has spoken with Captain Dale Smith, who’s taken the 55m, 1100gt motor yacht Sovereign up the River Tyne to his hometown of Newcastle. The arrival of the yacht has captured the imagination of the local media and citizens who have been excited by the spectacle of the grand vessel in an otherwise unlikely location.

“I’m a local boy so it would be great to see more yachts come up here and bring some business with them,” Smith said. “The owners went out yesterday with a local guide for a walking tour and came back and were really wowed by how much history the place has.”

Smith hastens to point out that he doesn’t think the presence of the yacht will have had much impact on the local economy. “We’re not taking fuel here, the port costs are ridiculously cheap, and aside from a few flowers we’ve brought in, we’re well stocked with food and fuel and everything we need to run the yacht,” Smith says. “We’ll be having a crew meal out on Friday evening in one of my favourite old pizzeria haunts, but other than that, when the owner’s aboard, the crew stay aboard in the evenings as well. They’ll be off the leash on Friday and Saturday when the owners are away, but other than that, we haven’t really spent a lot of money here. And we won’t in most of the stops that we do, actually, other than where we’re bunkering. When we get an influx of guests, we’ll go out and spend a bit on fresh flowers and provisions, but not a huge amount.”

The yacht is at the start of a summer season that will take in the Baltic region. The owners’ daughter is a real history buff, who, for three weeks last year hiked Hadrian’s Wall Path National Trail from Newcastle across to Carlisle during the incredible spell of sunny warm weather. “The boss thought it sounded fantastic so we added it into the trip,” Smith says. “I’d been here in 1998 in a 47m so knew the route up and of course it’s home to me, so I was more than happy to come up here.”

Unfortunately the weather hasn’t been as forthcoming as it was last summer, with unseasonably cold temperatures and a brisk breeze. “I told the boss that the weather here has reminded me why I left!” Smith said, laughing. “Newcastle is nice, but it’s not Nice!”

The engineer is a ‘happy little strainer-cleaner,’ Smith says, as he busies himself keeping the seawater intakes debris-free, having run the yacht up a relatively silted, well-used river. “It’s cold enough that they want to hide in the engine room anyway!”

The yacht has tied up to the city’s floating dock in the river, known as Newcastle City Marina. “No one at the city engineer’s office was willing to sign off on having a yacht as large as Sovereign on that floating dock, so the original plan was for us to sit on the wall just to the east of that,” Smith says. “But it turns out that there was big gathering of Dutch yachts here last week, so the city had rented a couple of heavy duty floating pontoons which they’d put at the end of the regular fixed pontoon. When I heard about that I said let’s keep them. So we’re on those and that’s about five hundred per cent better than it could have been with us up against the wall with fenders and the tides.”

“Now that we’re here and have had a look at the city’s normal floating dock, we’re sure we could easily have fit on there,” Smith says. “What the city needs to do is get someone up here with some authority to have a look at it and confirm that it’s fit for purpose, and that should pave the way for more big yachts to come up here.”

Photo courtesy of Royale Oceanic

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