Wherry restoration celebrated at Ranworth
Children at Ranworth were rewarded yesterday by a splendid sight last seen by their grandparents' generation – three wherry yachts moored in a row.
Norada and White Moth were fittingly alongside Olive as their sister yacht was welcomed into the small but exclusive active sailing fleet of the Wherry Yacht Charter Charitable Trust.
The trio – looking truly regal amid the traffic of Broads hire boats – are the last survivors of the final and most luxurious incarnation of the wherry, which evolved as some hirers shunned pleasure wherries, regarding them as too similar to their working predecessors.
Olive, launched in 1909, has undergone a year-long restoration at the trust's Wroxham wherry base built with the help of Heritage Lottery Fund cash.
Her appearance on the water again for the first time since 2005 marks a significant landmark in the story of the trust.
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When it was formed in 2002, it bought Olive and Norada and the pleasure wherry Hathor from their previous long-time owner Peter Bower, who was struggling to find the money to maintain them.
Trust chairman John Ash said: 'We embarked on a £1.5m project and have spent £1.2m to date.
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'Norada was launched last year but we still need to raise up to £100,000 for the restoration of Hathor.
'We are looking to have her part-restored next year and fully-restored in 2015.'
He told the gathering at yesterday's launch that it was the first time the world's last remaining wherry yachts had sailed together for 80 years.
He said: 'It was in 2005 that we were able to rebuild the wherry base thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund.
'Now we have workshops, under cover storage and a slipway and can get a wherry out of the water in four hours.'
Their excellent apprentice Dean Howard had started work on Olive a year ago, replacing quite a number of planks; she had been back in the water early this year but still needed varnishing and brass polishing.
Louis Baugh, a spokesman for Defra's Rural Development Programme for England which funded 70pc of Olive's restoration, was called on to hand over a brass plaque to commemorate the occasion.
He said: 'It has been a great result. We very much saw the Olive project as a great legacy for the funding programme, embracing sustainable tourism and maintaining traditional skills.'
Retired teacher Mr Bower, who had bought Olive in 1974, owning her for nearly 30 years, said her appearance at Ranworth was a 'statement of the trust's intention'.
Once Hathor was restored they would have four boats – White Moth is owned by trustee Andrew Scull – to charter. He said: 'There will be occasions when all four can sail to various functions. It will make a huge visionary impact.'
Retired civil engineer Mr Ash said their focus was now increasingly turning to 'how to market 100-year-old wherries'.
They would need to raise up to £70,000 a year to keep them on the water and were exploring all possibilities from corporate hire to unusual holidays on a skippered craft.