Steve Taylor’s 1923 Hillyard Dorma back under sail again

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Click on the images for larger photos


Dorma Dorma Dorma

Steve Taylor’s 24ft Hillyard-built yacht, Dorma, and Steve himself

Some days ago, Steve Taylor, Bob Telford and friend Paul Tambini took Steve’s newly restored 24ft 1923 Hillyard yacht Dorma out for her first successful sail after a well executed but respectful restoration. Well, I suppose one could say it was successful in a sailing sense; the engine proved to be a disaster area. (I don’t know Paul, but gather he’s currently fixing up a Blackwater sloop by the side of Faversham Creek and runs a tool store – see the link below.)

Bob takes up the story:

‘The wind was perfect, the sun shone, the tide was right and everything was set for Dorma’s first proper outing.

‘We had taken her out once before, briefly, and had to return early when the bobstay parted; that’s what a shakedown is about, after all. Repairs and improvements completed, we awaited everything to be in place for a proper first sail.

‘When the day came, the engine took us down to the Swale, by which time we had raised the main; the jib and stays’l took over from the engine – and the suddenly quiet was shattering. Now I know why people hated those diesels thirty years ago.

‘We left a reef in until we had the feel of her; it was four gusting five and we wanted to stretch her gently, especially after our first experience.

‘She sailed well, seemed well balanced under reefed main, and Click here for the rest of the story: may well present a little more weather helm with the full main when pressed.

‘We took in most of the Swale in the two hours before we had to return, to arrive soon after top of the tide, making it easier to slide her into her berth.

‘The first sail had ended with her being hauled into her berth across the mud. We had returned late, and then spent a few minutes extricating ourselves from being tide-swept, and pinned onto the stern of a bawley – the engine had stopped at the wrong moment just as we turned into the berth.

‘So this time we were conscious of the need to return with plenty of time to spare, as other people who use this creek often do.

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‘We were into the creek with the jib and stays’l down and about to drop the main when the engine stopped. It stopped instantly, and the inertia shaking the whole boat. Something serious had clearly happened.

‘Quick checks confirmed that the shaft and prop were free but the engine would not turn on the starter; trying the handle was no better; closer inspection revealed a large hole in the top of the crankcase. The engine had exploded.

‘We whipped the fores’ls up again and continued to tack up the creek, whilst discussing options.

‘One option was to tack against the ebb, and maybe swing into her berth, or at least come alongside a smack moored for ‘n aft. Another was to anchor in the creek, somewhere that was safe and not in the main fairway. Yet another was to turn round and pick up a buoy in the Swale.

‘We decided to try and beat up as far as we could, aware that if we missed a tack, we would end up on the putty for the night, with no means of getting ashore, to await a tow in the morning.

Dorma Dorma Dorma

Happy times abord Dorma, before her engine blew up

‘We were struggling, amid the silence of indecision, when around the bend from Faversham, came a familiar boat. Unbelievable, it was my old Gloria. Good old Gloria, Gloria forever, Gloria to the rescue…

‘We shouted and waved at Nick the skipper, and he shouted back “ Hello, goodbye, we’re off up the coast”

‘“No, no, come here!” we cried, sensing that he could merrily pass by and never even know our plight.

But he got the message and came alongside and picked up our tow.

‘We asked him drop us off alongside the nearest smack to Dorma’s berth, from where we would warp her in, when Steve suggested aloud, confidence fuelled by relief, that we might attempt to swing her straight into her berth, with just her way on.

‘Given our previous attempt to motor-in, I shuddered at the possibility that we might turn a rescue into a disaster, and mutinied.

‘“No, No, stick to the plan, and warp her in,” I cried in fear of further excitement. Which is what we did with the help of the crew from an adjacent yacht.

‘Poor Dorma is now stuck until a new engine can be found for her, when she will be lifted out for fitting. Until then Steve will have a quiet place on the river, from where to contemplate life and the universe, as many people do down there – it is that sort of a place.’

As Steve said to me today, it’s all part of the rich pageant of life as the owner of lovely old boat. Now, I wonder where to find a suitable replacement for that engine… ?

Many thanks for the story and pics, Steve and Bob.

Archery Tools & Fixings, is at Eastbourne, and on-line at:

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