Category Archives: Restoration and repair

A new magazine for traditional boat enthusiasts

Classic Sailor

Classic Sailor is a new magazine about traditional and classic boats from ex-Classic Boat editor Dan Houston and Peter Willis that promises rather more coverage of the traditional craft around our coast than we’ve often seen in Classic Boat in recent years.

The second issue is said to be in the shops now, and includes:

  • news and features including 16 pages of practical advice
  • a visit to Maldon, home of traditional sailing on the East Coast, with the town regatta in full swing
  • a 120-year-old workboat in Cornwall that is still being raced today
  • a new Andrew Wolstenholme trailer sailer
    correspondents reporting from Scotland and Galicia, and the new offshore rowing phenomenon gripping Essex and Suffolk
  • the Edwardian world of Albert Strange and his last cruise
  • Tobias Smollett, who struggled with 18-century shipboard discipline, but became the undisputed father of the naval novel
  • getting away from the dock under control, understanding variation and deviation on our compasses, and discuss the merits of the new wonder rope Dyneema
  • association news this month including XODs, a 50th anniversary for Folkboats types, and a Finesse owners’ rally

I think we should wish them well (even if their successful could mean there’s no need for poor little… Find out more here.

What’s going on at the South Dock in Southwark?

Proposed South Dock development

Alasdair Flint of historic London chandlers Arthur Beale has written to warn us of what he considers to be a disastrous proposed development that looks to be about to take place at the boatyard at South Dock Marina. Understandably, perhaps, he’s furious…

‘Southwark Council held a meeting on the 29th July which was called ‘Consultation Meeting No1’ – but many people seem to have known nothing about it.

‘I live next to the boatyard, have a paid up mooring in the marina and am commercially involved as a supplier to several people working in the yard, yet I only heard about the meeting weeks after the event through a mate at my running club. He had only heard about it through another friend! I am currently pursuing a freedom of information request to ask exactly how they publicised the meeting.

‘As you can imagine the current information is very vague but the council is proposing to build two tower blocks in the existing boatyard site. One will be 20 storeys high, and the other 15, joined by a wall of flats 8 storeys high. Currently most buildings in the area are low rise three of four floors high.

‘There will be about 230 flats but with only 20 parking spaces all within the current boatyard boundary. Most of the flats will be unaffordable to the local people and no doubt Far Eastern investors will snap them up as a safe haven for their cash. It also looks like some of the development may encroach on the existing Thames Path.

‘As if that isn’t enough they will build a three storey office block in one corner. They are actually claiming they will be improving the shaded scrap of a boatyard that will remain… But it is difficult to imagine the new flat owners putting up with the noise of a needle de-scaler clearing rust from a barge while antifouling dust settles gently on their babies in their prams on their new balconies.

‘The surrounding massively over-scaled buildings will likely amplify the noise of the working boatyard, and make it intolerable for the new residents, who will no doubt complain and eventually get it closed down on health grounds.

‘Commercial traffic on the Thames has increased massively over the last few years and the boatyard is used on a regular basis by both commercial and leisure craft often for urgent repairs. It is also the last remaining working boatyard with a crane along this part of the Thames and should be expanded, not shrunk.

‘The yard could provide many more jobs if it were expanded and the jobs would suit many of the local residents who don’t necessarily have the application or desire to move money around on computer screens in Canary Wharf.

‘The yard itself was saved from a hotel project about ten years ago as it was considered essential to the safe working of the river.

‘I’d say the boatyard is a little oasis along the Thames Path, a great relief to walkers from the monotonous sub standard housing developments that line the Thames from Tower Bridge. Passers-by stop to chat with the boat owners and enjoy seeing a boatyard in action. If the development proceeds, the Thames will be lined with more flats of poor architectural quality while the tiny corner of a token boatyard will be hidden from view in a horrid shady yard too small operate on a serious basis.

‘The Council are going to hold a second consultation meeting on the 7th October and we would like as many people as possible to attend to express their views. For details and to book a place at the meeting, click here.

‘Local boat owners and residents have set up a facebook site to keep people in touch here.

Letters of complaint can be sent directly to Bruce Glockling, Head of Regeneration at

‘We need to put up a decent fight to stop this appalling development from proceeding.’

1885 classic Mary, ex-Vanity, needs someone to save her!


Boatbuilder Mark Rolt of Bristol Classic Boat Company has written to say that the 1885-built 60ft classic yacht Mary, ex-Vanity, is in urgent need of re-housing and restoration – for otherwise she is certain to be cut up within the next few weeks. The photos above show her in her heyday, and now.

She is one of three similar yachts remaining, the other two of which are Partridge, and Marigold, both of which have been restored and are racing in the Mediterranean. It’s Mark’s firm hope that someone will feel it is time to rescue this astonishing boat from certain destruction.

She was built as Mary at William Black’s in Southampton, Dan Hatcher’s old yard, in 1885 and 1886, for Sir William Romilly, who was later Attorney General, who gave it as a 21st birthday present to his son John Gaspard le Marchant Romilly, (who was usually called Cosmo). She cost 1300 guineas.

Built to Lloyds A1 100 18+ spec, the highest possible at that time, her timber was seasoned for at least 18 years.

She was coppered and was pitch pine below the water and teak above on doubled 4×4 oak frames. She raced very successfully under the Class C category, but the rules were changed in, I think, 1892, at which point she became a cruising yacht.

At present she is in a derelict hauling yard, next door to Mark’s boatyard, where she has been since about 1989, when she was sold at auction by Sotherby’s, and delivered from Canvey Island to Bristol for storage, while the owner decided what to do. He then sold it to my colleague and friend, the late Brian Cumby, who then offered her to Mark.

Mark says that she will need a major rebuild. He’s proposing to sell her for a penny to anyone willing to have us restore her, and reckons that bringing her back to her former glory would cost in the region of £1,250,000-1,500,000.

He believes passionately in preserving boats of this kind and is very, very keen to have the opportunity, not only to restore Mary
but also to train apprentices in the craft of shipwrighting through dismantling and restoring the magnificent old boat. As he says, everyone involved, young and old, can learn old tricks and methods, some of which may have died with the shipwright who performed them.

As Mark says, please forward this post on to any one that you know who may be fired-up by the idea of owning and sailing one of Britain’s first class Victorian yachts, privately or corporately.