Scoter is being restored – does anyone have information or photos that might help?

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Scoter in early 2010

Jan Carpenter has written in to report that he has acquired Scoter – the boat from which Maurice Griffiths took much of his inspiration for the design for Idle Duck.

Idle Duck belongs to a friend, and I have posted photos of her once or twice, while  Scoter has come up in comments on a post about boats used for wildfowling.

A beamy 14-tonner, Scoter was built in 1894 with shallow draught, a transom stern and a heavy iron centreboard and was originally rigged bawley-fashion.

I don’t yet know for what purpose she was originally built, but we do know that some time after she was built she belonged for a time to a leading wildfowler, and it’s said that with two guns mounted on each side of the foredeck for a period she became the terror of the Essex marshes in misty weather.

Jan acquired Scoter because he felt compelled to save her from being burned. Here’s what he says:

‘I’m researching the maritime history of the River Lynher in Cornwall and was made aware of her lying on one of the Lynher’s many tributaries. I felt compelled to save her and have since found out her historical significance, which led me via a Google search to the comments on your website… She’s now safe on dry land and soon to be covered for a full restoration.

‘Any info or images of her in the glory days would be gratefully accepted. So far I have info from Lloyds Register, a copy of a article by Griffiths that talks about the Scoter in relation to Idle Duck and a copy of the book Coastal Adventure by John Wentworth Day.’

In the series of comments mentioned earlier Idle Duck owner Bob Telford reveals that Wentworth Day’s book describes the owner of the original Scoter, a certain Xavier Victor Alfred Octave de Morton, Count de la Chapelle, co-founder of the Wildfowlers Association.

I’m sure we all wish Jan well with his project. If anyone has any information that he will find interesting, encouraging or useful, please send it to me at, and I will pass it on. He hasn’t yet revealed whether the restored Scoter will be complete with an impressive set of guns however…

The Griffiths article linking Scoter with Idle Duck has been made available by the Eventide Owners Association; the particular link of interest is here.

PS Don’t miss the comments below – some really good information has been coming in, some of it from a previous owner.

PPSScoter is now being restored by John  Owles’s company Roving Commissions. See more on the Roving Commissions website.

33 thoughts on “Scoter is being restored – does anyone have information or photos that might help?”

  1. Jan,

    I am so pleased that Scoter is finally being restored. I take it that you have acquired her from Joanthan Brice's yard, where she was taken after she was rescued from the marina in Plymouth.

    I suspect that the story that punt guns were fired from the decks is apocryphal; they were probably stored there whilst they towed the duck punts; it would have been impossible to aim them from the deck, nor manoeuver the boat close enough to use them; it is difficult enough with a punt.

    You might contact David Patient in Maldon. He wrote a history of Howard the shipwright of Maldon; he is also a professional shipwright himself and built the clinker bawley 'Marigold' (photo in 'Smacks & Bawleys' by John Leather) in the early 1980s.

    I would very much appreciate your contact details so that I can visit when I am next down there. Incidentally Robert Simper keeps a boat there and might be a useful contact.

    Idle Duck is due to be launched in March so we are panicking to finish all the little jobs; there is still much to do inside. I will post a photo when I can take a decent one.


    Bob Telford

  2. Hiya Bob, I'm glad so many people are taking an interest in the Scoter! I am unsure of how Scoter came to be in the south west, I know nothing of her slow demise, nor which yards she lay in until she found her way to me! Information would be greatly appreciated, enabling a chronological 'life story' to be assembled for my own research if nothing else!

    She was about to be hulked and burned when I was made aware of her and thats where the story begins for me …

    I am not a shipwright, but the shipwright involved says he knows the owner of the Idle Duck …

    Please email me and I shall leave you with my details for when you should wish to visit and the sharing of information!


    Jan Carpenter

  3. Jan,

    I have spoken to David Patient, who is currently preparing his book for publication. He tells me that Scoter was originally made for someone else but Xavier acquired her later, which given his age when he died, is obvious.

    More by direct email later Cheers Bob

  4. Hello Jan and Bob,

    My father bought Scoter in 1930 and kept her at Leigh on Sea until moving to Scotland in 1937. He and Maurice Griffiths met during the WW2 and remained friends thereafter. I understand many of MG's shoal draft designs were based on his observations of Scoter since 1919.

    My father had to do a major rebuild after WW2 as the boat had been left on the beach at Broughty Ferry for almost 6 years. She was in commision again from 1948. I took her over in 1971 following my father's death, and sailed her until I sold her in good seaworthy condition in 1998 to David Head who moved her to Plymouth. The pictures show her in a sorry state – what a shame.

