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The astonishing story of Askoy II, Jacques Brel’s boat…

As this little video shows, the Askoy II is a yacht with a remarkable history.

Originally built by the Vandevoorde shipyard for renowned Belgian architect Hugo Van Kuyck in 1960, Askoy II was named after an island off the Norwegian coast, just off the port of Bergen, and designed by Raymond Derkinderen.

At 20m long, 5m wide and rated at 40tons, she’s said to have been the largest yacht ever to be built in Belgium.

Van Kuyck sailed Askoy II on the Baltic Sea, the coast of Norway and round Scotland, and in 1974 sold her to Jacques Brel, who attempted to sail around the world until he was defeated by illness and forced to tie the yacht up for the last time in the Marquesas.

In 1976 the yacht was sold to two Americans, Cathy Cleveland and Lee Adamsson, who cruised to French Polynesia and New Zealand, and finally Hawaii. She was then bought by Harlow Jones, who used her for fishing in the Pacific Islands, working with local people.

Next she passed to a drug smuggler, who was caught at Santa Cruz carrying a record amount of marijuana, got confiscated in the Fiji Islands and in 1993 was sold by auction to Lindsay Wright, a maritime journalist from New Zealand.

He sailed her solo to New Zealand but near his destination was caught in a storm and was finally stranded on Baylys Beach on New Zealand’s north-west coast and remained in the sand there for many years.

But, amazingly, that wasn’t the end. In 2007 she was rescued by two brothers, Piet and Staf Wittevrongel, who as young men had worked on Brel’s sails, and is now back in Belgium and being slowly being brought back to sailing life. I have to say she looks magnificent – I’m very much looking forward to seeing her back on the water. But then I’m a boat nut who also happens to be a fan of both Belgium and Jacques Brel…

Some more videos can be found here:


Samuel Feake’s memorial, Henham,


My chum Malcolm Woods happened to visit the Church of St Mary The Virgin in the Essex village of Henham the other day and found this amazing memorial to one Samuel Feake and family. He described the ship carved on the urn as ‘particularly delicious’.

I’ve left the images nice and large so that folks will be able to read the inscriptions.

The Henham website has this to say:

‘Samuel Feake was Governor of Fort Bengal, and Chairman of the East India Company. Of his family, his wife died at sea on her way home, and three children died in India: another son died at a later age in India, which took a great toll of their family. Samuel Feake, two sons, and the last of the family, Mary, are buried in the family vault here. Their hatchments, showing the arms of Feake, Hampton, and Cruse, are in the church: a hatchment, or funeral escutcheon contained the coat of arms of the dead person within a black lozenge-shaped frame, and hung over the principal entrance to the house for about a year after death, when it was often placed in the parish church. The ground of the hatchment is black round the arms of the deceased, and white round the survivor.’

I’m left wondering how this grand and successful chap should have been denied any honours in his lifetime. Did he do something wrong, I wonder, or did his demise simply catch his betters by surprise? That must have happened a lot…

My thanks to Malcolm, of course.

BBA students build a Robert Steward-designed Barbara Anne for the Thames


A crowd of around two hundred people joined the Boat Building Academy’s class of March 2015 at their student boat launch at Lyme Regis harbour in December.

The first boat built by the students during their 38-week training, to be launched was an 18ft7in electric motor launch named Barbara Anne.

Designed by Robert Steward, Barbara Anne’s hull is cold moulded using three layers of marine plywood and one outer layer of mahogany veneers. The outer layer of veneers were laid fore and aft to simulate carvel planking which were later bright finished. She has a laminated mahogany stem, sapele backbone structure and has been fitted with a Marlin 5 single drive (5 KW/48V) electric inboard engine.

Commissioned by student Mark Turner and built by Mark and the class, she will be enjoyed on the Thames. For those unfamiliar with the Academy’s methods, a range of boats selected for their educational value are built as part of the course, and are owned by the student(s) who pay for the materials

Mark joined the Academy from Buckinghamshire, where he worked as a financial director and controller for 20 years. Enjoying sailing, rowing and diving, and keen to change to a more practical line of work, he decided to join the 38-week course to learn skills for a new career in the marine industry.

Mark originally planned to build a sailing dinghy as part of his training but on a visit to Thames wooden boat builders, Henwood and Dean he became inspired by the river motor launches he saw and so decided to build one for himself.

Mark came across lines drawings for Barbara Anne in a magazine found in the Academy’s collection. Apart from modifying the plans to include an aft deck and enclosed lockers, he chose to remain faithful to the original design.

Peter Tysall from Ilfracombe worked alongside Mark on the build as well as working on the each of the other three boats built by the class. Before coming to the BBA, Peter completed A-Levels in media studies, art and design, and English, and spent time working and travelling around Europe, Indonesia, Morocco, Jamaica, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

He loves to surf and sail and has worked aboard several different sailing yachts as a deckhand. Enjoying this work and wanting to learn further skills to start a career in the marine industry, Peter

decided to take a course at the Academy.

Mark has now returned home to Buckinghamshire where he will work as a boat builder on the Thames, and Peter is exploring options to combine his new skills with further travel.

See Barbara Anne’s build diary here and for further details about the Level 3, 38-week boat building, maintenance and support course, click here.

Old boats, traditional boats, boat building, restoration, the sea and the North Kent Coast – Gavin Atkin's weblog