Making progress with boat restoration

Jim Hebden and Robin Dunn aboard Progress
Jim Hebden and Robin Dunn aboard Progress

A WHITBY fishing boat which had been condemned as only fit for firewood sailed back into the harbour for the first time in over 40 years.

Progress, a 47 feet long keeler may have been the oldest boat in the marina when it docked earlier this month but just getting her here in the first place was an achievement for her current owner Robin Dunn.

Progress

Progress

He came across Progress, built in 1935, quite by accident. He had been looking for a Scottish fishing boat to buy and discovered Progress at the Isle of Wight.

Mr Dunn who lives in Kings Lynn but used to work in Whitby said: “I had been looking for a Scottish built fishing boat and I found this near wreck on the Isle of Wight, not knowing she was a Whitby boat. I just knew she was a Scottish vessel and the history unravelled.”

The building of the boat was commissioned by Matt Winspear in the 1930’s. He later became the skipper and his son, Sonny Winspear who is now 82, would join him on board.

All of her fishing was done out of the port of Whitby and Progress even did a stint of national service between 1941 and 1945 in Normandy as a sub-marine detection vessel.

Progress

Progress

Jim Hebden whose father was a former crew member also has fond memories of the boat and never thought he would see it again after it was taken out of fishing and sold on in 1959 before being taken to Sunderland.

Stepping aboard last week for the first time in years he recalls: “We had a stove in here (fish hold) and in summer it would get red hot, you just melted, but we had to have something and we did not believe in salads.

“If we were on the boat overnight we would bring sandwiches, if it was for a few days we would bring a joint of meat and definitely had fish once or twice a week.

“My dad was aboard, I was too young but once she went to Sunderland I never thought I would see her again.”

What happened to her between then and being rescued from a fate of becoming matchwood is a mystery.

However, in the last four years Progress has undergone a major restoration programme. The fish hold has been turned into a working kitchen and the crews quarters are now a bedroom.

Some of the wood used has been imported from France and other timbers can’t be replaced because they are made from Burmese teak which is no longer available.

Mr Dunn had hoped to sail Progress back into Whitby last year to celebrate her 75th birthday but weather conditions wouldn’t allow.

Robin added: “The crime of it is when she left fishing, Whitby was still very busy and had a prosperous future. You come back 50 years later and it is almost closed.

“I have worked with wooden boats all my life and there is something very special about our wooden boat history. This is about the preservation of it because once it is gone, it is gone.

“This is the last of the long keelers that first came into Whitby in the 1930s. It has been a labour of love because of the amount of money it cost but you could never build another Progress, we don’t have the trees and the skills.”

Progress left Whitby, probably for the final time, last Wednesday and returned to Kings Lynn.