A BOAT which is more than 100 years old and has taken more than 12 years to rebuild is set to be launched into the sea again from Conwy Quay.

The Helen II will be launched from the quay on Friday (April 1), at roughly 12pm, to coincide with the high tide.

This wooden fishing boat, built in 1910 by John Crossfield, is 40 feet long, with an oak frame and pitch pine strakes and decking.

Conwy was the base of Crossfield’s boat-building business, which extended to a number of locations across North Wales and Lancashire.

This project started in December 2009 when the boat, in need of complete restoration, was delivered to the quayside in Conwy.

A statement on the project’s website, helennobbyproject.co.uk, said: “The Helen II was in need of a full programme of restoration and a trust was formed to manage this.

“Conwy Council provided initial funding and space on the quay at Conwy to enable the reconstruction work to take place.

“Few Nobbies survive and those that are left are maintained by keen owners, including some trust members - but there were few a big as Helen, mainly as they had to be handled by just one man and a lad.

“Helen’s size will enable us to take groups out to sea, to explore the local waters and their own abilities.”

The Helen II is a type of boat known as a “Nobby”, a colloquial word for a boat made of rough wood, but identifiable by their sleek lines, low freeboard and upward curve.

Helen II was donated to the Conwy community by its previous owner, Jim Roddick, in memory of his late son, Jamie.

The boat has been rebuilt at Conwy quay using traditional methods and incorporating students from Llandrillo College’s associated training courses, under the supervision of skilled craftsmen.

One volunteer, Phil, gained the nickname “Wednesday Phil”, having helped repair the boat every Wednesday, who has been at the forefront of the project throughout along with friend, Walley.

A number of trustees and other groups, including the “4Cs” (Conwy Christian Cruising Club – four Conwy-based sailors), and Christian charity Youth With A Mission, have also offered helping hands.

David Warden-Owen, a retired ship captain and one of the 4C members, said: “They (Phil and Walley) have been the stalwarts who have been there day-in, day-out.

“Walley’s very skilled in metal work – he’s built an amazing cradle which the boat is on now, and that enable will it to slide out, and then lifted by a crane.

“As we’ve got closer to the launch date, Phil’s obviously increased his number of days, but throughout the years, he’s been doing every Wednesday.

“I thought it was the ideal thing to get involved in as I’m a passionate sailor – we’re all excited; it’s the culmination of years of study progress.

“You suddenly realise: ‘Wow, this is actually going to be afloat!’. There are some occasions when you think this will never happen, but it’s all come together.”

Once re-launched, Helen II will be used to take youngsters from all backgrounds and abilities to experience traditional sailing and enjoy marine life in a boat that was built for speed and safety.

The boat will also be available for educational purposes, team-building exercises and to represent Conwy at traditional heritage events.

Following Friday’s launch, another boat, “Island Reach” will be taken for out for a sea trial on Sunday at high tide to test the renovations and repair works carried out to it.


Boat on Conwy Quay being converted and sent to Madagascar

The ex-Royal Navy Tender boat was delivered from Greenock to Conwy late last year, with the long-term plan for it to be converted to a medical/dentistry vessel for Youth With A Mission to serve the people of Madagascar.