Some good news about the lovely bawley Thistle RR2

Here’s some great, encouraging news from Faversham’s Lena Reekie, a traditional boat enthusiast well known for organising various local boating events:

‘She is 130 years – a sad looking but beautiful lady. Thistle RR2 is the last of the Rochester bawleys, built by Gill in 1887.

‘She has a 34ft keel, 13ft beam and 5ft draught.

‘After a long working life out of Rochester and Gravesend, Phil
Wilkinson, a smack and bawley enthusiast, found her sunk in Kingston-on- Thames. He acquired her in 1976 and, having rescued her from an almost certain bonfire, began a thorough rebuild to get her back afloat and sailing again. It was a remarkable achievement by one man.

‘She was was later owned by Mark Jones and based at Hollowshore near Faversham. With her loose-footed mainsail, very tall topmast and long bowsprit she was a beautiful sight and was often seen sailing in the Swale, Medway and on the East Coast.

‘Sadly, about 10 years ago, she was no longer looked after, finally sank again, unwanted, and recently it became clear that she was again heading for the chainsaw.

‘But now a group of friends from Iron Wharf appalled by the prospect of Thistle meeting a sad end have stepped in. They got the ‘go ahead’ to re-float the old bawley and at the end of July she was towed to Iron Wharf, where she now awaits further action.

‘The group also purchased her sails and a smack boat dinghy from the previous owner.

‘The aim is now to lift her out for a short time to assess the work and cost to keep her afloat over the winter and at to carry out necessary repairs. Unfortunately her new owners have limited funds and are obliged to appeal for help.

‘Initially there will be a fund raising raffle at the Anchor Pub in Faversham on Sunday 8 October at about 3 pm, after the finish of the annual Iron Wharf Rowing Race between Nagden and Faversham Town Quay.  All are welcome to take part.’

For information, please contact Lena Reekie on 01795 229564 or 07968 058398.

By the way, I can confirm that her hull form has a lovely ‘just right for the job’ look.


5 thoughts on “Some good news about the lovely bawley Thistle RR2”

  1. On the subject of bawleys laid aside in the creeks of North Kent…

    On the basis of my knowledge of the Faversham bawley “Good Intent” over the past forty-five years, I’d expect “Thistle” to have been built clinker and doubled over carvel. “Good Intent” is now single skin after Frank Knights’ rebuild of her in the 1990’s.

    Good Intent has one strake too few in her topsides, which accounts for her rather different look. This is because she was laid aside in 1930 with a rotten deck and beam shelf, but an enterprising local boatbuilder spotted that if he sawed right round the topsides, dumped the rotten decks and beam shelf, fitted a new beam shelf one strake down, laid new beams and decks and added a coach roof, he would be able to sell her as a “yacht” – which is what he did. Frank knew this but decided to leave the missing strake out of the topsides as it had become a part of her character.

  2. I hope that Thistle can be saved again as I well remember her sailing in many East Coast Events. Sadly the Brightlingsea stowboating smack Rosena has just been cut up. Another part of our Maritime Heritage lost that can’t be replaced…

  3. Great work, good to meet some of the folks from Iron wharf.
    I’m still trying to find out more info on my ferro boat project Fly of Halstow if anyone has any information I’d be really grateful…..

    1. I am one of the team who built the 5 ferro bawleys at Lower Halstow. My father got myself and my brothers involved. We built the 5 hulls, then drew lots for each, and fitted them out individually. I may be able to help a little.

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