Four day voyage home planned for iconic Doncaster boat

Adams Ark
Adams Ark
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It is more than 30 years ago since it left Doncaster - but now it is set for a homecoming at last!

Back in 1983, a team of unemployed boatbuilders was commissioned by Doncaster Council in a job creation scheme. Their mission was to create a canal boat.

The result was named Adams' Ark - and after it was launched at a boatyard in Thorne, it was adopted by the council to take parties of youngsters for trips along the canals to help teach them about life on the canals.

But after it was launched, it headed out of Doncaster, and took up a base near Skipton, on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

And, other than when it was on its voyages along the waterways, that was pretty much where it stayed.

Now that is set to change.

The volunteers who look after and skipper the boat are looking to bring it back to Doncaster for the winter, for what would be for the first time for over 30 years.

The boat, built at Bluewater Marina, was named after Les Adams, a Doncaster Council official when the authority was first set up in 1974.

It has been owned by the council, but operated by a team of dedicated volunteers.

One of those volunteers, Tony Sockett, a former senior officer with Doncaster Council's youth services, and until recently a Doncaster Councillor, remembers the first time the boat was taken out, on its way to Skipton.

It was moored on the banks of the Don for the night - right next to the railway bridge. He said he got little sleep that night for all the noise from the traffic and tracks.

He said: "We decided to keep it on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal - that was the choice because it gave us the chance to work on a canal with access to a swing bridge and manual locks that we could move, and that was the arrangement that we've had for 30 years.

"Now we are hoping to bring it back down to Doncaster for the winter.

"We want to bring it here to develop interest in the South Yorkshire Navigation system. We would like to give adults the chance to do day sailing, maybe going out to the aqueduct at Thorpe Marsh.

"It will be a long journey to bring it back though - it takes four days to travel from Skipton. But I don't think people realise how the canals and locks link up. You could travel from Doncaster to Camden in London."

It is likely that it would return to Skipton in the summer.

There is a Friends of the Adams Ark Community Canal Boat already up and running, and the boat has its own skippers' panel.

It can take 12 people onboard, including the crew. Hundreds of Doncaster youngsters have already been on the boat through schemes run by the council.

COLIN WAS AMONG FIRST ON BOARD

Pensioner Colin Grace was among the first skippers on the boat back in 1983 - and now he trains volunteers to do that job.

He said: "There would be a team of volunteers bringing it down. I'm really looking forward to it coming back to Doncaster again. It would be here over the winter, and we would like to take children from schools on board to see it.

"I remember the first time it went out - it was really windy, and there was some pretty choice language used!"

FROM YOUNG PASSENGER TO TAKING THE HELM

Among the more recently qualified skippers, with four and a half years experience of the boat, it Michelle Lambert.

Michelle first took a trip on the boat as a child. She later went on to become a youth worker and took a group on the boat in the late 1990s. In 2013, she became one it its skippers.

She said: "People find it fantastic to be outdoors - it is a challenge, it's fun and it's an adventure. I think it is really calming and it feels like a different world. It is travel at a snails pace, but you're always busy with locks and swing bridges."

ADAMS ARK: FACTFILE

* Wide-beam canal boat powered by a five cylinder diesel engine

* Tiller steered

* Overall length 52 feet

* Width at widest point 10 feet