Tag Archives: percy mitchell

1908 Falmouth-built rowing boat White Owl is restored and back on the water

White Owl arrives at the Museum White Owl Launch

The 1908 15ft rowing boat named White Owl has been restored at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall.

White Owl was built in Falmouth in 1908, by Jacketts Yard, which priced her at ten shillings per foot – one of Jacketts’ best known customers was the Newlyn School painter and photographer Henry Scott Tuke. See his entry at the Wikipedia website to see some of his works and for his story.

Although White Owl has undergone extensive work, she is said to retain much of her original timber.

The conservation and restoration was started by the well known local boat builder Ralph Bird before he died, and finished by a team of Museum volunteers led by Henry Wylie.

The team is now starting work on restoring a Mevagissey tosher.

Sea Queen was built at Mevagissey in 1924 by legendary boat builder Percy Mitchell – she was in fact only the second boat he built. The first stage of her restoration is being funded by a donation from one of the Museum’s trustees and the Museum is currently seeking funds to purchase the materials for the remaining work.

Percy Mitchell’s son Gary will be giving a lunchtime lecture at the NMMC 3 March next year, where he will be discussing his father’s life and work – he built no less than 360 boats ranging from dinghies to racing yachts. To book seats call 01326 214546.

Sea Queen

Percy Mitchell autobiography to be republished

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These photos come from the collection that will be used to illustrate a new edition of A Boatbuilder’s Story, the autobiography of legendary self-taught Port Mellon boat builder Percy Mitchell, who was born in 1901.

I gather he was described by yacht designer and cruising author Dr Claud Worth as ‘an artist in wood’.

A Boatbuilder’s Story is said to include a particularly moving account of the building of the large Cornish fishing lugger Ibis.

Read all about the new edition here.

Marcus Lewis dinghy for sale – and a Percy Mitchell tosher too

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Fowey boat builder Marcus Lewis has this newly built 11ft clinker-built rowing dinghy for sale.

The handsome little boat is based on a tender to the sailing yacht Veronique owned by Colonel Treffry, of Place near Fowey in the 1930s. It is planked in spruce, with steamed oak timbers, mahogany top strake and seats, and will be supplied complete with a pair of scoop paddles, bronze rowlocks, and a cover.

Marcus tells me he’s currently building two Fowey River dinghies scheduled for completion this spring: the planking is almost complete, the green oak is ready to slice for timbers, and the copper nails are on order.

Also, the 18ft Percy Mitchell-built Tosher Marcus has stored for some time has got to go because he needs the space it is currently occupying.

It needs a complete rebuild, but Marcus says it has suberbly shaped hull suitable for almost anything. ‘The last owner put in a big Lister two-cylinder diesel and went fishing, but the usual treatment these days is a gaff rig, with a 4-5ft bowsprit, jib and staysail, with a topsail if you are feeling adventurous.

‘It bit of time would have to be spent working out the sail plan and centre of effort, and a bit of a calculation about an additional keel – she has no external ballast keel at all, but a 300-400lb shoe well bolted underneath, and a bit of internal trimming ballast would keep her down to her marks, and make her a stiff enough to sail well.’


Percy Mitchell boat Tudor Owen launch photo – and the crazy story of how they used to launch boats at Portmellon

Reader Roly Deighton sent us this photo from Melbourne, Australia, thinking that it showed the Tudor Owen built by well known boat builder Percy Mitchell being launched through a gap in the sea wall at Portmellon.

Naturally I contacted current local boat builder Marcus Lewis to ask if he could add anything – and he could. Yes, he confirmed, the boat is indeed Mitchell’s Tudor Owen, and added that the boat was bound for a customer at Brixham, the date would be in the early 1950s and the boat was on a temporary slipway down to the sea.

But if you think that was elaborate, consider what Marcus had to say next.

‘Prior to this, the boats had to be taken over the sea wall. This was a pretty precarious operation, during which the coast road would be completely blocked. The attached photo [see below] is a picture of the Torbay Belle balanced on top of the wall, waiting to descend the temporary slipway onto the beach.

‘Because of a problem with the lower ramp, the Belle sat like this for a day and a half while the lower ramp was levelled-up – and the road was blocked for three days. Then, at high tide her chocks were knocked out and she slid into the water without a problem.’

Could you could get insurance for something like that these days, he asks?

My thanks to both Roly and Marcus for this information.

Marcus is well known for building the local Troy class of racing keelboats, and the Fowey River class sailing dinghies. For more intheboatshed.net posts relating to Marcus and his work, click here.

PS – Roly later sent me this photo showing storm damage at Portmellon, in which the sea wall is almost all gone. There’s a quote on the village’s Wikipedia entry that leaves no doubt: ‘The true nature of this delightful little east facing cove is betrayed by the fact that all the houses along the sea front have stout wooden shutters which can be closed over their windows for those times when storms drive the waves over the sea wall.’

Marcus Lewis offers a Lister engine for sale


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Neglected two-cylinder Lister engine going free to anyone who wants it!

Marcus Lewis is starting work on a Percy Mitchell-built tosher at his the workshop at Fowey. An early job has been taking out the old two-cylinder electric start Lister engine, which is now available free to anyone who wants to bring it back to life.

It’ll need some tinkering: Marcus says that it seems seized after lying idle for two or three years, but he doesn’t think it has been submerged. The chains and pawls etc have rusted as the photos show. He can lift engine out of boat and onto someones trailer if necessary.

If you’re interested, contact Marcus via his website at http://www.woodenboatbuilder.co.uk. The tosher itself is shown below if anyone’s interested in owning and caring for a traditional boat built by famous local boatbuilder Percy Mitchell – with luck you may find Marcus is still in search of an owner.

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A chance to own a 1932 Mevagissey tosher built by Cornish boat builder Percy Mitchell



Fowey wooden boatbuilding specialist Marcus Lewis has written to say that he has acquired a genuine 18ft Percy Mitchell-built Mevagissey tosher built around 1932 that he is offering as a restoration project with himself doing the work.

Despite a few soft areas, he says she’s basically sound and would make a lovely day boat for any South West harbour or further afield. He’s planning to start stripping out the grotty bits shortly followed by a programme of work put together to ensure the survival of a classic craft. Contact him directly on 07973 420568 if you would like more information or would like to view her.

For those from outside the area, I should explain that Percy Mitchell of Portmellon was a very highly regarded boatbuilder in Cornwall. Claude Worth, for example, described him as ‘an artist in wood’.

Mitchell took over his employer’s yard in Mevagissey in his twenties and later moved the yard to Portmellon for easier launching. During World War II he built motor cutters and boats for the Admiralty. After the war his boats were in great demand; one of his most famous builds being the 28 ton Windstar, which the late King George V often sailed on, as did the young Princess Elizabeth, now Queen Elizabeth II.

Marcus tells me that Mitchell went on to write a well-known book, A Boatbuilder’s Story that covers his entire working life and the struggles and successes of a wooden boatbuilder. Copies are rarely available, says Marcus, but feels strongly that it should be reprinted.

See Marcus’s website: http://www.woodenboatbuilder.co.uk