The ALBION Story

Picture by Anthony Hodbod

When Spike Hodbod photographed Albion on her berth in Garston Dock in 1969 she was still owned by George Slack, the last man to fish for small plaice in the Mersey before the estuary was poisoned by toxic chemical dumping in the early sixties. George and his brother bought her in 1948 with the proceeds of a win on the football pools. Albion, was one of the fastest of the Liverpool nobbies. She had been specially ordered for the harbourmaster at Fleetwood and delivered in 1906 by William Crossfield and Sons of Arnside in Lancashire. In 1911, skippered by F. Parr of Fleetwood and registered as FD 224 she was one of the 34 Fleetwood boats fishing for prawns amid the sandbanks and strong tides of Morecambe Bay. In her later years, George Slack heroically sailed her home single-handed against the tide with his brother's leg entangled in the trawl winch.

Restored in the 1990s, she won won the celebrated Conwy nobby race in 1996 and 1997 and the Liverpool race in 1994 and 1998. But by 2011 she was in trouble again, lying beached against the fish dock wall at Conwy in North Wales. In Mersey slang, there was "nothing down for her" until her looming fate came to the attention of Dr Paul Smith, a Denbigh GP whose optimistic rescue plan involved haulage by narrow tracks to a fine workshop near his restored farmhouse beyond the hamlet of Derwen and high above the road from Ruthin to Corwen.

Dr Smith called in Sealand Boat Deliveries and developed a plan involving a sea tow to the boat hoist at Conwy Marina and a road delivery to meet a 50T all-terrain crane at an old smithy on the A494 road at Bryn Saith Marchog, an ancient settlement in the heart of Wales mentioned in the mediaeval Mabinogion stories. Here Brān the Blessed, high king of the Island of the Mighty, set seven princes, the Saith Marchog, to watch over his lands while he ruled in Ireland.

The plan called for Sealand's Keith Hocking and Mark Chapman, working with crane driver Stephen Buckley, to tranship the 12 tonne, 10.36m fishing boat, cradled and chained to a close-coupled farm trailer only 7.9m long and hauled by Dylan "Bryn Coch" with his 5.25-tonne 130bhp Finnish-built Valtra tractor.

This was the only vehicle combination deemed capable of climbing the steep lanes to Derwen with a chance of making tight turns around the gritstone walls of the 13th century church of St Mary, a Grade 1 Listed Building now under the care of the Friends of the Friendless Churches.

Earlier the tractor rig had successfully delivered to lonely Glyn Mawr the 3.0m wide Sealand slave trolley, mounted on six double castors, needed for winching Albion inside the remote workshop.

For Dylan "Bryn Coch" on the tractor and for Stephen Buckley on the crane, clearances on trees and walls were at times down to less than 8 centimetres on a cambered track across a steep hillside.

Albion high and dry at Glyn Mawr. Keith Hocking steers the heavy duty trolley to turn the 12 tonne boat into Dr Hill's workshop for her major refit and her second century.

Her owner wired this picture to Sealand Boat Deliveries, declaring: "I thought that it was imposible to achieve this. Absolutely brilliant."

Driver Mark Chapman managed to shoot one of his moody Youtube movies

Griff Rhys Jones's celebrated Rhodes 45 sloop UNDINA alongside at Cherbourg, bound for Les Voiles de St Tropez.

Lifting UNDINA to a super-low trailer for a BTX move from Cherbourg to St Tropez in 2007.

Undina 2007

CLICK this picture of UNDINA for boat transport news from 2009.

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