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Wells harbour landmark will have to move

PUBLISHED: 19:01 08 April 2009 | UPDATED: 10:46 07 July 2010

The owner of a 110-year-old sailing ship which provides a nautical landmark for thousands of visitors to Wells quay has been told to haul anchor to free up mooring space.

The owner of a 110-year-old sailing ship which provides a nautical landmark for thousands of visitors to Wells quay has been told to haul anchor to free up mooring space.

The Albatros was the last cargo ship to bring goods to the port but has become a permanent fixture in the last two years as a restaurant and bar with live entertainment in the evenings.

But the town's Harbour Commissioners have told the owner, Ton Brouwer, that the 33m long Dutch clipper is preventing other commercial vessels using the port.

They have given the 60-year-old Dutchman a year's notice to move 200m along the seafront to a new berth at Tug Boat Yard.

Mr Brouwer said the move would reduce his passing trade and could halve his turnover - forcing him to reconsider whether his business could remain viable at his adopted home town.

Harbourmaster Robert Smith said the commissioners' first concern was to develop Wells in its role as a working port.

He said: “We have no quay space and there have been many times that different vessels wanted to work doing surveys or fishing and we could not accommodate them.

“Wherever we put the Albatros it will upset someone. The Albatros has become synonymous with Wells so we don't want to move it out of the harbour altogether.

“In the last two years Ton has changed his business to become a permanent feature - that is why the circumstances have changed and that is why it has caused a problem with the quay space.”

Mr Smith announced the decision at a meeting of Wells Town Council on Monday night.

Mr Brouwer said a planned new shellfish facility on the East Quay would block the view to his proposed berth and reduce the number of visitors. He said he would also be closer to homes which could bring noise complaints.

“I am forced to move completely out of the public eye,” he said. “We depend on regular customers but 70pc of our trade in the main season comes from passers-by. I might lose 50pc of my turnover and it will kill the business.

“I am stuck between two fires. The Harbour Commissioners want me to move and I do not want to upset them by not co-operating. They have offered to make Tug Boat Yard suitable for the ship with better power facilities and a closer water supply. If it is technically possible I want to have a look at it to see if it is possible business-wise. At the moment, I doubt it.”

The Albatros, made in 1899, was the continent's last sailing cargo carrier and was used to rescue Jews from Europe during the second world war.

Mr Brouwer boat the boat in 1983 and soon began carrying soya beans from Europe to Wells. After a three-year spell with Greenpeace he returned to the town to offer day trips, but stopped sailing commercially in 2007 to make a permanent home with his wife Kate and children Jake, two, and five-month-old Henry.

He said: “The first time I sailed into Wells 20 years ago I was sailing close to the beach and saw the pine woods and yellow sands and beach huts. It was like sailing into a magical unspoilt world. That is still what this harbour is about.”

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