Bird of Dawning is relaunched, after 80 years

Bird of Dawning is one of the delights of sailing on the Swale – a pleasing and elegant example of the kind of yacht East Coast smack builders would sometimes build when not building vessels for fishing, shrimping or oystering. She lives just off in Oare Creek, just off Faversham Creek, and is a regular on the water.

Julian Mannering wrote this week to say she has been relaunched after some major work, and included a photo from this week’s relaunch together with a shot from her original launch at Paglesham, in July 1937. Here’s what he had to say:

‘Julian and Amanda Mannering’s Bird of Dawning was relaunched at Hollowshore, off the Swale, on Monday 24 April after extensive repairs and refitting.

Bird of Dawning was originally launched 80 years ago this year from the yard of Frank Shuttlewood at Paglesham on the river Roach and was built on the lines, above the waterline anyway, of a Paglesham smack.

‘Time inevitably takes its toll and considerable work had to be carried out this winter on her decks, covering boards, stem and stern to bring her back to strength. Tie bars were fitted under the side decks and some 500 bronze screws employed to refasten her original Siberian larch decks which were then recaulked with oakum and payed with a locally-made pitch. Finally, a new iroko capping rail was fitted and a little sheer added astern.

‘The work was carried out in the black shed at Hollowshore by Dan Tester, owner of Hollowshore Services, and Nick Relf who between them did a brilliant job finding solutions for tricky problem wherever they were encountered. They truly breathed new life into an old ship.

‘She looks like a new vessel now and is fit and ready for many more years sailing.

‘Once back in commission Julian and Amanda plan for some East Coast cruising, including a short cruise up the Medway in July to show a group of military historians the route of de Ruyter’s attack on Chatham 350 years ago. The Swale Match is in the diary for 29 July and then it’s hoped to have a summer cruise to the near continent.’

For the Old Gaffer’s Association’s list of vessels built by Shuttlewood, click here. There’s a recent photo of Shuttlewood’s shed here, and some scraps of history here and here.

A lovely memorial to Lella, Oare

Wandering in the sunshine around the chruchyard of the charming little parish church at Oare, I noticed this particularly lovely headstone. My pal Ian Carter later filled in with some information he found on the World Wide Web – it seems Lella was a sailor and journalist named Helen Jenkins, and two links concerning her memorial and how her life was cut short can be found here and here.

The memorial tells us that ‘She gave boundlessly…stood for what is right, and was loved beyond measure.’

Here’s the view of Oare Creek from her resting place.  It seems very fitting. 

Thanks for the information, Ian!

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: