Humber keels and sloops

Humber keels racing

Humber sloops racing

Correction! I’ve received the following message from Dave Everatt of the Humber Keel and Sloop Preservation Society.

‘Gavin: To correct an error on my part, the photo I sent labelled Keel race was in fact not a race at all. Keel races were mainly in the 19th century and photos are rare and usually of very poor quality. When keels were racing they would usually set both mainsail and topsail and, because it was a special event, would also fly a burgee with the vessel’s name on it. The photo I sent you shows a group of keels heading down the Humber after ‘bunkering’ trawlers (that is, loading them with coal) in St Andrews Dock. They would be heading for the eastern docks, such as Alexandra Dock, to load a return cargo for the Aire & Calder or Sheffield &South Yorkshire Navigation. I have attached a further photo [pasted below – Ed] probably taken at the same time. Regards Dave’

Keels at Hull

I’m very pleased to be able to share these striking shots of Humber keels (top) and Humber sloops, thanks to Dave Everatt of the Humber Keel and Humber Sloop Society.

Taken in about 1900, the upper image in particular is a powerful reminder that many of us who come from the Eastern side of the UK are at least partly descended from the Vikings – and that there’s lots of genetic material to prove it.

The lower photo dates from the 1920s. In each case, click on the image for a much larger and clearer photo.

The society is currently celebrating its new website, so please check it out: You’ll find that it cares for both a Humber keel and a Humber sloop, named Comrade and Amy Howson respectively.

While we’re on the subject, Youtube has a nice clip of the Humber sloop Spider T racing down the estuary on the tide.

PS – In the comments below Jim from Zanzibar asks about the paddle steamer in the lower photo. Here’s what HKHSS’s Dave Everatt has to say:

‘I cannot be 100 per cent sure but I believe the paddle steamer is the PS Humber. If so this is the information I could find on the vessel.

‘Of 131 tons, she was built by J T Eltringham & Co, South Shields 1895, and her propulsion was a paddle  driven by single cylinder engine by Hepple & Co of South Shields. Her tonnage was 131

‘She was owned by J Turner and operated from 1895.

‘She was built as a tug for use on the River Tyne and was converted for pleasure work after her tug career. She was iron-built, 100ft long, with a breadth of 19ft and a draught of 9ft. PS Humber made trips from Grimsby to Spurn, where she would land passengers by local rowing boats.


‘Dave Everatt’

4 thoughts on “Humber keels and sloops”

  1. And it looks like you have an early Humber ferry in the second photo..any idea what the name of the paddle steamer is?

    It looks like there is quite a blow on , but those big old sloops hardly get a lean on.

    Thanks for the pics.


  2. What fabulous atmospheric photos, I guess the keels would only use the sail to give them steerage way with the tide?

  3. Ref Jim from Zanzibar and hardly get a lean on

    On a beam reach with 15 to 20 knt wind gives about 5 degrees of list on the clinometer but out in a force 9 we have recently had her heeled over about 25 degrees still very stable but spilling the wind out of the sails to avoid loss of control by broaching and too much speed. Apparently the big heavy vessels will smash the rig before capsizing when partially loaded but are more unstable fully loaded as the righting angle diminishes.

    In the force 9 at times only the aft third of the vessel was in the water but the strong rig dampened out the roll, this was on the Spider T on the return from Rotterdam over the North Sea.

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