History in the making as cross Wash ferry arrives in Skegness

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It emerged from the shimmering haze of the gentle North Sea and with a hoot of its horn, a cheer from the Pier, a little piece of history was made.

The first cross Wash passenger ferry in more than a century came ashore on Skegness beach this morning, paving the way for what is hoped to become a regular attraction for 2014.

Dignitaries gathered on Skegness beach welcome the crew from Searles after their first Wash crossing.

Dignitaries gathered on Skegness beach welcome the crew from Searles after their first Wash crossing.

Hunstanton based tour operator Searles touched down with Whizzy the Wash Monster just under two hours after setting sail from the north Norfolk coast.

“It went perfectly,” said company owner William Searle.

“The response has been brilliant - we are getting an incredible reaction in Hunstanton - we did a survey just a few weeks back and it’s already had five to six hundred people say they are interested in it.”

Mr Searle described the atmosphere on board as ‘joyous’ and thanked his family for joining him on the historic journey.

the Wash Monster arriving.

the Wash Monster arriving.

“It was lovely to have my family on board and I want to say thanks for all their support,” he said.

Today’s crossing, competed by Searles’ crew and their mascot Captain Willie, marks the culmination of months of preparation, after the venture was first suggested by Skegness councillor Carl Macey back in April.

“It’s fantastic,” he said.

“It’s really brilliant to see him come to land and now we know that it can be done.

Whizzy the Wash Monster making its historic crossing.

Whizzy the Wash Monster making its historic crossing.

“A considerable amount of work and time has gone in to this from both sides and it’s great to see that with the interest we’ve got today it’s going to be a popular attraction.”

Among the many dignitaries greeting their coastal neighbours was the Mayor of Skegnesss Coun Jim Carpenter, who has expressed further delight at the possibilities ahead.

“I’m sure that any new attraction has got to be a great thing for Skegness and I’m pretty sure that it will take off,” he said.

“It’s just nice to have a big beast on the beach that we don’t have to pay someone to remove, for a change,” he joked.

The Wash Monster.

The Wash Monster.

Tourism and business representatives have greeted the project with yet more enthusiasm.

Skegness East Coast and Wolds Hoteliers Association chairman Nigel Tett said: “I think after the not so good news that we’ve had in the last few days, this is good, not just for Skegness, but for the whole coast.

“It puts us firmly on the map and we look forward to this becoming a regular event during 2014.”

Skegness and District Chamber of Commerce chairman Tony Tye also thought it was ‘fantastic’.

“It’s really great - I’ve been surprised by the size of the thing - if they get the marketing and sponsorship right it could be fantastic,” he said.

Hundreds of spectators gathered on the beach and pier to witness history in the making.

“It’s great,” said Christine Burrows, who was visiting with her husband and two children on one of their regular holidays in Skegness.

“Anything that’s good for Skegness is good with us.

“We’ve been coming here fore 32 years and there’s nowhere like it, anyone who says anything bad about the place should take a look at the other coastal resorts.”

Nicci Welsh, who was also gathered on the promenade, thought it was ‘an excellent idea’.

“It’s something the resort has needed and it looks far better than we though it would - we couldn’t believe how big it was,” she said.

Skegness Carnival Committee chairman Kris Bell believes the crossing could support plans to develop the town’s calendar of events by offering new opportunities to attract new visitors from Hunstanton.

“I think it’s a fantastic opportunity if the finances are in place,” he said.

Searles now intends to look more closely at the financing of the venture and hopefully secure sponsorship to lower the fare price.

“We’re going to carry on working until October then we’ll be having talks over the winter and it’s really a case of ‘just watch this space’,”he said.

“The only thing stopping it will be finance, it’s dependent on sponsorship and we want to make it equivalent in price to other ferry rides.

“The novelty factor will fill it up for the first year but we understand that money is tight and it would be a sad thing to put it all together and then see it fail due to costs.”