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Historic day for Lydia Eva

PUBLISHED: 10:28 17 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:22 06 July 2010

FOR her supporters it was one of the proudest moments in their 20-year battle to restore the iconic steam drifter to her former glory.

A plume of dark smoke from her funnel was the signal that the Lydia Eva had embarked on a landmark voyage which saw her make a journey under her own steam for the first time in decades.

FOR her supporters it was one of the proudest moments in their 20-year battle to restore the iconic steam drifter to her former glory.

A plume of dark smoke from her funnel was the signal that the Lydia Eva had embarked on a landmark voyage which saw her make a journey under her own steam for the first time in decades.

It was an historic moment in the remarkable story of the £1.2m restoration of the world's last surviving steam-powered herring drifter.

Enthusiasts enjoyed the extraordinary sight of the Lydia Eva heading out to sea on Saturday morning, proving that her steam engine had been finally restored to full working order.

The journey saw her manoeuvre smoothly along Lake Lothing and through the open bascule bridge at Lowestoft before leaving the harbour for the North Sea and making the short trip home to Great Yarmouth, where families lined the harbour mouth to witness her arrival.

As an icon of the era when the herring fishing industry was in its heyday, her preservation is of historical importance to the east coast.

The Lydia Eva is now a floating museum moored at Great Yarmouth's South Quay, attracting 5,500 visitors in her first season last year. This summer poignantly marks her 80th birthday.

Dona Watson, of the Lydia Eva Trust, said the arrival of the vessel under her own steam was a joy to see.

“It couldn't have gone better,” she said. “It was absolutely perfect. It is something we've strived for, we always said it was going to happen and now it has. It was brilliant, very emotional.”

Mrs Watson said it was a major milestone, yet did not mark the end of the story, as the trust continues to work on the vessel.

She said: “There's always more work to be done. Next we've got to do the crew's quarters out.”

She added: “It's the beginning of the end of the work, but it's just her first 80 years.”

The Lydia Eva will reopen as a museum for this season on May 25 with free entry, although donations are welcome. From then it will be open Tuesdays-Sundays 10am-4pm until after October half-term. Visitors can explore the entire vessel, including the engine room, wheelhouse and galley, and for the first time groups can request evening visits. Steaming weekends are also being arranged.

The trust is looking for volunteer crew members for the summer.

Contact Mrs Watson on 07901 915390.

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