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Plea to help save former minesweeper from watery grave in River Deben

PUBLISHED: 19:00 09 June 2020

A plea has been launched to help save former minesweeper and fishing vessel the Alpha in the River Deben  Picture: ANDREW OSBORN

A plea has been launched to help save former minesweeper and fishing vessel the Alpha in the River Deben Picture: ANDREW OSBORN

ANDREW OSBORN

A appeal has been launched to help save an historic former minesweeper moored in the River Deben.

A appeal has been launched to help save an historic former minesweeper moored on the River Deben.

The Alpha has seen it all – serving as a minesweeper during the Second World War before becoming a fishing vessel on the Thames and the River Blyth, Suffolk’s calm waters have been her home for more than 20 years.

After being built by Aldous of Brightlingsea in 1938, the boat became the cherished possession of Leigh-on-Sea born fisherman Dick Baldwin, who left the bustle of the Thames for a quieter and more profitable life on the east coast.

But it has not always been plain sailing for the 82-year-old vessel, with Mr Baldwin’s side job of rebuilding stages on the River Blyth and the use of steel drilling rods and the ship’s net winch taking its toll on her ageing planks.

Unable to finance her repairs while paying mooring fees, Mr Baldwin and his beloved boat moved on again – this time leaking and without covering boards on deck – eventually finding moorings on the River Deben at Woodbridge before moving further up river to Melton.

An offer of a permanent mooring came about next to Melton Bridge but proved a disaster for The Alpha after she sprung a leak and sank.

The Historic Ship’s Register helped to move her upstream to a horse shoal – and that is where she stands – kept afloat by plastic containers at high tide.

Andrew Osborn, longtime friend and member of the Old Gaffer’s Association, said: “After so many of us who care about him advised him to walk away before she becomes his nemesis, he has decided that the time may be right.

“But Dick would still like something done with the Alpha. His intention was to take her to Brightlingsea, where she was built, to be restored and put to sail. This would be a wonder indeed.”

Mr Osborn fears taking her to sea could spell disaster while leaving her in the Deben would be a sentence to rot.

He said: “There is no way Dick can afford to have her lifted out at Melton Boatyard. Without some sort of intervention she seems destined to become a rotting hulk.

“If anyone can make any positive suggestions, short of scuttling her in the middle of the channel, right opposite the Tidemill, Dick would be most grateful.”

Those interested in helping can contact Mr Osborn via email.


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