Photo gallery: First new wooden crab boat for quarter of a century is launched at Morston Quay

Almost 17 wooden feet of Norfolk perfection gently slid into the water and puttered up Morston creek to cheers and applause from spectators.

The Auk is the first wooden crab boat to be built on the north Norfolk coast in a quarter of a century and yesterday's rare launch drew a crowd of admirers to Morston Quay.

Sporting the biggest smile was her proud owner, Henry Faire, who described his new craft as 'a Stradivarius among boats – absolute perfection'.

Mr Faire commissioned The Auk from craftsman David Hewitt, of Blakeney, who also made the coastline's last wooden crab boat, in 1989.

Helped by 17-year-old apprentice Tom Gathercole, Mr Hewitt spent two years building the boat, after the larch and oak used had been left for a year to season.


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Retired City of London businessman Mr Faire, 56, from Haverhill, Suffolk, will keep The Auk at Morston and plans to use it for mackerel and bass hobby fishing, and pleasure trips.

'Messing about in boats is what I love doing,' he said. 'I fish locally here and it seemed a good idea to have a locally-made boat, using David's skills.

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'It was an opportunity to preserve these skills before they die out.'

Mr Faire said he had seen the Viking warship on show at this spring's British Museum exhibition and had been struck by the timelessness of the boat-building craft.

'The technology and techniques used on my boat are directly linked back to that Viking ship,' he added.

Mr Hewitt, 52, based at Stiffkey boatyard, said building a wooden crab boat was the 'be all and end all' of his trade.

He used his well-trained eye, rather than plans, throughout the work.

He maintains wooden crab boats all along the coast and has built up skills and knowledge through the years.

The Auk's progress was filmed from start – wood with bark still on – to finish by the Rescue Wooden Boats charity to record and conserve the crafts and skills involved.

The boat was officially launched by Mr Faire's mother-in-law, Marigold Bullard, whose late husband, Gerry, was one of the former Norwich Bullard's Brewery family.

She poured beer from a Bullard's bottle over the boat's bow.

Are you helping preserve a Norfolk tradition? Contact alex.hurrell@archant.co.uk

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