Is it a Humber yawl? A Thames canoe yawl? Restoration begins with detective work

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The mystery canoe yawl. Does anyone have any clues as to what this
particular boat would have looked like when launched? And what’s the
meaning of the enamel plate showing a paddle?

One of the interesting items that turned up at the Turk’s Boatyard sale wasn’t actually in the on-line auction – an old canoe yawl spotted by our good friend Steve Taylor.

The Turk’s yard folks quickly accepted his offer, and so last week he trailered the old boat home to begin the first stage of any restoration: trying to work out what the boat must have been like before age and botched modifications and repairs brought it to its current condition. This boat has certainly had it’s share of odd, badly executed changes, though the original workmanship seems to be quite fine and the materials certainly seem to have been expensive.

The boat’s 18ft in length, and came with some stories attached to it. These had it that the boat was originally made by Turk’s, that it was made for William Baden Powell, that it was depicted in Dixon Kemp and that it had been brought to the yard many years ago by a pair of elderly ladies who intended that it should be restored by the yard, though the project never went ahead.

Having looked at my copy of the book, I don’t think we’re convinced by the Dixon Kemp link, but I suppose she could have been built by Turk’s to a set of plans that might have been associated with the Humber. Does anyone have any information that would help Steve towards working out the details of his restoration please? If you do, please email me at and I’ll pass it on.

17 thoughts on “Is it a Humber yawl? A Thames canoe yawl? Restoration begins with detective work”

  1. Regardless of the provenance, she'll be fine with either a lug or gaff rig. A worthy project. Too bad I couldn't get there, I loved the Baden Powell canoe. Thanks Gavin and luck to Steve with his fine project. Hoping you'll get some history.


  2. Hi, great to see her home and the detective work beginning. I also could not see her lines in Kemps. She does look like these canoe yawls drawn here

    Iris at 18' may be closest of those shown. It was very exiting to be present at the "offer and acceptance" stage of this project and I will follow it with great interest. Please pass on best wishes.


  3. Nice to see pics of the boat without all the clutter in Turk's shed.

    It is rather ironic that so soon after Michael Turk was made a member of the Royal Canoe Club to 'right the wrong done to his grandfather' that he should be disposing of this old RCC-registered boat.

  4. Lovely boat, whatever she is! I lucked out on all the things I was bidding on at Turks….

    Out of interest, what's the two seater sports car in the background? It looks MG-ish, and the wire wheels mean it could be a TC, or TD. I think the TF had steels…. But please feed my other obsession of old cars!

  5. How embarassing, I've just seen another photograph and it's a TF and those aren't wire wheels…. Where are my glasses?!

  6. Looks immense.

    What is the fixture on the port side of the gunwale?

    Is it a support for a plank that lines up with the coving for a bit of trapeezing?

    Get to it Steve!

  7. For the record:

    The fixture on the port side appears to have been used to mount an outboard motor at some stage.

    The enamel plaque was issued by the Thames Conservancy Board sometime pre-1939. It's a river permit and I am told that owners could have their club burgee on the plate for an extra charge.

    By the way, the car is actually a 1952 MG TD.

    Hoping to hear from anyone who may be able to shed more light on the boat or its history.


  8. Yes I know – I had some information from the Royal Canoe Club which seemed pretty conclusive. They actually had a look at the photo of the plate on this website!


  9. Cassy was definitely smaller – though in all other respects avery similar shape – maybe this is a scaled up version!

    She's probably bigger than most of the Ethels (at 18' x 5')but very like many of that type in appearance. I would dearly love to see any photographs of similar boats, particularly Victorian originals (if there are any around(?)) – so if anyone has any Pleeeaase post!

    I'm also intrigued by the centre case which appears to use a pair of angled brackets inside to support the case instead of a pivot bolt. Seems a very sensible innovation but I've never come across anything like it before. Was this a common practice a hundred years ago?

    Any information on Canoe Yawls very welcome.


  10. Glad (although with mixed feelings) to see that the canoe went to a good home. Mixed feelings as I had arranged with Mike to take on the boat, together with The River and Rowing Museum and my friend and professional boat builder Richard Way. Unfortunately Mike didn't tell Richard, I was in hospital on the day of the sale and so I missed out! However best of luck and I'd love to see the result. I'm 99% sure that she is a Turks "Cruising canoe" and I have some information on these boats (and some pictures showing the rig etc. Contact me if you like and where are you?

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