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The Kathleen & May is a boat to make one gasp. Built on the Dee Estuary in 1900, by the time she retired in 1960 she was the last of the merchant schooners to earn her living carrying cargo. I don’t know what happened to her over the next few couple of decades, but in the mid 1990s she was rediscovered in a sorry state without spars or rigging in Gloucester Docks.
The man who found her was Steve Clarke, the enterprising President of Bideford Chamber of Commerce. On seeing the Kathleen & May, he felt that she should be restored and brought back to Bideford as an attraction; the town had been a frequent port of call during the old boat’s long career. His initial intention was to restore her cosmetically, but later decided to restore her to sailing condition.
She was relaunched in fine style in 2002, and can now be seen in Bideford when she isn’t voyaging somewhere – I was lucky enough to pay a visit a little while ago when she put into Watchet harbour, and she made a big impression. My only regret is that the weather was pretty grim and I didn’t come away with a set of nice big photos to share – but there are some nice ones on the website.
Click here to visit the Kathleen & May website: http://www.kathleen-and-may.co.uk
While we’re thinking about coasting cargo boats, check out the Bessie Ellen, Britain’s last coasting ketch still sailing: http://www.bessie-ellen.com/
Got your breath back yet? I haven’t…