• Golden Otter

    Posted on April 21st, 2014 Pete Shepherd No comments

    Golden Otter is a Burnham Scow built by Stebbings in the 1950′s – probably around 1954. She is still sailing, and is based at West Wittering, Chichester, having been owned by the Western family for some 55 years.

    Golden Otter is understood to have been bought originally by the Chalk family, and then owned by the Ambrose family – both of whom lived in the West Wittering area. Then in 1959, she was purchased by Caption Guy Watson RN and has been used ever since to introduce successive generations of Western’s to the joys of sailing.

  • Mokoia

    Posted on April 15th, 2014 Pete Shepherd 2 comments

    Mokoia was designed by Arthur C. Robb and built by Stebbings in 1948 for Major James Murray. She is a 10-ton auxiliary cutter with a LOA of 37’10″; LWL of 26’0″; beam 8’11″; and draft 6’1″. She was designed principally as a cruising yacht but proved from the beginning to be a very capable off-shore racer.

    While she came second place in her first offshore race, the Harwich-Kristiansand, Mokoia is perhaps best known for her participation in the 1950 Bermuda and Transatlantic races. Accompanying Major Murray for these races was Wing Commander Marwood Elton. His daughter Jean was also aboard for the Bermuda race. They came 3rd Open in the Transatlantic Race and 10th in Class C in the Newport Bermuda Race. Accompanying Mokoia were two other British entries – Samuel Pepys and Cohoe. The book ‘North Atlantic’ by Adlard Coles gives an account of their races. At the time of the race Mokoia was using sails made by Cranfield and Carter, and Petticrows (of Burnham-on-Crouch) did the fitting-out for the long voyage.

    Mokoia alongside HMS Glasgow at Bermuda.

    Mokoia alongside HMS Glasgow at Bermuda.

    From the left, Mokoia, Cohoe and Samuel Pepys.  From 'North Atlantic', by Adlard Coles

    From the left, Mokoia, Cohoe and Samuel Pepys. From ‘North Atlantic’, by Adlard Coles

    Mokoia (left) and Cohoe at Bermuda

    Mokoia (left) and Cohoe at Bermuda

    At some point after, Mokoia was sold to the Watson family and sailed extensively from the Clyde, Scotland during the 1950/60s.

    Mokoia on the Clyde, Scotland.  From the Watsons family web site.

    Mokoia on the Clyde, Scotland. From the Watsons family web site.

    In 1972 she was sailed to Australia and records show that a boat of the same name took part in the 1972 Sydney-Hobart race, skippered by J.M. Tattersall. She finished 34th on handicap, out of 79 starters.

    The Australian List of Shipping has her current home port as Sydney, Australia, and she also spent some time in Tasmania. She is believed to have undergone extensive restoration during the last decade or so.

    For anyone interested, there was a Design Supplement article on Mokoia published in Yachting World November 1948.

    Notes on the designer
    Arthur Cecil (Arthur C.) Robb (1908-1969) was a British yacht designer working in London, England, after World War II. Born in New Zealand, by 1930 he was employed at yard manager at the boat building firm of Morris & Lorimers, Argyll, Scotland. During World War II he was a Reserve Officer in the British Royal Navy attaining the rank of lieutenant commander. It was at this time that he worked on the design of the airborne lifeboat.

    Arthur Cecil Robb, M.B.E. was born in 1908 at Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, and was considered one of the great yacht designers of his generation. He came from a farming and sailing background, and gained considerable local fame as a helmsman. He also had a good deal of talent as a designer and builder of small yachts and dinghies. In the early 1930′s he was encouraged to make a living as a yacht designer, and, being in the Naval Reserve, chose to go to Great Britain where he became yard manager at the boat building firm of Morris and Lorimers at Sandbank, Argyll, Scotland.

    At the outbreak of World War II he went to sea as a Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve Officer, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He worked in both the Admiralty and Air Ministry. In the latter he and Uffa Fox were concerned with the design of the airborne lifeboat.

    After the war he set up practice in London as a yacht designer. His wife Susan assisted him in handling many of his contacts with prospective yacht owners and with firms that might supply the materials for the yachts he designed. He was well known throughout the world, but particularly in the United States, for his one-design cruiser/racers. Arthur Robb died after a long illness in London, England in 1969.

    From the Arthur C Robb archive, Museum of America and the Sea, at Mystic Seaport. http://library.mysticseaport.org/manuscripts/coll/coll191.cfm

  • Vanity Fair

    Posted on November 17th, 2013 Pete Shepherd No comments

    Vanity Fair - Yeoman Junior - Stebbings.

