Gypsy, the Hornby weekend cruiser with an amazing story

These photos are all (or believed to be) of Gypsy, an impressive 1936 Hornby weekend motor cruiser with an event-filled history.

Michelle Bird has written in to appeal for more information about the boat which is owned by her partner,  David Pannell.

‘We’ve seen a picture of her in front of one of the historic HMS ships at the Portsmouth Heritage dockyard museum, shown to us by the curator there, and would really love to find out whether she was used in Dunkirk, as seems to be suggested.

We know she was originally commissioned by an Admiral and had a steel bulkhead instead of a wooden one, and had two Vosper Thorneycroft engines installed in the 50’s to replace the original Morris engines. We know too that she was owned by the Spragg family of Sparks Marina on Hayling Island but have been told that she was stolen in 1968 as part of the getaway for the Great Train Robbery.

She was rammed by a Customs vessel at some point when used for drug running.

Michael Stiff of Blemheim Road, Ipswich, found her abandoned on the River Ide and took posession after making a deal with the Spraggs and doubtless their insurers.

We have an article from the Daily Express from July 1971 that Mr Stiff sent us. At the time, he was about to embark on a trip to Scandinavia in her, and the article quotes him as saying that an Interpol investigation looking at the question of where she’d been for three years was still open…

Mr Stiff had lots more information and items he’d stored from her that he was going to give us, but he sadly passed away not long after we bought he boat.

Dave has painstakingly cleared inches of oil and gunk from inside her and she’s starting to look great, but she’s still a long way off completion. We’d like to find replacements for a couple of brass portholes that were stolen, and to restore the Vosper engines if possible.

If anyone has any further info about Gypsy, please message me at,  and I will pass the message on.

Does anyone know the background of this terrific model – or the yacht she represents?

Model yacht 2

Model yacht 3 Model yacht 1

The Faversham Creek Trust has been given this model to auction for fundraising purposes – and they would like to know more about it. The drawing shows the dimensions.

Can anyone help? Certainly if the full-sized version was ever built, it would certainly have been an impressive boat. Is it post-WWII or pre-war? And check out that wishbone high in the rigging!

I have a dim recollection that the canoiest and yacht designer Frederick Fenger invented the wishbone schooner and that designer, builder, racing helmsman and pop starn Uffa Fox wrote about them – so I have a sneaking feeling this may be one of his designs. Please email  any information to me at and I will pass it on the the Trust. Of course, I will also let readers know when the auction is to be held.

I should add that we’re nearly on the deadline (28th June) for submitting views about the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan.

The questionnaire for this can be completed online or via the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood plan website.

It takes some minutes and there are one or two questions that will likely garner answers that could be misinterpreted, but it’s still important and worthwhile to fill this thing in.  There’s no requirement to answer every question, and you can add comments, for example if you do not think that the right questions have been asked.

PS Historian and verteran campaigner for Faversham’s heritage Arthur Percival has written his own considered and clear submission to the Neighbourhood Plan steering group. Read it here.

Spare a thought for seafarers this Sea Sunday, 10 July


The Dutch fishing vessel UK-272 and the container ship Käthe C. Rickmers outbound on the River Elbe
near Cuxhaven. See Wikimedia for details

The Sailor’s Society maritime charity is asking us all to remember the world’s 1.2m seafarers on Sea Sunday this 10 July.

Over 95 per cent of world trade is transported by sea, yet seafarers are often forgotten, and the society wants more people to recognise the hard work, sacrifice and isolation of seafarers, many of whom spend many months away from their families and loved ones.

The Sailors’ Society’s worldwide network of port chaplains provides support to a group who are often on the front line of issues such as piracy, poverty and tragedy. Seafarers and their families are offered help including provision of welfare, pastoral support and counsel, spiritual support, funding assistance with maritime education, and financial help when in dire need. Port chaplains also help with a variety of seafarers’ practical needs, in addition to conducting religious services when required.

Port chaplain Howard Drysdale, based in Aberdeen, Scotland, recently supported a Filipino seafarer who was in hospital after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.

‘When I introduced myself as the port chaplain, he immediately burst into tears,’ Howard told his charity bosses. ‘We chatted for a while, and then I went to the hospital shop to get him what he needed. I thought that he was rather missing Filipino cuisine, and so I went to see another ship in port with a Filipino crew, who kindly prepared a feast for him.’

The seafarer returned home for an operation, but sadly died some months later. In a letter thanking Howard for the care he had given, the man’s widow wrote: ‘Many thanks Father for all your support. It was so precious to be able to spend such a long time with him, five months – we rarely had more than two months together in all his sea life. He died peacefully in his sleep.’

The seafarer’s widow also contacted Subic Bay, Philippines port chaplain Jasper D Del Rosario and invited him to the funeral. Jasper travelled across the Philippines to attend and spoke at length with the family, who were very grateful for the tangible help that they had been given.