Albatross ship is scheduled to return to Norfolk by Easter

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Released:
16:00 January 8, 2022



A famous sailing ship that has become part of the furniture at Wells but has left for a major renovation could return to Norfolk by Easter.

The Albatros, a Dutch sailing clipper, left North Norfolk for Essex in August 2020 have a refit carried out in a specialized shipyard.


Ton Brouwer, the previous owner and captain of the Albatros

It had resided mostly in Wells for about three decades, drawing thousands of visitors to the coast.

Former captain Ton Brouwer had operated the ship as a floating bar and restaurant since 2005, however decided to sell it to Bob Richardson almost two years ago.

However, the 100 foot boat was in a dilapidated condition, prompting the new owner to seek help from Jim Dines of Heritage Marine in Maldon.

And after an extensive – and lengthy – restoration, Mr Richardson has confirmed that the Albatross should return to its iconic home over the next several months.


Bob Richardson, owner of The Wells-based Albatros

Bob Richardson, owner of The Wells-based Albatros
– Photo credit: Bob Richardson

“It’s like any renovation,” he said. “Either you paint it and live with its sins, or you pull things back and do a real job while being personable.

“I see it as our responsibility to look after our history. The Albatros is all about bringing it into the 21st century.”

Mr Brouwer, himself from Holland, bought the Albatros in 1980 during a trip to Denmark and restored it over a period of five years between 1983 and 1988.

The vehicle was then put back into service as a sailing cargo ship, Travel across Europe and the North Sea with captain and crew.


The albatross will "brought into the 21st century"

The Albatross is “brought into the 21st century”
– Photo credit: Bob Richardson

During that time, Mr. Brouwer sailed to Wells more than 100 times and decided that the Albatros would be the focus of his next chapter, albeit under far more static circumstances.

She stayed on her familiar wharf until the previous captain decided to retire and hand over the coat.

Not unexpectedly, Mr Richardson – who lives near Eye – announced that his new venture came at a significant cost, hoping the dramatic overhaul would be a one-in-50-year job.

“The prospect of getting the job done didn’t scare me, but the potential cost did,” he added.


The albatross that normally reside in Wells will "brought into the 21st century"

The Albatros, mostly based in Wells, is “brought into the 21st century”
– Photo credit: Bob Richardson

“You just have to watch the TV shows about renovation projects like this to see how much these things cost. If you do it right, you often have to double the budget.

“We spent an incredible amount of money taking them off and doing everything traditionally, but I was lucky enough to be able to finance that.”

The first phase of the renovation was with the Essex-based team removing almost all of the internal fixtures and fittings and dropping the masts and rigging.

Steel work was blasted, and work on the propeller and rudder was completed.


Albatross during its renovation in Maldon, Essex

Albatross during its renovation in Maldon, Essex
– Photo credit: Bob Richardson

Overall, the project included the installation of new electrical and mechanical systems, heating, ventilation, cabins, kitchens, toilets, floors, ceilings and lighting.

While the vision for the Albatros is not yet set in stone, the chances are the Richardson family will offer a B&B offering to use the newly designed cabins and en-suite facilities.

Mr. Richardson’s son, William, runs the Will’s of Wells Coffee House on The Quay and will partner with the ship.

It is also planned to support local suppliers with a range of groceries.


The renovation of the Albatross cost new owner Bob Richardson hundreds of thousands of pounds

The renovation of the Albatross cost new owner Bob Richardson hundreds of thousands of pounds
– Photo credit: Bob Richardson

“The Albatross is owned by Wells, but it has to make some money to cover maintenance costs,” added Richardson Sr.

Given the mammoth task of the past 18 months, repeatedly interrupted by coronavirus restrictions and other difficulties, the owner admitted it hadn’t gone smoothly.

But it is clear that there is no regret.

“People thought I was crazy to buy it,” said Richardson.


Bob Richardson

Albatross owner Bob Richardson (right) during the voyage from Wells to Essex
– Photo credit: Bob Richardson

“They say the happiest day in life is when you buy a boat and the second best when you sell it.

“It felt like a good idea then, and it still does, because it meets so many criteria for Wells: heritage, Williams business, families, vacation on board, and of course the city itself.

“Covid realized that we just have to enjoy what we have here in the UK. It taught us to seize the day and not think too far into the future.”

History of the Albatross

The two-masted clipper, built in 1899, earned a living for four generations and carried cargo across Europe for almost a century.


The Albatros is under renovation in Essex

The Albatros is under renovation in Essex
– Photo credit: Bob Richardson

In the 1930s an engine was installed and the rigging was reduced to stabilizing sails, so that she could sail as a tramp until after the Second World War.

During the interim conflict, the Albatros smuggled Jewish refugees and political dissidents from Denmark and brought weapons back into the country for the resistance.

After buying the ship in 1941, there was a hard-drinking Danish seaman named Rasmussen transported molasses from Nazi-occupied Denmark to neutral Sweden at the side of his shipmate Jansen.


Albatros was completely dismantled during its renovation in Maldon, Essex

Albatros was completely dismantled during its renovation in Maldon, Essex
– Photo credit: Bob Richardson

The Germans dismissed them as harmless alcoholics and only superficially checked the Albatros when entering or leaving.

Under the direction of Mr. Brouwer, the Albatros left Wells from 1998 to 2000 to be chartered and rebuilt by Greenpeace and was used as an environmental education center for children.


Albatros is undergoing extensive renovations

Albatros is undergoing extensive renovations
– Photo credit: Bob Richardson


Albatross during his voyage from Norfolk to Essex

Albatross during his voyage from Norfolk to Essex
– Photo credit: Bob Richardson


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