Here’s some great, encouraging news from Faversham’s Lena Reekie, a traditional boat enthusiast well known for organising various local boating events:
‘She is 130 years – a sad looking but beautiful lady. Thistle RR2 is the last of the Rochester bawleys, built by Gill in 1887.
‘She has a 34ft keel, 13ft beam and 5ft draught.
‘After a long working life out of Rochester and Gravesend, Phil
Wilkinson, a smack and bawley enthusiast, found her sunk in Kingston-on- Thames. He acquired her in 1976 and, having rescued her from an almost certain bonfire, began a thorough rebuild to get her back afloat and sailing again. It was a remarkable achievement by one man.
‘She was was later owned by Mark Jones and based at Hollowshore near Faversham. With her loose-footed mainsail, very tall topmast and long bowsprit she was a beautiful sight and was often seen sailing in the Swale, Medway and on the East Coast.
‘Sadly, about 10 years ago, she was no longer looked after, finally sank again, unwanted, and recently it became clear that she was again heading for the chainsaw.
‘But now a group of friends from Iron Wharf appalled by the prospect of Thistle meeting a sad end have stepped in. They got the ‘go ahead’ to re-float the old bawley and at the end of July she was towed to Iron Wharf, where she now awaits further action.
‘The group also purchased her sails and a smack boat dinghy from the previous owner.
‘The aim is now to lift her out for a short time to assess the work and cost to keep her afloat over the winter and at to carry out necessary repairs. Unfortunately her new owners have limited funds and are obliged to appeal for help.
‘Initially there will be a fund raising raffle at the Anchor Pub in Faversham on Sunday 8 October at about 3 pm, after the finish of the annual Iron Wharf Rowing Race between Nagden and Faversham Town Quay. All are welcome to take part.’
For information, please contact Lena Reekie on 01795 229564 or 07968 058398.
By the way, I can confirm that her hull form has a lovely ‘just right for the job’ look.