The Albatros at Well-next-the-Sea Quay, Norfolk

Paint Out Wells-next-the-Sea secures Albatros Ship as Artists’ Hub

All Aboard the Albatros!

The Albatros moored at Wells-next-the-Sea, Photo © Katy Jon Went
The Albatros moored at Wells-next-the-Sea

Paint Out Wells-next-the-Sea is to board the Albatros during its inaugural September Plein Air arts event on the North Norfolk coast. The Albatros is a late 19th century Dutch cargo ship built in 1899. The North Sea clipper, being of Dutch origins is spelled Albatros, not the English ‘albatross’.

She is one of the oldest sailing ships still afloat, albeit now permanently moored alongside the quay of picturesque Wells-next-the-sea. The quayside coastal mooring provides stunning 360° views of the fishing village, salt marshes and historic harbour area, and now provides on-board accommodation in the old crew quarters, a bar, restaurant, and music venue.

The Dutch Captain, Ton Brouwer, serves many authentic dishes from the Netherlands including pancakes and his mother’s homemade soup recipes. In addition, he serves his real ales from his adopted home-county supplied by Woodforde’s Brewery in Woodbastwick. Woodforde‘s was originally named after Parson James Woodforde of Weston Longville in Norfolk, whose personal diaries described his 18th century passion for fine food and hearty ales, often home-brewed.

Albatros as Artistic HQ for Paint Out Wells

The Albatros will provide a suitably quirky and historic event hub during the Paint Out artists’ painting days of 9th-11th September and will hopefully inspire their creative output and sustain their endeavours with the ship’s supplies of food and drink! Artists can still register or apply to take part in the juried-entry competition by 31 July.

The Albatros Ship, Dutch speciality menu, Wells, Norfolk
The Albatros Ship, Dutch speciality menu, Wells, Norfolk ©KatyJon

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Ship’s Log – Dates in Albatros History

The Albatros was first built as a cargo clipper for Captain Johannes Muller of Middelharnis, near Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

The Albatros, rigging detail, Wells, Norfolk © Katy Jon Went
The Albatros, rigging detail, Wells, Norfolk ©KatyJon

Surviving World War I, the ship changed hands in 1920 and under Danish ownership gained her first engine in 1993 to augment her sails. In 1941 she was sold again by then Captain Lolk to another Dane, Captain Rasmussen, who kept her trading throughout World War II.

Rasmussen also used the Albatros to rescue Jews and carry political dissidents from Nazi-occupied Denmark to neutral Sweden returning on those round-trips with guns and explosives for the Danish Resistance secreted among the cargo.

Albatros purchased by Ton Brouwer

Rasmussen retired in 1978, but after a couple of years laid up in Copenhagen, in 1980, Ton Brouwer purchased the Albatros and sailed her to Amsterdam, in his native Netherlands. Brouwer, originally from near Gouda, had started life as an academic teaching German literature in Amsterdam but was determined to not be –

“trapped between four walls for the rest of [his] life…and wanted to do something with [his] hands.” (Source: EDP)

After four years of complete restoration the Albatros was recommissioned in 1987 as a sailing cargo vessel and over the next decade become “Europe’s last cargo ship under sail in the Home Trade and the Baltic trade”.

The Albatros Ship below decks, Well-next-the-Sea, Norfolk
The Albatros Ship below decks, Well-next-the-Sea, Norfolk © Albatros

Her first cargo after restoration was sailing soya beans to Macduff, Scotland. Brouwer took to recommissioning lives as well as the ship by taking on disaffected young offenders as crew.

Albatros visits Wells-next-the-Sea

From 1990 the Albatros became a regular visitor to the port of Wells bringing in over 100 cargoes from Europe. On September 5th 1996 the Albatros “delivered 100 tons of soyabean meal from Rotterdam to the North Norfolk port of Wells-next-the-Sea. Those who stood on The Quay two days later and watched her sail back to Holland were present at an historic moment: The Albatros was the last sail driven cargo ship in Europe and this marked the end of her 98 year career as a freight carrier.” What finally finished the cargoes to Wells was BSE – mad cow disease, and the closure of Wells as a commercial port.

Albatros as Education Afloat

By 1998 the Albatros was re-licensed as a passenger ship and until 2000 was chartered by Greenpeace for children’s environmental education along the coast of Holland.

Albatros returns to Wells-next-the-Sea

From 2001 the Albatros became permanently based at Wells-Next-The-Sea, still sailing but as an educational venture under the auspices of The Albatros Project Trust.

The Albatros Ship-Restaurant, Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk
The Albatros Ship-Restaurant, Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk ©KatyJon

The Trust dissolved in 2005 and the Wells Harbour Commissioners and North Norfolk District Council granted Ton Brouwer his license to trade as a dining and entertainment venue. In as interview with the EDP he said:

“From the first moment I felt at home in Wells…I think it was a combination of things. It is a lot like where I come from in Holland. There was a lot of reclaimed marshland there and there is around Wells as well. The people were very open and very friendly to us. I think it is because they have always been open to visitors from the sea.”

Paint Out Wells-next-the-Sea 2015

This September, 9-11, the Albatros sees yet another temporary shift in purpose as it becomes the daily hub for up to 30 artists across the 3 production days of the Plein Air arts competition that comes to Wells for the first time this year. Paint Out began with Paint Out Norwich in 2014 during the October Hostry Festival and this year has chosen Wells-next-the-Sea as an exciting satellite event opportunity.

The Paint Out team hope that the Albatros will serve as an original and spectacular hub location and celebrate the Norfolk-Netherlands connection and shared traditions of  both the ship and en plein air painting.

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