Hunstanton Wash Monster could run ferry to Skegness after meeting with town council

The Wash Monster sets off from Hunstanton. Picture: Ian Burt.

One of Hunstanton's best-loved attractions could soon be setting sail for more distant shores.

Town councillors in Skegness want to set up a ferry between the two resorts across the Wash. They have voted to investigate whether the service would be feasible.

They invited William Searle, who runs sea cruises on board the Norfolk town's familiar Wash Monster, to a meeting to discuss the idea.

Afterwards, Mr Searle said: 'We had two-and-a-half hours with them looking at various sites. We believe there's a nice site next to the pier we could work from.

'I showed them all the paperwork and what was involved and they're not frightened off.

'The only restriction I can see is not going to be on the beaches, it's going to be in the water in between.'

Mr Searle said he hoped to carry out a test run – in early May – to see how one of his amphibious LARC landing craft would cope with the 15-mile journey across the estuary to Lincolnshire.

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Carl Macey, one of the councillors who suggested the idea, said: 'It's looking very positive. We've found the sort of site that could be its Skegness base. Realistically, it could be of benefit to both Hunstanton and Skegness.'

Mark Anderson, the mayor of Skegness, told the EDP: 'We are seriously interested in getting it under way on the council. We would like to look at it as an extra attraction and amenity for the area. Anything that can help our two towns can only boost tourism.'

The 60ft LARCs – Lighter Aluminium Resupply Craft – date back to the Vietnam war, when they were used as troop carriers.

Mr Searle converted one of the boats into a pleasure craft 12 years ago to take sightseers out to see the seal colonies.

The LARC, with its huge wheels and two 300HP V8 diesel engines, can manage 15mph on the sand when the tide's out, and around half that when afloat, when its giant diesels power twin propellers.

As well as holidaymakers, the Wash Monster has also become a draw for military vehicle enthusiasts from across the country, because it is believed to be the only operational LARC in the UK, the nearest being a vessel which works on a salmon farm in Ireland.

First built in the 1950s, LARCs were said to be the only vehicle in the US Army which could perform a beach landing through surf.

They saw active service in the Vietnam war, where more than 600 of the 968 craft produced were scuttled after the Americans departed.

Mr Searle currently owns two of the craft, which are said to have cost the US military $1m each to build. One thing he dreads is a puncture. Tyres for the LARC's huge wheels cost £1,000 a time.

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