We all know there is absolutely nothing half as much fun as simply messing about in boats. But when the weather is dire, then a great waterside venue, preferably somewhere that serves great real ale and pancakes is also a pretty good choice. If this waterside venue is also a boat, then what could possibly be better? Well, a bit of live music wouldn’t hurt.
The Albatross is a magnificent 1899 Dutch Victorian Clipper permanently moored up Wells next-the-Sea’s Quayside wall. Onboard they serve the finest local ales, pancakes and other delights. Various bands will perform live music events here on Saturday nights and it is also possible to arrange a 3 course meal and overnight accommodation on board with breakfast included. Even landlubbers would be hard-pushed not to enjoy everything the Albatross has to offer. And for us folk who love messing about in boats then the Albatross is a great throw-back to nautical times gone by. The deck (upstairs/outside bar) is adorned with impressive rigging, huge timber masts and heavy-duty winches. Step down to the galley (lower bar) and you’ll find a combination of navigational charts and various shipping trinkets which have tastefully been used to decorate the cosy interior.
The Albatross hasn’t always been a pancake boat. In fact, she has had an incredible history.
Few boats have clocked up as many nautical miles, worked so long, nor helped so many people as the Albatross at Wells-next-the-sea. Her history is both expansive and impressive.
The Albatross was built in Holland 1899 for captain Joh Muller for the purpose of transporting cargo between Holland and the Baltic. She survived World War I and went on to help rescue Jews and political dissidents from Nazi-occupied Denmark during World War II (and carrying back guns and explosives for the Danish Resistance on the return-leg).
Her current owner and Captain ‘Ton Brouwer’ acquired the Albatross back in 1980, after which he put her through an extensive renovation over the following 4 years. Ton had originally come from an academic background lecturing in German literature in Amsterdam. But he wanted to do something with his hands. So the Albatross was commissioned as a sailing cargo vessel and went on to travel all over Europe and the North Sea. Ton had a vision:
“I had a special dream of reviving the cargo sailing times. People said you couldn’t do it but we did. There were a couple of years where we didn’t stop. As soon as we made on delivery we were off to the next port to pick up our next cargo.”
The Albatross transported cargo for several years under Ton and was Europe’s last cargo ship under sail, clocking up around 20,000 nautical miles per year. Ton even enlisted disaffected youths from his homeland to help as crew.
“I took young offenders as a crew to give them a fresh start in life and that was quite a good thing. There are lots of young people who have gone on to have good lives after the Albatros.”
It was during this time that the Albatross started becoming a regular visitor to Wells next-the-Sea, bringing more than 100 cargos of soybean-meal from the continent. The reclaimed march lands reminded Ton of Holland and so he felt at home in Wells.
During the 90s the Albatross becomes a fully licensed sailing passenger ship and was used for multiple purposes, from luxury cruises, sail-training – she was even chartered by Greenpeace as a waterborne venue for environmental education along the coast of Holland.
Eventually, and after several years as an educational centre in Wells. In 2005 the Albatross received her premises license and a new chapter in her history begins, as customers start coming aboard for pancakes and fine ales.
To find out more, and if you’re anywhere near North Norfolk we recommend you pay the Albatross a visit. You won’t be disappointed. Just mind you don’t bump your head as you leave the galley. The Woodfordes Wherry tends to kick in as you climb back up the steps through the hatch.
The Albatros is open year-round and is accessible at both high and low tides. The Albatross is equally lovely to visit on either a high or low tide but if you want to know if it is coming in or going out check out our widget below.
More information on the Albatross is available on their listings page.