Comrade – Society History – 1980’s

1980 – A Keel goes to sea

COMRADE has completed four very successful sailing seasons, though she still required leeboards before claiming that she is fully restored. A full sailing programme on the Humber included, in late June, a weekend charter party from the North Western Museum of Inland Navigation, during which the whole length of the Humber was covered plus a sail down the Ouse , the first time a Keel had been under sail there since 1942. A repeat charter by the same group in July – they must have enjoyed themselves! – was followed by the Society’s biggest undertaking to date.

Due to crew work commitments the voyage began on the evening of Friday July 25, in strong south-easterly winds COMRADE made her way down the River Humber, on the Lincolnshire side to seek any shelter possible, before anchoring near Grimsby Royal Dock basin at 2130 hours. On Saturday morning at 0530, with only a light air and sea mist, she passed Spurn Lightship and set a course for Bridlington. With visibility down to half a mile at times and not enough breeze for any meaningful sailing the harbour was spotted through the mist at 1600 hours. With an onshore breeze the engine was put in neutral and COMRADE sailed towards the entrance, it was high water and both piers were crowded with people, the tacks and sheets were slacked off and the mainsail trussed up with the slabline. With full topsail and half mainsail set COMRADE sailed into Bridlington harbour, the first Keel to do so since David Holgate and son took THOMAS SCARR with a cargo of bricks and roof tiles there in 1906. As she passed between the harbour heads hundreds of holidaymakers rushed to see this strange visitor from the past, at the critical moment a small boy’s voice was heard to exclaim: “is that a galleon dad?”

On Sunday July 27 harbour staff and locals, including John King ex-Coxswain of the Bridlington Lifeboat, were invited for a sail in the bay followed by, on Tuesday July 29, a further sail for Yorkshire Television cameras. The ship was open to the public from Saturday August 02 to Sunday August 10, there were so many visitors that opening times were extended into the evenings but still they queued to board!

On Monday at 0330 hours COMRADE cast off in light southerly winds, cleared Bridlington harbour and set  a course for the Humber, she arrived back at Grimsby in the evening anchoring up for the night. Before morning the wind had veered to the west and increased to force six, at 0545 the anchored was weighed and she set off for Hull sheltering in the lee of Lincolnshire until Skitter Ness where they had to take the full force of the wind and tide. By 0800 they were moored in Hull harbour with the satisfaction of having completed the round trip as planned.

For those who anxiously enquired how COMRADE behaved at sea Fred informed them “the worst part of the voyage was within one mile of Hull Pier on our return!”

Early sailing trips on the River Humber – leeboards still to be added

Back on the Humber sailing trips continued with another weekend charter party at the beginning of September organised by Tony Woodward who owns and lives aboard the Humber Keel DAYBREAK and finally, on the last weekend in September, a day charter for a group from Leeds and a Members’ trip when we were able to welcome author Anthony Burton, well known for his series on industrial archaeology on television.

To date, since the Society acquired COMRADE, she has travelled 2676 miles with 41 trips under sail including 11 charters.

1981 – Opening of the Humber Bridge and the Society celebrates its first 10 years

Due to last minute hold-ups in getting AMY HOWSON under sail COMRADE had to substitute her for a BBC project on Saturday May 30, AMY once again having to be content to carry the camera crew. Anthony Burton was producing a series of half-hour films called ‘The Past Afloat’, due to be shown on the BBC early in 1982. Filming went so well on the Saturday that Tony and two of his crew were able to go for a sail on the Sunday.

The Society’s tenth anniversary dinner was held aboard P S LINCOLN CASTLE at Hessle on June 19. Guest of honour was Frank G G Carr along with Captain Patrick Boylan, Captain John Frank and Mr Alan Gillyon. Our Chairman read out a royal telegram from HRH Prince Philip who conveyed his congratulations to all our members followed by the news that AMY HOWSON had sailed for the first time that week.

On Friday July 17 both COMRADE and AMY HOWSON made their way from South Ferriby to the Humber Bridge anchorage to await Her Majesty the Queens official opening ceremony at 1100 hours. AMY set her sails and ran under the bridge first then, as the royal car crossed over the bridge, the Duke looked down and raised his hand in salute as COMRADE was about to pass under the bridge, Fred waved back!

After a short sail she penned up in Albert Dock for an evening of festivities followed by a sailing day for members on the Saturday and across to South Ferriby for an Open Day with AMY HOWSON on Sunday July 19.

In early August with less than perfect weather COMRADE set off for the I W A Rally, stopping over at Castleford before continuing to Leeds. Both of our ships attended with new exhibitions aboard, COMRADE’s entitled ‘Maritime Knitting’ centred around the traditional gansey, AMY’s entitled ‘Historic Ships’ featured maritime preservation projects around the country. Press and TV interviews, demonstrating and talking to visitors gave valuable publicity to the Society.