    Vanity Fair was built by Stebbings in 1957. She is Yeoman Junior class yacht designed by Alan Buchanan, with a carvel teak hull and mahogany for the topsides. She is currently for sale at Brighton Marina (link). Thank you to the owner (FN) for permission to use the photograph.

  • Restive

    Posted on March 19th, 2013 Pete Shepherd No comments

    Built by Stebbings in 1948, the 30’7″ sloop Restive was designed by Nigel Warington Smyth O.B.E. for use by himself and his family. The requirement was for a modern cruising yacht, large enough for three people but designed for easy handling by himself and his wife Barbara.

    The specification and cruising qualities of Restive were described in detail in earlier editions of Eric Hiscock’s Cruising Under Sail. The designer kept Restive for many years.

    Restive has a couple of ‘sister ships’. Black Cygnet was built in 1949 by the Falmouth Boat Construction Ltd (which was owned by Nigel W-S’s brother Rodney Warington Smyth), and nowadays is based on the Tamar. Peter Robyn, by contrast, was built in Sydney, Australia in 1950, without the blessing of the designer, and currently sails from Kettering, Tasmania.

    The current whereabouts of Restive are not known to me, but she may be in North America.

    Nigel Warington Smyth served with the Royal Navy during World War Two. For some time based on the Helford river, and alongside his brother and father, Lieutenant-Commander Nigel Warington Smyth was involved with the operation of clandestine contacts with France, by sea.

    Among the activities of the Helford unit, Nigel, along with his brother Bevil, designed surf-boats of various types that could land on French beaches to extricate and repatriate downed allied airmen. The surf-boats were also deployed further afield to support the work of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and its agents.

    The clinker-built, double-ended SN1 was 14-foot, and could be carried on a motor gun boat (MGB). The 25-foot SN2 was designed for HMS Minna and was very similar to the 25-foot SN6 surf boat. Many, perhaps all, of the SN surf-boats were built by Camper and Nicholson.

    Nigel Warington Smyth was made a Commander of the Military Division of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in March 1945, for “gallantry and great devotion to duty in hazardous operations” (London Gazette Issue 37002).

    [see Yachting World December 1949 for an article on Restive]

  • Sarda of Burnham

    Posted on March 7th, 2013 Pete Shepherd No comments

    Bonito - Sarda of BurnhamSarda of Burnham is an example of Alan Buchanan’s Bonito class of GRP-hulled yacht. Although she was built in Burnham-on-Crouch, these days she is moored in warmer climes, at Mornington, Victoria, Australia. It’s not clear at the moment which year she was built, but it was probably 1961 or 1962.

    She was brought to Australia by George Fox and took part twice in the Sydney to Hobart race. She finished 11th on handicap in 1965, skippered by D.L.Gilling. In 1967 she finished 41st on handicap, skippered by George Fox.

    In about 1965 she was brought to Mornington by Harry and Murray Barnett who raced her successfully on Port Phillip Bay for more than a decade. She now rarely races but still cruises gracefully. She is reputed to have been the first GRP yacht in Australia. Her original marinized four cylinder Ford engine was replaced with a diesel and her hull surface has been renovated.

    Many thanks to Tim Dixon for providing this information and the photograph above.

  • Clemency

    Posted on December 10th, 2012 Pete Shepherd No comments

    Stebbings probably built the Scow Clemency in 1953 or 1954. The new owners would like to learn more of her past but she doesn’t appear in the Royal Burnham Yacht Club list, so she may have left Burnham soon or straight after being built.

    We do know that the last owner kept her on the south coast for a number of years, first at Itchenor , and then on the Fal estuary, Cornwall . She was restored by John Claridge of Lymington and is now settled at Knysna Yacht Club in South Africa.

    If anyone knows any more about Clemency, please get in touch.

    More information (and pictures of Clemency in Knysna) can be found on Gavin Atkin’s intheboatshed.com

  • Apologies

    Posted on December 10th, 2012 Pete Shepherd No comments

    Apologies to any recent visitors whose browser warned them that this site is insecure.  I got hacked!

    The damage has now been repaired and the security has been tightened up.  If you run a WordPress blog and suffer a similar intrusion then I can recommend the services of Sucuri Security.


    Pete Shepherd

  • Cassis

    Posted on April 16th, 2012 Pete Shepherd 1 comment

    Cassis, built in 1967, is an Alan Buchanan designed Bonito class sloop, based on a GRP hull from Seamaster of Dunmow, Essex. She was originally named Silwen, and was built for Mr D.T. Beer, of Porthmadog, Wales, where Silwen was originally based.