    A close friend of the family, Brian Kelley, commissioned Idle Duck to be built by Millers of St Monans in 1968 to a design by MG using Scoter's lines. He sold her in 1987. I last saw her in Burnham on Crouch about 10 years ago.

    By the way, Viscompte de la Chapelle was not the original owner of 'Scoter' – just one of the 10 owners during the 35 years before my father bought her.

  5. Hi Doug

    This takes us much further with piecing together her history and is very much appreciated! I'm hoping to cover her very soon and begin what is likely to be a lengthy restoration process …

    Do you know anything about her guns reputedly fitted forward?

    Thanks again


  6. Hello Jan,

    I remember (as a small boy) that there were two metal fittings – one port, one starboard – on the coachroof about 3 feet behind the mast. Before my time, there was a big open cockpit – about half of the length of the current open space between the mast-step and the steering well. I was told these fittings were where the 'cannons' had been mounted (and presumably operated from the cockpit). The whole coachroof was replaced around 1960.

    I don't think the actual guns were there when my father bought the boat. I sent a longer email to John Owles yesterday – and will follow progress with interest.

    regards ………. Doug

  7. Jan

    I am a good friend of Doug Grierson. I spent many a hour at the helm of Scoter in the early 80's. Scoter got me into cruising and eventually owning my own classic yacht, and since having very little money!! Her 100th birthday at Pin Mill was quite an event. I cannot believe she is now in such a state. I used to sleep in the fore peak next to the baby blake! Happy days. We had some very notable fast sails in her when most yachts stayed in harbour. Where's the lovely cosy cabin gone!

    Good luck with the restoration. Regards John (Hamble)

  8. Hi Doug and Hi John, many thanks to you both for the extra information, this takes us a lot further with the descriptions. I have heard she is a very good sea boat and quite quick too, so all of what you say John rings true …

    Would love to see any old or recent photo's of how she used to be if there are any in existance?

    Please feel free to come and see the Scoter if you are down in Cornwall.

    Kind Regards


  9. David Patient, the Maldon boatbuilder who is writing a biography of Howard, the boatbuilder who built Scoter, tells me that she may well have had big shot guns mounted on deck; there is evidence of other craft of the period, including a steam launch, that had guns mounted and used from there.

    My query about this is that it must have been quite difficult to aim them from there, and how did you get such a large craft close enough without the birds seeing you from some distance; It was difficult enough to paddle a punt close enough to get a good shot, and often the birds rose before you could fire.

    Maybe these were bigger guns with a longer range that were fired from a distance; it was something of a sport then to see how many birds could be bagged from a single attack; usually a semicircle of punts and guns

    The record is around ONE THOUSAND birds in a single firing; It should be remembered that for the local wildfowlers, this was a harvest and a major seasonal income.

    It would be interesting to hear from a wildfowler with historical knowledge. Incidentally, Sir Peter Scott was originally a keen punt gunner. There is a strong connection between conservation and wildfowling, but that is for another forum.


  10. Jowh Owles is a friend / neightbour of Jan who tracked me down via internet and sent me news of Scoter and a request for any helpful information. He pointed me at the Intheboatshed site and he has a boatyard near Torpoint – see

  11. Hi Jan…cannot keep quiet any longer about this restoration. Doug and I are absolutely over the moon that someone who "cares" now has Scoter in safe keeping. Wild horses would not keep us away from calling on you to see Scoter, thank you…she has such a big place in our lives and we have masses of photos, memorabilia etc with which to bore you. We do have one photo dated 1907 of her sailing in the Walton Backwaters that should be of great interest to you. We also have a special script typed by Doug's Mum before she died which she entitled "I married a boat". I have to say that I did the same but a few years later in Scoter's history!! Audrey's memories make fascinating reading.

    Hope to see you early April. Best wishes til then….Jo Grierson

  12. Hi Jo! You are more than welcome to see her anytime, she was chocked up yesterday to keep her from becoming mishapen … Its all been a bit of a whirlwind to be honest and I must say how very lucky the Scoter is to have been noticed by John Owles, my friend, neighbour and the shipwright in overall command!

    I would love to see any images you may have and all Scoter memorabilia, to aid the restoration process and for myself to put her history in chronological order!

    Kind Regards


  13. Doug may not have told you yet but his father was among other things a marine artist and so we also have many paintings. He worked a lot for Yachts and Yachting in the 1960s, illustrated many a salty story and was well known for his portrayal of "mermaids" and other well endowed ladies…his paintings were known as seamaids. He wrote an article in Y&Y about sailing Scoter to Norway, we have a copy.

