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28 October 2021,

Julie Corbett volunteers for the project and here's her account of the Arctic Corsair move on 6 October 2021.

On Wednesday 6 October 2021, I went on a short coach trip from Ferensway to Alexandra Dock. to watch a ship towed from its berth.

This ship’ the Arctic Corsair, is Hull’s last surviving sidewinder trawler. Read more about her history here including breaking the world record for landing cod and haddock and being rammed by an Icelandic gun boat in the third Cod War.

The Arctic Corsair was ‘laid up’ in 1987 and since restored by volunteers from STAND to become a floating museum opening to the public in 1999.

STAND is The St Andrews Dock Heritage Park Action Group’ link here for more information about their work.

The Arctic Corsair berthed in the River Hull

For ten years the Arctic Corsair has been berthed on the River Hull in the Museum Quarter at the site of Hull’s original harbour. I took the tour, led by volunteers a number of times.

The trawler built in the year I was born. When you read or listen to local social history of the deep-sea fishing industry you may hear that having a female on board a ship was considered unlucky. I have been told this, but I have been on a trawler, I have sailed on a trawler. Well, my grandfather was engineer on a trawler and once, when I was four or five, he took me abroad his ship.

I remember the smell of diesel, the clinging smell of ice from the dockside and, most of all, the huge enamel mug of tea he made. He shovelled two big spoonsful of condensed milk in it. He lifted me off the trawler at the dock gates before they got to the open sea (The Humber Estuary as I now realise).

The Arctic Corsair was moved from the River Hull in 2019. I found it an emotional experience to watch that day. It was towed by the tugs ‘Shovette and Lashette’ of Dean Marine Serves.

On 6 October, we are guests of Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy (SGRE) at the Green Port Hull, although I still refer to this development as Alexandra Dock. This site of Siemens wind turbine blade manufacturing. Its appearance from the Humber would be unrecognisable to the men returning to Hull onboard the Arctic Corsair when it sailed to and from Hull.

Remains of West Wharf and sheds riverside of Alexandra Docks before redevelopment as Green Port Hull

Something you cannot see in the above photo is now affectionately known as ‘Dead Bod’ a piece of graffiti, painted by Captain Len (Pongo) Rood in the 1960s on one of the West Wharf buildings. I will not reproduce the story here but please read a short version of it on the Humber Gallery website here.

It is legendary landmark to Humber shipping, thankfully removed and saved by Siemens following massive public interest in the story. You can view it now at the Humber Gallery.

Dead Bod on the ground floor of Humber Gallery

The view of where the West Wharf was is considerable different today. The transformation of Alexandra dock is extensive. Here is a photo of what the West Wharf area looks like today from the outlet of Holderness Drain.

Wind turbine components at the quayside of Green Port Hull

At Alexandra Dock we are in a safe area bounded by barriers. There are people filming the event. The BBC are interviewing people strongly associated both with the Arctic Corsair and the Hull Maritime Project.

A lovely bright day for the observers to the move from Alexandra Dock

On the stern of the ship is its name. Some of the metal letters are missing. The name is not yet a ‘ghost sign’ like the ones you see on walls. The restoration work will repair this. As we wait, for the tugs to arrive I am thinking of the men lost at sea whilst fishing.

Arctic Corsair in Alexandra Dock

At the heart of the maritime project are stories of people. It is thought that more six thousand men lost their lives whilst at sea on trawlers that sailed from Hull docks. There are many commemorations for and of these men in and around Hull.

In 2002, STAND commissioned the St. Andrew’s Memorial Books. These books, exhibited now at Hull’s Maritime Museum. During the museum’s refurbishment the memorial books remain on public display in their special cabinet at Hull History Centre.

The museum staff, turn to the current date each day to show the vessels and the men who lost on that date.

Display cabinet and books in Hull History Centre

There are people in Hi Vis, hard hats and life jackets working to prepare the Arctic corsair for its move. I have a particular fascination for mooring ropes. Watching the effort, it takes to move and manipulate these into place shows what a very physically demanding job sailing still is. For all the machinery and technology, it is still ‘pull and tug’ at the heart of sailing.

Page turned to 13th October
Rope in a loose coil on the quayside

The release of the Arctic corsair was so smooth. I was surprised by the appearance of gulls above us. They seemed to materialise from nowhere once the tugs arrived. Was it that time of day? A condition of the tide? Maybe a memory of nets, catch and fish guts. Fancible thoughts but appropriate as the Arctic Corsair is escorted out towards the lock gates.

Several of the people who are watching this are a team of volunteers who have maintained and led public tours of the Arctic corsair when it was berthed in the river hull. Some of the men were trawlermen. I can see that they would like to be closer to the ship. I think they really wanted to give her a reassuring touch.

Arctic Corsair volunteers

The next time I saw the tugs and Arctic Corsair they were almost through the lock gates at Albert Dock. I took a photograph from the edge of Humber quays.

The Arctic Corsair going through Albert Dock lock gates

Two days later the Spurn Lightship was towed from its berth in Hull Marina. The Spurn Lightship is one of the other parts of the Maritime Project. You can read more about the Spurn Lightship here.

I did not watch that event, but you can see much of the footage, including spectacular drone footage and keep up with news about the restoration if you follow the links on the sign in the photo below.

Notice with social media links

I went for a walk along the from Humber Dock to St Andres Quay and back to the Humber Dock. I thought I might be able to photograph both ships at their new berths in William Wright Dock. I could not get a clear view from the Humber estuary side. It was however a beautiful autumn day and well worth venturing out for.

The Riverside Quay looking towards the Green Port Hull

Very fortunately on the walk back, the footpath next to the A63 Clive Sullivan Way takes you past both William Wright and Albert Dock. At the bottom of Strickland Street near the site of the old footbridge is a short road. From here I managed to photo both the ships. You can just see the stern of the Arctic Corsair.

The Spurn and the Arctic Corsair in William Wright Dock

The walk back down Jackson Street became and evocative echo. This area when I was a child was full of the scents of fishing. The one I always recall most clearly is crushed ice. As I walked, I thought this memory had become real. I thought I had conjured up the smell from my imagination. I could smell ice.

At the end of Ropery Street was a man loading kits of fish into a delivery van and just along Jackson Street a pile of spent, crushed ice.

Loading kits of fish to delivery van
Remains of ice

The Hull Maritime project is not only about preserving or about restoration. It is about connections and reconnections. The links we have maintained and the new stories we make and share.