    The boat had a Lloyd’s 100A1 certificate and an RORC rating. She was originally equipped with a 4-cylinder, 29 bhp Watermota petrol engine, but this has been replaced with a Yamaha 3-cylinder diesel.

    At some point in time Silwen was renamed Cassis of Kent and spent a number of years mainly cruising England’s East coast. Since her last change of ownership she has moved to Cornwall, and the ‘of Kent‘ has been dropped from her name.

    Cassis has special significance because she was the last boat to be built by Stebbings, or at least part-built. The registry documents and the Lloyd’s entry show her having two builders, Stebbings, and R.J. Prior & Son (also of Burnham-on-Crouch), so it seems likely that Stebbings started the build and that it was finished by Prior’s after Stebbings closed down.

    Thanks to Jeremy Burnett for his help with this post. The photographs are copyright of Eastern Yachts and have been reproduced with the kind permission of Adrian Espin. Further photos can be found on the Eastern Yachts web site.

  • Kingcup

    Posted on April 15th, 2012 Pete Shepherd No comments

    Kingcup, designer: Arthur C Robb, builder: Stebbings of BurnhamKingcup was designed by Arthur C Robb and built by Stebbings in 1952 for a Burnham man Mr J.W. Risdale (Ridsdale?). Her construction was reported in the yachting periodicals, as was common at that time,

    At Stebbings’ yard in Chapel Road work was proceeding on the 12-ton motor sailer being built for Mr J.W.Risdale. The deck and coach roof were in place and the interior fittings were being installed. The engine is a Ford V8 Mercury.
    Yachting Monthly May 1952

    Mr J.W.Risdale’s new 12-ton bmu. ketch rigged motor sailer to be called ‘Kingcup’ was nearing completion at Stebbings yard. She has the fore end of her coach roof raised and this coupled with bright yellow topsides will make her a striking looking yacht when she gets under way.
    Yachting Monthly June 1952

    My mother, who grew up in Burnham-on-Crouch, remembers seeing Kingcup on the river. She was always painted a striking yellow (Kingcup that is, not my mother).

    And Peter Pearson recalls, “I certainly remember her myself. I have a recollection that she was up for a scrub on the pounds in front of the Anchor Hotel. You couldn’t forget her cadmium yellow topsides, she really was a beauty”.

    Mr Risdale kept Kingcup for quite some time, but then the boat was sold and a subsequent owner, a lady teacher, brought the boat to Spain. After another change of ownership Kingcup passed into the care of the current owner, David Girling.

    As mentioned in the Yachting Monthly piece, Kingcup she was originally built as a ketch. The Lloyd’s Register of Yachts records her later conversion to a sloop rig and mention is also made of modifications in 1957 and 1963 that had the effect of increasing her length overall by at least 5′. Details of the 1963 work were reported in Yachting Monthly,

    The 12-ton Robb designed yawl ‘Kingcup’ owned by J.W.Ridsdale has been to William King & Sons [Burnham on Crouch] to have the iron keel removed to be replaced by lead and the bottom sheathed in Cascover by Leicester Lovells.

    These days Kingcup sails out of Port de Sitges, Catalonia, Spain and is currently (April 2012) for sale.

    Thank you to David Girling and Peter Pearson for their help bringing this information together.

  • Mayfly – the first 75 years

    Posted on December 28th, 2011 Pete Shepherd 3 comments

    This is the first of a three-part history of the Burnham oyster smack, the Mayfly. Built during the second half of the nineteenth century, and still sailing the waters of the Thames estuary, some 135 years on.

    An oral history of the Mayfly has been passed down through the Stebbings family, re-ignited periodically as news of Mayfly’s latest adventures and whereabouts have come to light. One such occasion was in the mid-1970′s, when the Mayfly emerged onto the front covers of the sailing press and into national newspapers, as the amazing story of Graeme Dillon’s circumnavigation was told (this will form the basis of part-two of Mayfly’s story).

    In 1998, the Mayfly appeared again, this time from underneath blue tarpaulin, when Harry Stebbings came across her being repaired in David Patient’s boatyard in Maldon. This occasion re-united Mayfly with Harry, and his cousin Bill Stebbings, both of whom had sailed her as young men, during the 1920s and 1930′s. Bill’s own memories of Mayfly were recorded by Pete Pearson during interviews and reminiscences with Bill, and Pete deserves much credit for this and many hours of similar recordings of the lives and work of those employed in Burnham’s boat building and related businesses.

