Spider T today – click on the thumbnails for larger images
Spider T before restoration work began
Some people rescue old yachts while some adopt smaller craft – but perhaps the bravest are those who take on big old working boats. Mal Nicholson has restored the wonderful Spider T, a 62ft Humber sloop described as a ‘super sloop’ that he now operates as a charter boat offering holidays and day trips out of Keadby Lock, near Scunthorpe. See the Spider T website.
Spider T was launched in 1926, and was one of two similar craft built at Warrens Yard at New Holland. I’ll let Mal take up the story:
‘Her sister ship was the Zenitha, as we recently learned with the help of Peter Warrens, of the Warrens Shipbuilders dynasty. We recently welcomed him on board with his wife Marjorie and his two sons, and he has taken the Spider T to his heart, and we talk now on a frequent basis and much more information is coming together.
‘He recently told me that Spider T & Zenitha were designed by his uncle Frederick Warren just before he died, and that they encompassing everything they knew about hull design, I suppose that is why they were labeled ‘super sloops’.
‘His father and grandfather built the Spider T. She is 70.4 gross cargo tons, and was launched as Spider T for captain JJ Tomlinson for whom she was the pride of his fleet. The name Spider was his nephew’s nickname, while the T stood for Tomlinson.
‘I have all the documentation for her including the plans and registration documents showing her registered as a ship. She has always been referred to as a ship by her past masters, one quite famous old master was George ‘Buck’ Harness. George told me at the age of 92 that she was not a barge or a boat but a ship, and asked if I knew the difference? ‘No,’ I replied. ‘Well, ship is short for a shipment, which is a vessel that is capable of taking in excess of 100 tons to sea!’ So that was me put straight very early on in my tenure!
‘Many years later I discovered what he said was absolutely correct, as I found her registration documents, and there it was in black and white: she was registered as a ship number 149049, yard number 216.
‘Unfortunately the Zenitha no longer exists, but I have spoken to the son of the original owner and apparently she was very fast and came 2nd in the 1928 Humber Reggatta. He has sent me some details of vessels and owners.’
In recent years, Spider T has been restored, refloated and re-rigged for the first time since the 1930s, and her crew have sailed to Scotland and Holland, and have chalked up some notable achievements. She was the first vessel from the National Historic Fleet to attend the World Port Festival in Scarborough, and was the first Humber sloop to cross the North Sea directly since before World War II. I have a sense that there’s more of this story to come, so I hope Mal will keep me informed!
And, finally, I’d like to put out a message from the management. This post about Mal keeping Spider T alive is just the kind of story we like to put up here at intheboatshed.net. If you have a story about an old boat, traditional boatbuilding and design, boat restoration, boat history or even a modern boat with traditional features you would like to share, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.