A BOAT has been launched into the sea again at Conwy Quay after trustees and volunteers took more than 12 years to rebuild it.

The Helen II, built in 1910, was launched from the quay today (April 1) at noon, and was the culmination of a project which began in December 2009 when it was delivered to Conwy in need of a total rebuild.

This was a precursor before an official ceremony, which is due to take place in a few weeks' time, when all of those who have supported and funded the project will be formally thanked.

This wooden fishing boat, known as a “Morecambe Bay Prawner”, was built by John Crossfield, is 40 feet long, with an oak frame and pitch pine strakes and decking.

The boat was lifted onto a platform by the quay before being transported back into the water via a crane.

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

The Helen II is also known as a “Nobby”, a term used to describe a boat made of rough wood, but identifiable by their sleek lines, low freeboard and upward curve.

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

It was donated to Conwy by its previous owner, Jim Roddick, in memory of his late son, Jamie.

The “Jamie Roddick Trust”, along with a host of volunteers, oversaw its rebuilding, while Conwy County Borough Council provided initial funding for the project, as well as space on the quay where the reconstruction could take place.

Allan Sharp, who helped set up the Jamie Roddick Trust and has been involved with the project from the beginning, said: "We wanted to restore something in the quay, give it an understanding of the marine heritage associated with Conwy, and this vessel came up from a benefactor, so we took it on.

North Wales Pioneer: Allan Sharp (right) with Ron Lovelady, another trustee, prior to the boat's relaunchAllan Sharp (right) with Ron Lovelady, another trustee, prior to the boat's relaunch

"It's been a great project for developing skills, training locally, getting volunteers and schools involved.

"As a result, we now have a vessel that's going to be used for sail training, events, and helping local people to learn more about the maritime heritage, so it's been worth it in the end.

"Today has been something of a landmark to see it now lifted into the water.

"We wanted to get it in the water, make sure it was nice and water-tight, and use the high water available to us today.

"But of course, we will have a commissioning ceremony, which we will invite all of those generous benefactors and funders and people that have helped us over the years to see Helen II and appreciate all the work that's gone in to her.

"It's going to be an interesting 12 months when we commission the boat and really start to understand how it can be used to benefit local people.

"Any marine operation is fraught with issues, but we've doggedly worked through the process, and with the help of the harbour authority and volunteers, we've come up with a plan that has worked perfectly.

"We're all cheering inwardly, but we know there's still a long way to go. Nonetheless, it was fantastic."


Boat to launch back into Conwy sea after more than 12 years' rebuilding

Boat on Conwy Quay being converted and sent to Madagascar

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.

Now 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 used for educational and team-building exercises, and will also represent Conwy at various heritage events.

David Warden-Owen, another trustee who has been involved with the project for roughly five years, added: "It's great to see that it's in the water now. It's been a slow process but it's very rewarding to see.

"There is a lot involved with operating a boat. She's not going to be commercial, she's going to hopefully be used for all the youth, the sea cadets and scouts, and then we'll take her out for opportunities to learn about sailing."

North Wales Pioneer: The boat out at sea again after 12 years of repairsThe boat out at sea again after 12 years of repairs

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.

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.