterranean and spent five years as a pleasure boat in Gibraltar.

She was bought by Mr Machin and has worked in Scarborough alongside his other former Yarmouth pleasure boat, the Regal Lady - formerly Oulton Belle - ever since.