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50-year-old Suffolk fishing boat found rusting in Tunisian harbour

PUBLISHED: 10:58 03 May 2018 | UPDATED: 10:59 03 May 2018

The ship was spotted by travel writer Paul Clammer. Picture: Paul Clammer

The ship was spotted by travel writer Paul Clammer. Picture: Paul Clammer

Paul Clammer

Perhaps the last thing you would expect to see in a Tunisian harbour would be a link to the historic fishing industry of Lowestoft.

The Suffolk Challenger, now called Marzak, docked in Tabarka. Picture: Paul ClammerThe Suffolk Challenger, now called Marzak, docked in Tabarka. Picture: Paul Clammer

But, for travel writer Paul Clammer, that is exactly what happened when he was in Tunisia researching for the new update to Lonely Planet’s guide to Tunisia.

While walking around the pretty harbour of the fishing port of Tabarka, a rusting, certainly not seaworthy ship appeared with the name ‘Marzak’ in white paint, on top of another name, the Suffolk Challenger.

Mr Clammer, from Nottingham, said: “As I was reading the name I noticed the embossed name painted over.

“It was just the very unexpected proposition of seeing this in Tunisia, seeing this thing definitely raised eyebrows!

The Suffolk Challenger at sea in 1968. Picture: From the collection of Alice Taylor, unknown photographerThe Suffolk Challenger at sea in 1968. Picture: From the collection of Alice Taylor, unknown photographer

He added: “It is rusting and looking like it had been sitting there for quite a while.”

The fishing boat, built by Appledore Shipbuilders, worked out of the port of Lowestoft for decades, pulling in fish from as far as 300 miles off the coast of East Anglia.

It was sold to a Spanish fishing company in 1995 and renamed the Jer Dos before it was held in port in 2005 due to exceeding fishing quotas.

The ship was then re-registered in Tunisia as the Marzak, which is a proper name in Arabic, in 2011.

In January 1970, the crew of the Suffolk Challenger were recognised for their efforts as the top earning trawler of the year.

Jimmy Gallagher, 75, who skippered the Suffolk Challenger in its first handful of outings in 1968 while working at Hobson’s, described the ship as the next stage up from the class of ships before it.

“I was a young skipper and I had started off quite well and in a short time in the summer of 1968 I went in the Suffolk Challenger which was out of the blue.

“I did four or five trips on the trot and each time I was top skipper and I was shocked.”

He added: “I thought this was going to be my permanent ship but then I was told I had to go out of the Challenger and into the Endeavour, its sister ship, as the skipper of that ship had asked to move.

“The Challenger, Endeavour, and the Crusader were the next stage up from the likes of the Craftsman, Punch, and Mariner and their class of ship.

“You had a bit more power to pull the chains along which I am sure helped us land more fish. It was a lovely fishing boat.”

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