    Mayfly is still sailing in and around the Blackwater, from her mooring at West Mersea, and video footage of her under sail has been captured by Dylan Winter (Keep Turning Left) and can be found on YouTube (all of which will follow in part-three of the story).

    At the outset, I should make plain that despite there being a broad range of historical fragments to draw upon, there remain gaps and uncertainties regarding some aspects of Mayfly’s history. I have no doubt, for the most part, in the accuracy of the individual records, but I have more work to do before I’ll be entirely satisfied that the story I’m about to tell is the true one.

    A handwritten list, probably by William Stebbings, of boats built during the 1870′s and 1880′s recorded that the Mayfly was built in 1877. However, the story below from THE HALFPENNY NEWSMAN shows Mayfly was actually built in Burnham in 1875.

    From THE ESSEX NEWSMAN, March 20th 1875.

    LAUNCH AT BURNHAM – On Wednesday, a smart little vessel, which was named the May Fly, and which has been built by Mr. Wm. Stebbings for Mr. L. Sweeting, was successfully launched, and in the evening all those who had been engaged in the construction of the vessel partook of an excellent supper, which had been provided by Mr. J. Smith, of the Anchor Inn. Mr. A. Rowe presided, and the vice-chair was occupied by Mr. W. Stebbings. Several complimentary toasts, including to the health of Mr. Laban Sweeting and Mr. Spencer Addison, were proposed by the chairman, and were energetically responded to. Some good songs were sung by some of those present, and the evening’s proceedings were ultimately brought to an agreeable termination. The May Fly is much admired and does great credit to Mr. Stebbings, who has on former occasions turned out some first-rate craft.

    Bill Stebbings’ recollection was that Mayfly was the last traditional oyster smack built by his Grandfather, William Stebbings. This rings true with what we know about William’s subsequent output, for although he produced a number of other working boats, all the oyster dredgers he went on to build after the Mayfly were powered by steam, and not sail.

    Working for oyster merchant Mr. Laban Sweeting, Mayfly would have spent the first part of her working life as part of a large dredging fleet tending to the many oyster layings in the River Crouch at that time.

    Mayfly first appears in the Register of Sea Fishing Boats for Colchester some time in the late 19th or early 20th century, where she is given the registration CK363. West Mersea is recorded as her home port at that time, and while her builder is recorded as ‘unknown’ a year of build has been entered as 1889, which I will assume was an error. The measurements recorded are not too far off those written down by her builder. There is a note made in 1910 to show that Mayfly’s owner was Edwin Langstaff Cooke, of Ipswich, and the skipper was an Arthur Cudmore. The entry in the Colchester register is crossed out in 1918, and it is noted that Mayfly had moved to London, where she was registered as LO258.

    After her soujourn on the London river, Mayfly reappears in the Colchester Register of Sea Fishing Boats in 1923, whereupon she is registered as CK121. At that time she is recorded as having come back into the Stebbings family’s ownership. This time the registration shows her place of build as being Burnham (presumably William Stebbings jnr. put the authorities right on that matter), but the date of build is still down as 1889.

    Mayfly had been found by the family in a pretty sorry state languishing in the mud at Foulness. Her builder, William Stebbings, had died in 1907, and so for sentimental reasons his sons William and Albert Harry contacted the owner and Mayfly was purchased for 25 pounds. She was extensively refitted and for just over a decade was used by the family as a yacht for day trips, fishing, smack races, local regattas, picnics, and teaching the younger family members to sail.

    The photos above are from this time. The picture with the three women seated in the stern of Mayfly shows (L-R) Nellie Stebbings, Ellen Stebbings and Doris Rudston (who would later marry Robert Pipe, whose mother was Elizabeth Stebbings). The picture with five people shows Tom Ambrose, Nellie Stebbings, Ellen Stebbings, Harry Stebbings and Albert Harry Stebbings.

    In 1934, a final note regarding the Mayfly appears in the Colchester Register of Sea Fishing Boats. It is recorded that an engine had been fitted and that Mayfly had been sold to Mr. Claude Scrutton of Thorpe Bay. Claude worked in his family’s London stevedore firm, Scrutton’s, but was a regular visitor to the River Crouch, indeed after his death his ashes were scattered at the mouth of the river.

    During Claude Scrutton’s ownership the Mayfly was skippered by R.J.’Bob’ Cole, who also skippered another of Mr. Scrutton’s boats, the 47′ motor yacht Fedalma II (a Dunkirk ‘little ship’). Up until he left to join the navy, Bill Stebbings recounted how Mayfly could often be seen motoring up and down the Crouch, but looking quite different from her sailing days.

    To be continued …