Steam pinnace 199 open day at Gosport, 2nd February

Pinnace 199

The Steam pinnace 199 project is holding an open day this Saturday at the Maritime Workshop, Gosport, Hampshire, from 10am to 3pm – she’s been undergoing a refit at the workshop since February 2012.

Built in 1911, Steam pinnace 199 is a wooden-hulled picket boat powered by steam machinery and is the sole operational survivor out of 634 vessels of her type. Picket boats were essential to the effective operation of the Royal Navy: their role was to defend capital ships while anchored.

Steam pinnace 199 is thought to have served alongside HMS Monarch at Jutland during the First World War, and is operated and maintained for her owners, the National Museum of the Royal Navy.

Throughout Saturday there will be opportunities to learn about her history as well as to talk with volunteers who have undertaken over 3,000 hours of work so far.

The current group of volunteers were recently awarded a highly commended certificate  for their preservation work by National Historic Ships.

Entry is free, but I’m sure donations large and small will be very welcome!

To date the volunteers have raised £86,500 of the £97,500 required for the restoration project, including a £50,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £30,000 from the Friends of the National Museum of the Royal Navy and £1,000 from National Historic Ships.

Directions: approach via Forton Road and Mill Lane. Take the third right turn into St Vincent College grounds and proceed down to the end where there is a parking area next to some moorings. Note that the workshop’s official address is 50 Ferrol Road but this through the old shipyard entrance and access is very restricted unless you are on foot.

Sea songs from Gavin Davenport’s new CD

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Gavin Davenport concertina and sea songs

My musician and singer friend Gavin Davenport has kindly agreed to let me publish a couple of MP3s of two sea songs from his new album Brief Lives, which is available from the shop section of his website. In each he accompanies himself using a beautiful old ebony-ended Wheatstone anglo concertina.

The songs, British Man Of War and On Board Of A Ninety-Eight come from the Navy’s wooden walls era, are striking and are really two sides of the same coin.

In the first, a swaggering and excited young tells his worried lover that he’s joining the Navy and will return covered in glory; in the second an old sailor tells the story of his heroic career as a sailor in the Navy, and finishes by explaining that he has been well looked after, and is now nearly 98. The ninety-eight of the title is a ship with 98 guns, by the way.

Neither really engage with the downsides of war and, like many sea songs, contain strong elements of boasting and wishful thinking. Well, I guess they had to have something to keep them going.

A 1900s RN sailing cutter converted to a yacht

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Converted RN sailing cutter So Long

Ben Wales (check the recent post about his motor launch restoration) has sent in a photo of a most interesting two-masted yacht that he says has lived on Oxey Lake, near Lymington, for over 20 years.

This boat is named So Long and Ben says she was built originally as a 32ft Royal Navy sailing cutter, which he believes were built around the turn of the century and often called DH boats.

This particular boat was built around 1908 and originally had a gun placement on her fordeck. She was sold to her present owner in the 1960s; he carried out a major refit with new decking and cabin, and a ketch rig. What a gorgeous little boat he created! If anyone has information to add, do please let us know – either using the comment button below, by registering with the forum (right) or by emailing me at

Thanks Ben. I now know what kind of boat I’ll sail if I ever get to heaven.