The owners of an historic passenger vessel, which once sailed the Thames, say they have until the end of April to save her from the scrapyard.

So far they have spent £30,000 on storage costs but the best offer they have received is just £6,500 from someone who wants to strip out the fittings and then scrap the boat.

Belle was built in 1894 at Kingston and once operated from Maidenhead. She has been ashore in Hull after plans to operate her as a tourist passenger boat on the River Ouse in York failed to happen after negotiations with the local council hit problems.

Pix: Courtesy National Historic Ships

Owner Jim Sanderson said: "I just can't afford to keep her any longer. It is a beautiful boat and it will break my heart if she is scrapped but with marina fees at almost £1,000 a month I can't go on indefinitely."

Mr Sanderson who owns a flooring company in Yorkshire said: "I have already spent £30,000 on keeping the vessel ashore. It is a superb vessel and it will be a shame if she goes.Someone only has to offer me a penny more than the current offer and guarantee she will be kept afloat and I would be happy to talk."

The boat needs recaulking and two ribs need replacing otherwise, said Mr Sanderson, the work involved in returning her to working order is mainly cosmetic.

Martyn Heighton, Director of National Historic Ships UK, said:"We have publicised the possible fate of this vessel widely, and talked to a large number of people, including some in Twickenham with a passionate interest to save Belle. The latter were not in a position to act by themselves but I know put real effort into trying to find others who could.

"It will indeed be a real loss to the UK if S I Belle is scrapped.  Historic vessels can be protected under Listed Buildings or Scheduled Monuments legislation but only if they are immovable from where they lie (as in Cutty Sark or a large vessel permanently aground and which cannot be floated free from her landlocked berth).

" These conditions do not apply to S I Belle so I have no legal mechanism which would prevent her being scrapped. I am sure that the owners do not want to see this happen, but clearly despite all efforts, no one has come forward to take on this vessel."

Link to announcement on National Historic Ships website

Lots more pictures of SL Belle

More details of SL Belle on National Historic Ships website

Story upated April 8th 2014


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