MP-Ahoy as cash-crisis boat is sold

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AN HISTORIC pleasure steamer has been saved after being sold to Scarborough MP Robert Goodwill.

AN HISTORIC pleasure steamer has been saved after being sold to Scarborough MP Robert Goodwill.

MV Coronia – which helped to evacuate 900 stranded allied troops from the Dunkirk beaches during the Second World War – was impounded and its skipper Tom Machin was threatened with legal action over a dispute relating to an unpaid repair bill.

But, speaking exclusively to the Evening News, Mr Goodwill revealed that he had stepped in a bought the vessel as both an investment and to make sure that it stayed in the town.

The MP said: “I am now the proud owner of all 64 shares in MV Coronia and there is a long-term contract to lease it back to Tom Machin.”

He added that it marked the start of a very good working relationship. “I’ve a great affection for the Coronia – the vessels history and maritime heritage – and I can remember the old Coronia going out from Scarborough when I was a child,” he said.

“It’s vital that Scarborough retains the Coronia and Regal Lady. It’s something that people come back to Scarborough for. It was for partly altruistic reasons to keep it in Scarborough. Having this vessel in the harbour adds something to the place.

“I’ve felt that it’s something that makes economic sense

“If he had only one vessel it’d be hard for him to run the business. It’s had a lot of work done to it and I hope it’ll turn out to be a good long-term investment.”

Mr Machin, who still owns the Coronia’s sister ship Regal Lady, said the deal had saved Coronia for Scarborough because it had helped him settle the outstanding debt.

He said: “It’s a hell of a relief. I wanted for it to be secure and run out of Scarborough for years to come. Hopefully this will be a good season but it all just depends on the weather.”

Sir Jimmy Savile, who has a property in Scarborough and is a long standing supporter of the Coronia, said it was “wonderful news”. He added: “Scarborough should be very proud of this famous little boat. It helped to keep our country free and the fact that it is in Scarborough is wonderful. Three cheers to Robert and we wish him the very best of luck. Will he have special rates for us pensioners?”

Four years ago the Coronia, and her sister ship Regal Lady, hit the headlines when it was revealed that they were prevented from sailing to either Whitby or Bridlington under British safety regulations which restricted them to a maximum outward journey of 15 nautical miles from their home port.

Both Mr Goodwill and Mr Machin are working to get the restriction lifted and are hoping to arrange a meeting with transport minister, Mike Penning MP, to try to get a change in the rules and make it 15 miles from the nearest safe refuge.

Last month’s legal battle arose following an unpaid repair bill which turned out to be much higher than anticipated. Mr Machin said: “When we came out of the shipyard in 2007 we had over £200,000 worth of bills – and that was from an initial estimate of £40,000.”

After the Coronia was “arrested” under maritime law last month he launched a legal defence – which would have been heard in an Admiralty court in London – but he feared that he could have lost the much-loved boat.

And when the story was published on the Evening News website it was greeted with some very negative comments from readers who thought he was asking for a handout and questioned his business sense. He said: “All I was wanting was support from people not for them to give me money.”

At the time of the legal dispute Mr Goodwill said that it would be ideal if a “philanthropist” could step in and help with the situation and this week he fulfilled his prediction.

Coronia’s history:

- Built in Great Yarmouth and named Brit in 1935

- Carried holidaymakers to see seals along the coast off Norfolk for first five years

- Renamed HM Tender Watchful after outbreak of Second World War and became base ship for the fleet

- Carried supplies and ammunition to destroyers and had a gun turret fitted on the foredeck

- On May 29 1940 rescued a reported 900 troops as part of the Dunkirk evacuation

- Reverted to original name after the war and once more operated as pleasure cruiser

- Went to Scarborough and renamed Yorkshire Lady and later Coronia II in 1951

- Refitted in Scotland in 1975

- Sailed to Gibraltar in 1985, giving trips around the bay

- Bought by North Sea Leisure and travelled back to Scarborough in 1992.