    Another twist which binds Scoter to Idle Duck is that the Griersons and Kelleys from the 1950s onwards became very close friends and sailing partners, each in their own yachts. Trips to Norway etc. When Colin died and Doug took over responsibility for Scoter Audrey continued her sailing as the third crew on the Kelley's yacht and so she has been part of Idle Duck's history too. When Zella Kelley died, also of cancer, Audrey and Brian continued to sail together in Idle Duck until he sold her. In 1990 Brian made an honest woman of Audrey as he was tired of "lighting the red lamp" when she came to stay with him in Holbrook, Suffolk and so they married; thus binding the two families and boats even closer together. We would love to witness Scoter and Idle Duck sailing together again one day!! I shall be a complete puddle mind you! Cheers Jo

  14. What a brilliant story. Of course they will come together, and we will have a great party. My son lives in Falmouth, and it is most likely that ID will be kept in the SW for a time, before embarking on a voyage 'right around'.

    Do you have any photos that can be reproduced here; I would be very interested to see better photos than the very few that seem to be available, of Scoter or ID. More later. Bob.

    1. Hi Bob – Can we come to the party too please? Julie's been following this story with a great deal of interest.

      I'm glad to say that a CD of images of Scoter arrived with me yesterday from Peter Baylis (a friend and neighbour of Colin Grierson) and more are due to arrive from Doug Grierson quite soon. I intend to publish some of them (with permission) and to pass them on to Jan Carpenter, and I'm sure no-one will mind if I pass them on to you too.


  15. Quick explanation; Right Around to me means right around the UK and Ireland. I just realised that what the other meaning is. Bob

  16. To all!

    Many thanks for the information again, I look forward to seeing the photo's and any paintings of the Scoter and ID in action (complete with mermaids) … the interest surrounding the Scoter is phenomenal and much appreciated!

    I'll keep everybody updated as much as I can!


  17. Hi all, just a quick update, the top of the centre board has been removed with the hope of lifting the centre plate out possibly this weekend … Depending on the condition, depends on a reconditioning of the plate or casting of a new centre plate.

    Probably going to lift her from the present position to a more access friendly position in the summer …


  18. To all again, the centre plate has been removed and seems to be in good order, possibly a light shot blast needed. Great to meet Bob Telford last week! Making plans to move Scoter to a more access friendly position in the coming months where she will be restored to her former glory. Sawn logs and knees ordered and on the way!

  19. I am the great grandaughter of the vicomte de la chapelle and would love to have any more information on scoter as a boat owner myself and mybe arrange to come and see her . Being sold in 1930 ties up with my family history . Thanking you in anticipation Geraldine Fox

  20. Iam the great grandaughter of the count de la chapelle an as a boat owner myself would love any more in formation on scoter or maybe come and see her my email address is on the previous comment look forward to hearing from somebody Geraldine

  21. Geraldine,

    What an amazing coincidence; I have been trying, and failing to research your great grandfather, for the very good reason that I own Idle Duck, Scoter's 'daughter' you might say; I am trying to put together a history, which must include the Count's story [he is the only documented owner]. My only resources are James Wentworth Day's book Coastal Adventure, and his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

    I would very much like to talk to you to learn more.

    Jan Carpenter, who has Scoter in Cornwall, will reply in detail to you, as will Doug Grierson, who's father bought Scoter in the 30s from the Count.

    I will send you photos but be prepared for a shock, as she needs a total rebuild. – Bob Telford

  22. Nice to see the post from David Holt – one of the benefits of being medical students was more student years of long summer holidays! I was working and down to 3 weeks leave a year by 1968!

    Just a correction to Bob Telford's post of 11 October – there are 9 documented owners of 'Scoter' before my father bought her in 1931. Jo and I spent an evening in the Colne Yacht Club in the summer of 1993, perusing their copies of Lloyds Register of Yachts to identify these owners. From memory, the Count was 5th or 6th – around the time of WW1 or just after – certainly after 1907 as the 1907 postcard was sent by the owner at the time.

    We visited 'Scoter' in Cornwall in July – John and Jan have a big project ahead!

  23. To Bob Telford: I hope you managed to get in touch with Geraldine Fox regarding the Viscount de la Chapelle – I was in contact with her too some years ago as I am a distant relative of the Count and interested in family history. Just to say that if you are basing your history of him on the Dictionary of National Biography, don't rely on it for 100% accuracy, as for example I have just uncovered some research that suggests Octave was born in Australia, not France as the DNB asserts (I am just in the process of trying to get confirmation of this). The DNB also completely ignores the Count's life with his first wife (Geraldine's great-grandmother) before his time with his second wife and 'Scoter' on the Essex coast.

    As Geraldine is a direct descendant of the Count I am sure that she can provide far more information on him than I can, but if you or anyone else think I can be of help, please feel free to contact me.

  24. Thus is Geraldine again my email address is still geraldinepf1@aol com is anyone is still out there in the ether and interested please do email me Sept 2013

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