On the way back from the Rally COMRADE stopped off at Knottingley to attend to the hull plating and protect her with ‘black varnish’ on one of Harker’s slips.

The following bank holiday weekend Tony Woodward, owner of DAYBREAK, chartered the ship for three days, sailing from Goole and returning to Hull. The final sailing trip was a weekend charter for a party connected with BEECLIFFE (then based on the French canals).

One difficulty which, with the decline of river traffic will only worsen, concerns parties joining COMRADE in the Old Harbour at Hull. The mud is laying up and steepening the profile of the river bed, the consequence being that vessels cannot be held alongside at low water.

1982 – Edwardian Sunday and further BBC film work

Sailing bookings for complete weekends by members living some distance away seem to have become the norm currently, they continue to be thoroughly enjoyable for both visitors and crew, some parties having re-booked from previous years and others were newcomers.

As a part of Civic Week celebrations in Hull an ‘Edwardian Sunday’ was held on July 4, clearance was only received on the preceding Friday, but it was a fine moment when COMRADE penned into Humber Dock Marina for the first time with Cedric Lodge at the helm. AMY HOWSON, the Hull sailing trawler WILLIAM McCANN and VENTURE, built on the lines of a Paull shrimper, making the spectacle of four sailing vessels a sight to be remembered.

Following last year’s filming, the BBC TV series ‘The Past Afloat’ aired on Tuesday evenings on BBC2, COMRADE featured in the second programme called ‘Setting Sail’ on July 13. To accompany the series, BBC Publications in association with Andre Deutsch, produced a book of the same title with COMRADE in pride of place on the front cover and a series of photos by Clive Coote inside.

In August COMRADE sailed for the BBC once again helping to make part of a series of films called ‘A Voyage Between Two Seas’. Several days were spent sailing between Goole and Hull so filming could take place from land and river, with our Sailing Master performing some near impossible manoeuvres to suit the needs of the production team. It was a great experience for the crew and the results gave some spectacular scenes of COMRADE sailing down the Ouse, past Trent Falls and onto the Humber. On the following Sunday, with the same film crew, she sailed from Hull towards the North Sea to make contact with AMY HOWSON returning from Bridlington.

1983 – A year of change

On March 17 Fred Schofield formally handed over as Sailing Master to Colin S Screeton. Since 1974 Fred has imparted his knowledge and experience to enable the Society members to restore, re-rig and learn to sail a square-rigged ship in the traditional manner. He has accepted the office of Honorary Commodore and continues to write his memoirs.

Subsequently, Rodney Clapson has stepped down as Sailing Master of AMY HOWSON and Chairman of the Sloop Committee, followed in September by our founder, Cedric Lodge, being offered a new post in London and having to leave us.


April saw both COMRADE and AMY at New Holland for hull inspection. COMRADE�s doublings proved to be wearing thin at the bilge and a substantial area had to be renewed whereas AMY required only minor work.

COMRADE attended the IWA Rally held a Beverley Beck over the weekend of May 21 and 22.

Though Fred Schofield had stepped down as Sailing Master he still played a vital role in taking the ship up and down the River Hull from Beverley due to other crew members being unavailable on Fridays and Mondays.

It was a busy sailing season, the first trip necessitating an unplanned overnight at anchor due to fog. The second, a special trip for the Lord Mayor of Hull, in his guise as Admiral of the Humber. A full weekend trip using both ships for a large group who came with Bill Greenhalgh of BEECLIFFE. The only weekend where sailing had to be minimal, due to high winds, was in the company of Tony Woodward of DAYBREAK and some of his friends from London.

Work on the leeboards continued with carpentry work by Bill Wilson and metalwork by Colin Screeton.

In September it was time to watch the BBC TV series “A Voyage Between Two Seas” presented by Pete Morgan, particularly the final episode “Along the Ouse and Humber to the Sea” with its magnificent sequences of COMRADE under sail from Goole to Hull. Fred’s pointed remark, “the man does as he likes!” gave our “new hand” John instant fame as a consequence.

1984 – Summer sailing season move to South Ferriby

Dave Robinson was elected as Hon Secretary, while Cedric and Janet Lodge were given Honorary Life Membership in recognition of their outstanding contribution to the Society.

Efforts to obtain a suitable berth for the sailing season, preferably in the Humber Dock Marina, had so far drawn a blank despite letters and meetings over the past two years. With the passage up the River Hull becoming increasingly hazardous and excessive wear on the ships hull, the decision was taken to berth COMRADE along with AMY HOWSON at South Ferriby.

