Historic ship set to sail back into Doncaster

Humber keel Daybreak.
Humber keel Daybreak.

A historic ship is set to sail back home to her birthplace for the first time in decades next week.

Daybreak, a cargo boat which plied her trade on the rivers between Doncaster and Hull prior to World War Two, will return to Thorne - the place where she was built exactly 80 years ago. She will then sail on to Doncaster where she worked for more than 40 years.

She was the last UK-built vessel powered purely by sail, and has been named the National Historic Ships Flagship for 2014.

And, to celebrate, she is currently touring the East Coast and the waterways she used to serve carrying grain between Hull Docks and South Yorkshire, stopping off in towns and villages along the way to give people a glimpse of her before she returns to her home near London.

Doncaster-born skipper and owner of the Humber keel Tony Woodward said: “It is a bit of a homecoming for me too.

“We are looking forward to people being able to see her again on her home patch.”

The grain-carrying keel was built at Dunston’s yard in Thorne in 1934, and was bought by the Hanley family, carrying loads from Hull to the family’s flour mill in Doncaster town centre, a stone’s throw away from where Doncaster Minster stands today.

She was the last Humber keel built in the country, and her status earned her the flagship boat title for this year, an honour run each year where a single vessel is chosen to represent the society.

It is aimed at ships which are in operational condition and which raise their profile by attending public events and festivals.

She is one of only three Humber keels still under sail in the UK and plied her trade before and after World War Two, carrying cargo either under sail or horse power up until 1976.

Daybreak was bought by Tony and wife Sally in 1979 and has since been converted to a houseboat, cruising up and down the River Thames in London for the past three decades before embarking on her East Coast voyage earlier this summer.

She now has an engine and the former grain store has been converted to bedrooms.

She is normally moored at Staines-upon-Thames in Surrey.

Tony added: “We have been visiting various festivals and events, reminding people of her past and trying to recreate the work she used to do.

“For her trip to Thorne and Doncaster we will be loading her up with a token cargo of grain and taking her back to the site of the flour mill so people can see her on the waterways where she made her home.

“We are looking forward to coming back.”

The exact date of arrival is unknown, but her progress can be followed at http://hkdaybreak.wordpress.com/