A ‘Welcome’ return for Arthur Ransome’s Norfolk Broads cruiser

An historic 1920s Broads sailing cruiser once hired by Arthur Ransome has made a welcome return to the water, reports the East Anglian Daily Press.

More than 15 years after it had last been sailed, and after countless hours of high standard work to restore a boat that was used by author Arthur Ransome and appeared in some of his books, Welcome has been launched once more.

Welcome restored at IBTC, Oulton Broad with Rob Hardboard, Maynard Watson and Revd Barrie Slatter. Photo: Mick Howes.

The restored 1928 cruiser was craned into the water as she was relaunched on Wednesday 1st May in front of a fine turnout at the International Boatbuilding Training College in Oulton Broad.

It was a landmark occasion for its owner, Revd, Barrie Slatter, who said: “Its lovely seeing her in the water again and back in her natural environment. She has survived a lot over the years. It has been a lengthy restoration, and she was probably last in the water about 2002, but she looks so much better. The varnish is so good, everything about her – she is probably better now than the day she was built.”

Revd. Barrie Slatter with the restored Welcome at IBTC, Oulton Broad. Photo: Mick Howes.

Welcome was built in 1928 by Walter Woods, the father of Herbert Woods – a name synonymous with both the Norfolk Broads and Potter Heigham.

Revd. Slatter said: “Its claim to fame is that in 1931 Arthur Ransome hired her, just around this time of year at the end of April, and cruised on the Broads. He enjoyed it and so many things happened that he wanted to write a book about it – and that became “Coot Club”, the fifth book of the “Swallows and Amazons” series, which features the fictional Thames barge Welcome of Rochester. At the time Arthur Ransome was at the Manchester Guardian and he sailed in Welcome, while the then editor of the Manchester Guardian sailed in Winsome, which was built in 1927.”

Welcome being lowered into the water at IBTC, Oulton Broad. Photo: Mick Howes.

Admitting he has always had a love of boats, Revd. Slatter now owns both of the classic cruisers. He said: “We have just taken on Winsome, having bought Welcome in 1981 after it came up in a sale at Potter Heigham. My father (Ronald Slatter) and I had hired her in 1961 and she is a piece of history.”

Having been based at Beccles for a number of years, the boat went in for restoration at the International Boatbuilding Training College in “about 2004.” Delighted with the finished outcome, he said: “She is sort of a museum piece but she sails so well.

Rob Harboard and student Lucy Harris aboard Welcome at Oulton Broad. Photo: Mick Howes.

“Lots of students have worked tirelessly on her over the years to get it to this standard – it is incredible the amount of work that has gone into it. Maynard Watson – an apprentice at Herbert Woods boatyard – has been working on it for the past year and we would not be where we are today without the students who have done really excellent work on her. It has been a unique labour of love – and now the next project is about to start on Winsome.”

Lyn Tupper with the next project, Winsome, under cover ahead of restoration at IBTC, Oulton Broad. Photo: Mick Howes.

Mike Tupper, managing director of the International Boatbuilding Training College in Oulton Broad, said: “We are absolutely delighted to see not just a beautiful boat but a bit of history going back to the Broads. It has been a historic occasion. A lot of restoration takes a good deal of time.

“A number of our students have been working on the boat over the years and a project like this can take longer – particularly when we are working at such a high standard as has been seen here. It is brilliant for the community and we keep trying to make sure that Lowestoft can thrive. The area can be justifiably proud of establishments like this, but still a lot of people don’t know we are here.”

Students at the International Boatbuilding Training College in Oulton Broad. Photo: Mick Howes.

Norfolk and Suffolk links

Arthur Ransome. Photo: Archant Library.

A celebrated author and journalist, Arthur Ransome is perhaps best known for writing the 12 “Swallows and Amazons” stories – a series of children’s books about the school holiday adventures of youngsters to places including the Norfolk Broads.

With the children’s books telling the stories of boats, the Broads and adventure, Ransome’s tales on the water have inspired generations to sail and enjoy the Norfolk Broads and rivers.

Ransome spent the years from 1935 to 1940 living in Suffolk and sailing the Broads, and visited Norfolk many times for sailing trips.

The Norfolk Broads feature in the “Swallows and Amazons” series. “Coot Club” and “The Big Six” are set in and about Horning, on the River Bure, while “We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea” starts at Pin Mill on the River Orwell in Suffolk. Ransome sailed the Nancy Blackett from the River Orwell to Flushing (Vlissingen in Holland) when researching the book. The Nancy Blackett is today preserved by the Nancy Blackett Trust.