The passage up and down the River Hull was becoming more hazardous with excessive wear on the ship’s hull

On the weekend of June 30/July 1 Tony Woodward, owner of the Humber Keel DAYBREAK, and his party sailed with us once again. On the Saturday a trip on the ebb to Grimsby returning to Ferriby Sluice for a convivial evening was followed, on the Sunday, by a planned trip up to Trent Falls or higher. In reality a miscalculation left COMRADE high and dry on an area sometimes known as Monkey Island, an ideal opportunity for crew and party to buckle down to the task of tarring round the ship.

Harold Parnaby of Willerby Camera Club had been taking some very fine film of the Society’s ships in Action and at the end of the season, on the day we were to take the ship back to Hull ready for the trip to Beverley, we arranged to put COMRADE through her paces on the Ancholme. Harold was set ashore and the ship continued upstream, turned and set sail to run past him at a good speed. Later she penned out into the Humber, put up the sailing gear, but with a south-westerly wind freshening all the time the sails were lowered and, off camera, a jammed gearbox had to be dealt with while the ship was edged across the “lumps” created by wind over tide using a small amount of mainsail held aloft by the slabline. The completed production called ‘On Wind and Tide’ was shown to members at the 1985 AGM.

1985 – Off to Brandy Wharf

The leeboards and associated gear were almost completed and ready for installation for next season and a new stern bush fitted in the winter had too small a tolerance and delayed sailing in May.

There was a change of accent for the summer programme. As the ships have visited all the obvious centres both inland and coastal, in some cases on several occasions, and the exhibitions have been seen far and wide, the consensus has been to maximize the sailing programme which contributes much needed funds towards our running costs and cut back on the number of on-view weekends.

Weather conditions for the sailing season were less than kind, both sails aloft under a bright sky were rare; in fact, the majority of trips were under power. One such weekend, on the Saturday morning in the company of AMY HOWSON, COMRADE sailed with main and topsail but, as the wind freshened, the topsail was lowered, then the main reefed and finally the trip completed under power.

On the Sunday, with heavy showers and winds forecast south to southwest force 6 to 7, the party arrived with their enthusiasm draining away in torrential rain. A decision was made, the ship was swung upriver, the mast lowered and she set off to Brandy Wharf. On arrival COMRADE started to pass under the bridge before it became obvious the mast head was not going to clear the structure. Full astern, clunk, bump, crash! The truck and wind vane disappeared into the river followed by a selection of nautical oaths from the crew.

After refreshments of draught bitter (the crew refused to drink cider much to the landlords disgust), one of our London members climbed into the bridge structure and spotted the gilded truck shining from the riverbed. The vane and truck were quickly hauled up, everyone re-boarded the ship and, as AMY’s crew had assured us it was possible to swing a Sheffield size ship, we put COMRADE’s head into the pub slipway and became stuck. One hour and many attempts later, the decision was taken to back the ship a mile down stream to a dyke, achieved by all crew ashore with ropes and our London members wife aboard working gears and throttle! Ferriby Sluice was reached in total darkness, an interesting day!

1986 – Windlass rebuilt and leeboards fitted at last

During the 1985 sailing season COMRADE was at anchor near Immingham riding out the ebb in a strong WSW wind. As the flood came an attempt to weigh anchor resulted in the windlass jamming. The port side mechanism was dismantled to allow the starboard side to be used temporarily. After the end of the season the windlass was thoroughly examined and a decision made to dismantle, unship and carry out a complete rebuild ashore during the winter. Colin Screeton carried this out, at minimum cost to the Society, with a little help from his friends.

There were now three heavy items to lift aboard COMRADE, one rebuilt windlass and, following final fitting of the wedges to the insides, two leeboards. Fortunately Keith Marin of Marin Engineers, Beverley volunteered his services along with his crane and on April 10 COMRADE was taken up Beverley Beck where, with great skill and precision, the windlass was put aboard and the leeboards taken up through the mastway and secured alongside.

The next day, following connection, the port leeboard was dropped two or three times to confirm everything works and so COMRADE now had a full set of gears to complete her restoration and there “only” (!) remained to keep her maintained.

Some initial adjustments were necessary but after a season in use the leeboards have been effective. The real test came when Fred Schofield was able to come out for a sail on September 6 and his verdict was favourable.

The revival of the Owston Ferry Regatta by the Owston Ferry History Society on the River Trent was attended by COMRADE on Saturday July 19. It was a highly successful event and will be held again next year.

Just prior to Christmas the Society lost one its oldest and most valued members. Charlie Gray served on the Council for most of the Society’s existence until he retired in 1982. His popularity with local TV, radio and newspapers reporters gave the Society much free publicity. He starred on a BBC Radio Humberside programme called ‘Hessle Whelps and Barton Bulldogs’ in the summer of 1982, sharing his considerable knowledge of the River Humber and the ships which sailed on her, and even had his photo announcing the programme printed in the Radio Times!

