Do you know the story of the ‘Blackwater sloop’ Gadfly II?

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Gadfly II awaiting restoration by Simon Papendick

Clacton-based wooden boat builder and restorer Simon Papendick is looking for information about a 1939 gaff sloop that he’s currently restoring. Can anyone shed any light on  this boat please? If you can, please comment below, or write either to me at or to Simon at

The boat in question is named Gadfly II, and apparently the previous owner said she was a Blackwater gaff sloop and seems to have many of the same features – however, having contacted a number of sources Simon now believes she was built in Kent rather than the Blackwater, which is across the Thames Estuary, in Essex.

‘I have now got the job of restoring her to her former glory and hope to have her sailing this year. From what I have been able to find out about it, building on her began in 1939, stopped for the duration of World War II, and she was finally finished in 1945-46 and launched in 1946 for a local man in Kent.

‘The name Gadfly II appears on the list of vessels owned by members belonging to the Old Gaffer Association until the 1970s, but then drops off.’

Follow this link for gaff-rigged boats at

Simon Papendick, who runs J-Star Tuition & Boat Services, can be reached at 07799401650 and

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Sharpie schooner Sound Waters Eagle

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Sound Waters Eagle, schooner or a variety of ketch?

From America, Peter Vanderwaart writes:

‘I found the pictures of smack and barge racing very interesting. For some reason, I especially like the shots that show several boats. I gather you can join in the fun with a fiberglass gaff cutter, if you happen to have one.

‘I noticed windmills in the background of one shot. We don’t have these in our waters yet. If you take a good look at the attached shot which shows typical summer weather, you will probably see why I think windmill builders will go elsewhere first.

‘You might be interested in the vessel if you haven’t seen it before. It’s a steel sharpie about 65 feet long. I think it was built in the Chesapeake region in the ’50s or ’60s. Currently, she is called the Sound Waters Eagle, and is used to take school kids out on educational trips. Her rig is unusual: gaff rigged on three masts, with the middle mast being the tallest. I think this should be considered a variety of ketch.

Olin Stephens designed a vessel with fore, main, and mizzen masts bermuda rigged, and he called it a ketch. However, the word schooner” is deemed more romantic, and gets used.


There are more photos of Sound Waters Eagle here:

Fibreglass gaff cutters are very popular here, even if many of them do have modern-style lines beneath the waterline. Some of them command astonishing high second-hand prices and, yes, you can race them along with the old gaffers.

Wind turbines may be generally less popular, but I still find the group off the Swale is an interesting and sometimes useful navigational feature,  though I may change my mind if they become very common.

There are some more photos here, and I’ve got some rather closer ones somewhere.

Schooner or ketch? I’d say the Eagle was a schooner at heart, if not in fact.

Thanks for the photo Peter!

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Sailing fun on the East Coast

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Sue and Mike Feather took a series of photos of a race between a collection of gaffers from Harwich to the River Deben – and it looks like splendid fun to me. Follow the link to see some photos.

Mike also tells me that Sue and he were in the Old Gaffers race at Brightlingsea featured in Dylan Winter’s recent Vlog. Mike was the guy on the grey smack Transcur wearing yellow oilies and Sue was on the rib with Dylan taking photos. I’m beginning to wonder whether Dylan knows as many people as the Pope!

‘It was a really exciting race – lots of wind so very fast,’ says Mike. ‘Those boys put everything up in a blow and go like hell – bow wave coming half way up the stem and heaven help you if you broach with that lot up.’

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