Posted on March 19th, 2013 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]
Posted on March 7th, 2013 No comments
Sarda 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.
Posted on December 10th, 2012 No commentsStebbings 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 bound for Knysner in South Africa.
If anyone knows any more about Clemency, please get in touch.
Posted on December 10th, 2012 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.
Posted on April 16th, 2012 No commentsCassis, 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.
Posted on April 15th, 2012 No comments
Kingcup 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.
Posted on December 28th, 2011 2 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 …
Posted on December 24th, 2011 No comments
The Young Mariners were a society of Burnham men, some young, some not so young, employed on or beside the Crouch. The group formed in the latter part of the 19th century for social and charitable giving reasons and December/January was the traditional time for distributing the money raised during the year for the Young Mariners Aged and Poor Christmas Relief Fund. Along with many others from the boat building, fishing and yachting trades, the Stebbings played their part, and Thomas ‘Harry’ Stebbings was the Honorary Secretary for quite a number of years.
Carol singing was popular seasonal activity. The minutes of the Young Mariners meetings (available at the Essex County Records Office) annually record someone suggesting the group go carol singing. The proposals were always seconded enthusiastically and a date and place to meet would be agreed. Sometimes the minutes also record requests to ensure that the homes of certain people are visited and there is often a request for torches of one sort or another. The carol singing photos above are probably from the 1930′s.
Another regular event, started around 1889, was a dinner for the poor and elderly. This was prepared and served by the Young Mariners and their families, and entertainment would often be laid on as well. The two newspaper reports below give a flavour of these occasions.
From the Essex Standard, Saturday 27th January 1900
DINER TO AGED AND POOR – For the eleventh year in succession the young mariners of Burnham on Thursday, January 18th, entertained the aged and poor of Burnham to a bountiful tea. The repast was tastefully laid out in the Public Hall, and 110 guests were zealously waited on by the kind providers of the feast and their wives and sweethearts. The tea things removed the tables were plentifully supplied with desert, and the guests settled down to enjoy a musical entertainment, the programme for which had been provided by Miss Isabel Reynolds, A.R.A.M., the performers being Miss Reynolds, Miss Rose Reynolds, the Church Choir, Mrs. Gooding, Messrs. W. Bridge, Mark Hawkes, W. Sweeting, James Page, W. Thomas, A. Yardley, George Havers, A.W. Carter, &c. Mr. Jas Page presided. During the evening Mr. Thomas Cole, jun, the hon. sec. presented a financial statement that showed that this was a record year in the matter of subscriptions, over £32 having been collected. Close on £50 was distributed at Christmas, there was the tea to pay for, and they hoped to have a balance to bank for next year. On leaving each of the guests was presented with a quarter of a pound of tea and a pound of sugar. Those who were too infirm to walk were carried to and from the hall in the ‘bus.
From The Burnham-on-Crouch & Dengie Hundred Advertiser, Saturday 25th January 1908
A LOOK AROUND, By “A Native” – The work of the Young Mariners’ Aged and Poor Christmas Relief Fund never seems complete unless it is wound up with a tea to those for whose benefit it was instituted. The collection of money to distribute among the necessitous at Christmas is the chief object of the Fund, but unless there is a tea as well there seems something lacking. I was glad, therefore, when I heard it was not intended to leave the item out of this year’s programme.
The happy faces of the big party which assembled at the Public Hall on Wednesday evening showed that the aged people enjoy the gathering. It gives them an opportunity not only of partaking of a well-served meal, but also of enjoying a chat with their fellows in circumstances different from those which surround them in daily life; and listening to a good musical programme. Judging from Wednesday’s happy party the money is certainly well spent.
For nineteen years now the young mariners have been carrying out their praiseworthy work, and it was gratifying to hear that there is no diminution in the support they receive. The report read by the hon. sec. (Mr. Harry Stebbings) showed that both in the total amount collected, and in the number of subscribers, this year’s list showed an advance on last year. All my readers will re-echo the hope that was expressed at the meeting, that the work will go on from year to year until (as Mr. Gooding put it) that happy time comes when everybody in Burnham will be so well off as not to need a gift from the fund.
Posted on December 19th, 2011 No comments
December 2011, and it looks like it’s going to be a mild Christmas for most of us. Some hardy types will probably get out for a sail on the Crouch, but in the coldest of winters ice may stop play.
The first icy panorama is probably from the winter of 1947. Still in situ is the pier built for the Royal Navy’s operations on the Crouch during WW2. The gable of Anchor Cottage (now gone) stands out clearly from between Stebbings’ quayside shed and the Anchor Hotel.
The second photo may be from 1895, another very cold winter. The coastguard vessel HMS Kangeroo is visible in the background alongside the London Sailing Club. As well as freezing in the boats of the local oyster merchants, the severe cold also had the power to devastate the river’s oyster population.
Posted on October 31st, 2011 No comments
Lancelot Speed was a well known Victoria illustrator of books, with much of his commercial work being of figures and scenes from myth and legend, and Arthurian legend in particular. He was also a keen sailor, and a number of the cruises taken with his brother Harry are described in Cruises in Small Yachts, by H. Fiennes Speed. The second edition, published in 1926, included a number of additional illustrations by Lancelot, as well as More Cruises, by Maude Speed.
The illustration shown above, by Lancelot Speed, was published in the April 4th 1925 edition of The Graphic, an illustrated weekly newspaper of the era that was quite influential in the art world and served as a vehicle for some quite accomplished artists and illustrators.
The sub-text reads,
At Burnham-on-Crouch, London’s nearest and chief yachting port, there is much feverish activity in fitting out in time for Easter. It is evident that small yacht sailing is steadily gaining favour, and it is possible that this summer the fleet of pleasure craft in the river may approach the amazing total of 1085, just before the War, lying afloat between Fambridge and Burnham. To-day the water-front, as the drawing shows, is alive with yacht hands, toiling in a confusion of ropes and wire, blocks, sails, mooring anchors, dinghies, binnacles and other gear: but very shortly all will be spick and span, and the fleet ready to sail.
The picture shows a yacht named Curlew being hoisted by the Stebbings crane, and the London Sailing Club clubhouse can be seen clearly in the background.