1987 – A weekend with ‘June’

Winter maintenance on COMRADE involved a major job of replacing the “following pieces” round the cabin deck. The timbers had decayed beyond repair and the steel beneath rusted through in a few places. The work took longer than expected and the first sailing weekend had to be cancelled. However, the remainder of the sailing programme was successfully completed, no days were lost to bad weather and every party had a reasonable amount of time under sail.

There were occasional small dramas, one day the robands on the mainsail blew out and on another a topsail sheet parted. Both items were duly replaced.

Unfortunately, the return visit to Owston Ferry Regatta was cancelled due to a local tragedy involving three teenagers who had been drowned not long before the event.

Director of the Maritime Trust, Vice-Admiral Sir Patrick Bayly, was able to visit South Ferriby in July to inspect the Society’s ships. He subsequently wrote to congratulate us on the impressive condition of COMRADE and AMY HOWSON.

Later in the season COMRADE in conjunction with Chris Topp and his vessel JUNE, went up the Ancholme to Brandy Wharf for a very pleasant weekend. JUNE, into which Chris has put a keel-like rig, went up to the weir below Harlem Hill made possible by being a smaller vessel than COMRADE.

After several years of writing, typing, correcting and re-typing May saw the publication of Fred Schofield’s book ‘Humber Keels and Keelmen’. This detailed and definitive work, describes the ships, the men and women who worked them, the waterways on which they sailed and the many cargoes they carried. Published by Terence Dalton Ltd the book has 300 pages, illustrated with almost 200 photographs with maps and drawings by Edward Paget-Tomlinson and Cedric Lodge.

Yorkshire TV’s ‘Calendar’ featured the launch of the book including interviews with Fred and Colin Screeton plus film of COMRADE in full sail on the Humber.

A full summer sailing programme was completed by COMRADE and her crew who also took part in the Owston Ferry Festival where, after a Friday night in the local hostelry, ex-coastguard Alf Wedgwood BEM was the pilot who escorted the crew back to the ship and never lost a body, although he had to support one or two!

1989 – A bit more wind…

Good weather with the occasional shower made this summer the best sailing season for COMRADE and crew since she was re-rigged; but (yes, there’s usually a but) July 30th proved to be an exception!

The day started dull and calm, the sails were set off Chalder Ness and the engine stopped, in very light winds the ship drifted under the Humber Bridge, along the dockside towards Hull where a light drizzle started. Off the Old Harbour a cold breeze came from the west, the rain became heavier and the wind freshened rapidly so the topsail was lowered and smothered by the crew. Approaching King George Dock the wind increased to about force 7 the engine was started and mainsail dropped (when the wind pressure allowed), and quickly subdued by crew and willing helpers.

COMRADE was now off Saltend, with the wind in excess of force 8, she refused all attempts to come ‘head to wind’, so a course was set for the Lincolnshire shore. With a further increase to force 10 (later confirmed in the local papers), torrential rain made it impossible to look to windward and visibility was down to about two ship lengths. Short steep vicious seas caused heavy rolling of the ship keeping crew and helpers on deck in a constant battle to hang on and hold the mainsail down while passengers below were becoming seasick.

Half way across, out of the murk appeared the “Sand End” light float rearing up out of a smother of foam with its mooring cable stretched bar tight and clear of the water for several seconds! COMRADE continued to stagger and roll her way across with the seas washing over both gun’ls repeatedly knocking the helmsman off his feet until she was eventually brought up to anchor in the lee of Killingholme Jetty.

Once back at South Ferriby it seemed that most of the party had enjoyed the day, except for one individual who on going ashore said: “I never want to see you people or this ship ever again!!!”The TV Director, out to gain ideas for a documentary about Keels was delighted, although his cameraman smashed the camera, and as for the female crew member who earlier in the day said: “It’s a pity there’s not a bit more wind!!” she’s still being sought by the Sailing Master!

TV producer, Dave Beresford, contacted us in the summer with an idea for a programme about the Humber and, after acquiring a copy of Fred Schofield’s book, decided that Humber Keels would be the subject. Dates were fixed for September 18, 19 and 20 immediately following a sailing weekend. The plan was to film COMRADE sailing away from Goole and at several points down the Ouse and Humber with two camera crews and a helicopter involved. With high winds on the Wednesday an extra day was required on Thursday to get it all “in the can”. For COMRADE’s crew it had been an interesting and enjoyable experience and the producer, cameramen and sound crew were delighted with the material recorded. The completed production will be screened next year.

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