Favourite local sailing craft in the autumn sunshine


Bonita, Wonder and Privateer

Out sailing at the weekend (thanks for your company Jim and Richard), I took the opportunity to photograph these local favourites on the Swale – to my mind they’re each among the reasons this is such a great place to keep and use a boat.

The yawl Bonita has a Facebook page, from which I learn that she was built in Arnside, Cumbria, UK in 1888 and has been in the care of the Beckett family for over 60 years.

Wonder is an Itchen Ferry built by the legendary Dan Hatcher in about 1860. There are more photos here.

Privateer is a 1930s-built smack that is always kept in beautiful condition.


The Leila Sailing Trust appeals for a little more financial help

The magnificent restored Victorian gentleman’s sailing yacht Leila has her new transom and new stanchions required by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s requirements for guard rails. The windlass has been fitted, and down below the ballast is secured with a wooden lattice. The electrics are all in conduit and waterproof boxes, a bilge alarm has been fitted and Perkins the engine runs sweetly.

It all sounds good – but the Leila Sailing Trust is running low on cash and desperately needs £2000 to finish their work so that they can move her at the end of the month to Lowestoft, where she will have a new berth close to the International Boatbuilding Training College – which I gather is likely to be providing advice.

Leila’s currently being worked on in Southwold Harbour.

The Leila Sailing Trust is therefore putting out an impassioned appeal: after all their work, can anyone chip in to help them get over the next few weeks, and take the next beg step towards getting this wonderful old lady back to sea? Contact them via the website.

Victorian gentleman’s racing cutter Integrity under sail



The recently launched Integrity built by Stirling & Son has had its first real sailing tests – and has even won its first race.

As promised, Will Stirling has written to report on how the gaff-rigged Victorian gentleman’s racing yacht has been doing done. The answer turns out to be rather well:

‘Dear Gavin,

‘We took Integrity to the British Classic Yacht Club Regatta at Cowes. As the trip up to the Solent from Plymouth was her maiden voyage, we decided to join the cruising class at the regatta. Nonetheless on Challenge Day half way through the week, two gaff cutters of Victorian vintage, Thalia and Aeolus, threw down the gauntlet.

‘The result was dramatic race in the wind and rain with thunder and lightening, hail stones at one point and so much heavy rain that at times the racing marks were obscured.

‘Integrity won the race.

‘At the end of July we attended Plymouth Classic Boat Rally, which was well organised and good fun. On the Sunday we raced and Integrity was the fastest around the course in her class despite my having lost the topsail sheet so that we couldn’t set the topsail. Her handicap was poor because of her sail area so we were not placed.

‘She won the Sutton Harbour Commissioners Cup for best boat and the People’s Choice for best boat, the prize for which is a fantastic half model of the 40ft rater Reverie.

‘The 14ft Stirling & Son dinghy won the best dinghy prize.

‘We have made two trips to the Eddystone Lighthouse as well – the Eddystone is 12 miles south west of Plymouth Breakwater. On one of them we had a full crew on board and were beating out to the lighthouse when the topmast cap shroud on the weather side came undone. The jib topsail was set and the topmast broke immediately. We hove to, pulled the sail out of the water, tidied away the sheets, climbed up the mast hoops and over half an hour unshackled all of the wire and sent the 17′ of broken spar down to the deck where it was lashed down, sent all of the wire down, coiled it and stowed it below. With all tidied away we sailed on.

‘When reaching around the lighthouse we were surfing on the waves. On the way back we sailed downwind and went up the mast again and got the stump down onto the deck. We reached the Plymouth Breakwater in just over an hour which represented speed of approximately 9 knots. A new topmast has been made and sent aloft with an improved cap shroud.

‘The second trip was with my wife Sara in relatively windy weather. We had a reef in the main and the jib. The wind was F5 to F6. We reached to the lighthouse and had to tack the boat as we felt we couldn’t gybe her in those conditions. We sailed back close-hauled. We made an average speed of approximately 7 knots. It was very exciting. The boat feels safe and powerful.

‘Meanwhile, we recently sent out dinghy build number 21. We often get asked to carve a name or letter in the transom, but this letter, inlaid with gold leaf, was exceptionally  complicated!

‘Best wishes, Will’

Based at Tavistock, Devon, Stirling & Son undertakes traditional yacht building and wooden boat repair and restoration, and sells some lovely sets of plans and can be contacted by phone on 01822 614259 or reached at the company website at www.stirlingandson.co.uk.