ST Kerne was originally built in 1913 and named Viking but even before she was launched, she was sold to the Admiralty and re-named the Terrier and went to work in Chatham and on the Medway.
She then went in 1948 to J P Knight who operated her on the Medway for another year under her new Gaelic name Kerne before being sold on again to a firm in Liverpool where she worked as a lighterage tug until her retirement in 1971.
During 1970 and 1971 a group of steam enthusiasts bought Kerne before she went for scrap and restored her. She is now an extremely rare example of the once common estuarial-dock tug and a living reminder of early 20th century naval architecture.
For more on ST Kerne:
Built by James Weir of Arbroath, the Isabella was launched on the 15th September 1890. With an overall length of 45ft, 13ft 9in beam and a draught of 6ft, the vessel was built for line and drift-net fishing, and powered by two big lug sails, a jib and five oars.
In 1919 a 15hp Kelvin engine was fitted but by 1928 greater power was needed for seine-netting and a Kelvin K2 44hp engine was installed. This was upgraded again in 1932 when a Kelvin K3 66hp engine was fitted, and this engine continues to power the boat today. At that same time the name was changed to Fortuna.
In 1997 the Wick Society bought the boat, which by this time had been renamed Isabella Fortuna. A pictorial record of the vessel and the restoration is available from The Wick Society link below.
The Isabella Fortuna is normally berthed in Wick Harbour but during the winter she is housed in the old Lifeboat Shed on the South shore of Wick Bay. With a voluntary crew the vessel visits ports for festivals and other sea-based events. By the way, there really are coracles (tiny skin boats) in the photo below…
Wick Heritage Museum site:
Isabella Fortuna at the Caithness Community website:
If you can add to this story – perhaps links to more photos, details of the restoration or the boat’s history – please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org .