1863 lifeboat for sale on eBay – and two other lovely old ladies in need of rescue!

Lifeboat conversion Friend of all Nations for sale on eBay

Fowey boat builder Marcus Lewis has suggested I draw readers’ attention to the fact that the 1863-built lifeboat Friend of All Nations is currently for sale on eBay. I gather she was converted to make a gentleman’s yacht in the 1920s.

It’s an interesting story, as I’ve noticed her half sunk in the past and wondered what she might be. For a photo I took a couple of years ago, click here. She’s an historic piece – there’s a newspaper report of a tragic rescue in which she was involved here.

She’s 43ft in length, 14ft in beam and weighs about 12tons, and I gather she can be floated for transportation purposes. Mark can provide more info on 07826 853149.

Mark also thought readers would like to see some photos he took recently while working at the boatyard at St Winnow on the River Fowey.

Radium Morecambe Bay prawner Radium Morecambe Bay prawner Radium Morecambe Bay prawner

Radium Morecambe Bay prawner


The first is he believes a Morecombe Bay prawner named Radium. ‘She has been in Fowey for at least 30 years, probably a lot longer,’ says Marcus. ‘She was kept at the head of Mixtow Creek and was owned by Bill Peacock.

‘She was an ongoing project then, and I was involved in replacing some of the deck planking for him, but the boat was really decaying faster than it was being repaired, but it did float, just!

‘I think when Bill died she was taken up on the beach at St Winnow, and then into the yard. Having gone through a few owners, the yard has now claimed her I think.

Radium’s name is interesting and is engraved on her rudder head, so I guess it’s original – which might put her after 1910? It would be good if someone knew something about her!’

Motor launch Rosemary Motor launch Rosemary

The motor launch Rosemary was built in Polruan after the war for Claude Richards.

‘I think he was a former Humber lifeboat mechanic. Anyway, he ran the evening ferry service from Polruan to Fowey, as well as river trips. His former boat, also Rosemary, had been requisitioned in the war, and when the war was over he asked for it back, but it was in too much of a state – so a new one was built.

‘The boat changed hands several times after Claude retired, but always running pleasure trips up the river Fowey, round the docks and shipping, down to the harbour mouth and back to the quay. Sadly she has been laid up at St Winnow for about 10 years, and probably now past refloating. Who knows how many passengers she carried in her years of service?’

Marcus Lewis is based at Fowey, Cornwall. He can be reached on tel 07973 420568 and via his website at www.woodenboatbuilder.co.uk.


Itchen Ferry Wonder in the Swale, photograph and comment by Dick Holness

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Wonder photographed in the Swale by Dick Holness

Itchen Ferry Wonder in the Swale, photographed by Dick Holness

Most readers may not have noticed our pal East Coast Pilot author Dick Holness’s comment about the 160-year old Dan Hatcher-built Itchen Ferry boat Wonder, which now resides in Oare Creek, just off the Swale.

Here’s what he says:

‘Strange coincidences at work here.

‘Many years ago my brother (who was a naval architect and old boat nut, and worked for Campers and then Vosper Thorneycroft at Southampton) was one of those who helped look after Wonder for the Nicolay family. In return he occasionally sailed her. I never did, but had seen pics of her.

‘So I’m trundling down Oare Creek in the Spring 2010 in my boat (modern plastic fantastic, sorry!) and passing Tester’s Yard, I idly glanced across and saw a small black bow up on the hard with the lettering SU120. Hmmm, I thought, that rings a bell but I can’t think why. And thought nothing more of it.

‘The very next day I received an email from someone I had never heard of, sent to the secretary’s email address for Hollowshore Cruising Club (I am the Hon Sec this year). “Hello,” it said, “I am the owner of an Itchen Ferry down near Portsmouth, and heard that another, called Wonder, has been sold up your way. Do you happen to know who’s bought her?”‘

‘It was one of those moments when you wonder if there are strange forces at work! The sender of the email was pretty astounded too when I rang him up, and since then he’s been in touch with my brother.

‘In the meantime, I have enjoyed seeing Wonder out on the Swale several times this year – she looks splendid, and whoever the owner is certainly knows how to sail her.’

Many thanks for the comment and photo Dick! I can only apologise for not being able to come to the laying-up social – I’m afraid we just have to put it down to family business, but we are certainly looking forward to spending more time at the club and on our boats when life settles down.

I’d just like to say that Hollowshore Cruising Club at the head of Oare Creek near Faversham now has a splendid new website and that I’ve been looking for an excuse to link to it for a little while: www.hollowshorecc.co.uk

Nick Smith motor launch Bella – fitting the engine and shaft

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Nick Smith motor launch Bella drilling the shaft log

Nick Smith motor launch Bella ply template holding necessary from motor, shaft line, mounts Nick Smith motor launch glueing tapered engine beds Nick Smith motor launch Bella fitting stern tube, shaft and engine

Nick Smith motor launch Bella fitting stern tube, shaft and engine Nick Smith motor launch Bella after deck khaya mahogany king plank and cover boards, iroko planks

Nick Smith and colleagues has been fitting the engine to the motor launch Bella – it’s quite a process as these photos and his notes below reveal – and fitting the aft deck, which is now looking very special.

Find more posts about Nick’s boats here.

The photos are in order, from the top and numbered left to right in Nick’s notes. Here’s what hehas to say:

1 Drilling the shaft log to take the stern tube. Notice the rudimenary drilling  jig, which is simple and effective; I use the same method to drill through the keel deadwood, from the outside in.

2 The ply template holds all the necessary information taken from the motor, dimension of shaft line, engine mounts etc. The old boys would use a string line to line up the shaft, but I use straight edges – they have to be right and don’t get the false readings that can happen when you inadvertently lean on the string with your knee.

3 Once happy with the shaft angle I can glue on the tapered engine beds. These are angled exactly to the shaft angle. Now we are getting somewhere!

4 Simple as that! Fit the stern tube, slide the shaft in, lift the engine into place, sort the engines’ fore and aft position, adjust the four mounts to line up the couplings exactly,drill off for the coach screws to hold the flexible mountings down, and then bolt down. Add the flexy coupling and bolt shaft to gearbox. A good day’s work.

5 As 4 above.

6 Whilst the stern gear engineers were knocking up their bit, I got on with other jobs, including laying the after deck, making up the locker front and locker door, and some paintwork, including varnish on the seats. I’ve got a gloss on them already, even only after one coat of 50/50 and one full coat. Here’s the after deck, khaya mahogany king plank and cover boards, iroko planks, payed with black polysulphide compound. The mahogany is to be fully varnished and the deck planking is to be fed with a linseed oil-white spirit mixture.

Bella is six to eight away from completion, but as the old boatbuilders in Salcombe used to say ‘a boat’s only finished when it goes away’. Looking at my timesheets, so far I have been building her for 13 weeks in workshop time, so I’m reasonably pleased with the progress.

More photos next week.



Nick comes from Devon, learned boatbuilding the traditional way and specialises in new builds in clinker and carvel for sail, motor and rowing power from 8ft to 28ft with a special emphasis on West Country style and design, and also takes on repairs and refits from 25ft to 50ft. These days he’s based in Hampshire, and can be contacted by email at nick_smith_boatbuilder@yahoo.com and by phone on phone on 07786 693370.