Humber sloop Spider T, rescued and restored by Mal Nicholson and friends

[ad name=”intheboatshed-post”]

Spider T today – click on the thumbnails for larger images

Spider T before restoration work began

Some people rescue old yachts while some adopt smaller craft – but perhaps the bravest are those who take on big old working boats. Mal Nicholson has restored the wonderful Spider T, a 62ft Humber sloop described as a ‘super sloop’ that  he now operates as a charter boat offering holidays and day trips out of Keadby Lock, near Scunthorpe. See the Spider T website.

Spider T was launched in 1926, and was one of two similar craft built at Warrens Yard at New Holland. I’ll let Mal take up the story:

‘Her sister ship was the Zenitha, as we recently learned with the help of Peter Warrens, of the Warrens Shipbuilders dynasty. We recently welcomed him on board with his wife Marjorie and his two sons, and he has taken the Spider T to his heart, and we talk now on a frequent basis and much more information is coming together.

‘He recently told me that Spider T & Zenitha were designed by his uncle Frederick Warren just before he died, and that they encompassing everything they knew about hull design, I suppose that is why they were labeled ‘super sloops’.

‘His father and grandfather built the Spider T. She is 70.4 gross cargo tons, and was launched as Spider T for captain JJ Tomlinson for whom she was the pride of his fleet. The name Spider was his nephew’s nickname, while the T stood for Tomlinson.

‘I have all the documentation for her including the plans and registration documents showing her registered as a ship. She has always been referred to as a ship by her past masters, one quite famous old master was George ‘Buck’ Harness. George told me at the age of 92 that she was not a barge or a boat but a ship, and asked if I knew the difference? ‘No,’ I replied. ‘Well, ship is short for a shipment, which is a vessel that is capable of taking in excess of 100 tons to sea!’ So that was me put straight very early on in my tenure!

‘Many years later I discovered what he said was absolutely correct, as I found her registration documents, and there it was in black and white: she was registered as a ship number 149049, yard number 216.

‘Unfortunately the Zenitha no longer exists, but I have spoken to the son of the original owner and apparently she was very fast and came 2nd in the 1928 Humber Reggatta. He has sent me some details of vessels and owners.’

In recent years, Spider T has been restored, refloated and re-rigged for the first time since the 1930s, and her crew have sailed to Scotland and Holland, and have chalked up some notable achievements. She was the first vessel from the National Historic Fleet to attend the World Port Festival in Scarborough, and was the first Humber sloop to cross the North Sea directly since before World War II. I have a sense that there’s more of this story to come, so I hope Mal will keep me informed!

And, finally, I’d like to put out a message from the management. This post about Mal keeping Spider T alive is just the kind of story we like to put up here at If you have a story about an old boat, traditional boatbuilding and design, boat restoration, boat history or even a modern boat with traditional features you would like to share, please let us know at


Gorgeous film of Galway hookers racing

[ad name=”intheboatshed-post”]

My long-standing sailing and Internet friend Peter Vanderwaart today tipped me off about this Youtube clip of a collection of Galway hookers, and cheered me up no end.

I gather it was made for a television series featuring the boats broadcast on TG4, but I haven’t been able to work out how to see the programmes via the station’s website. But aren’t these heavy, shapely wooden boats just the bee’s knees?

There’s an enthusiastic few paragraphs about the hookers at the Sailing Anarchy post for today, which seems a nice if slightly surprising thought when you consider the modern, high-tech kind of boating that site usually features. It’s not somewhere I link to very often.

Thanks Peter!

Stirling and Son build a traditional 17ft Tamar salmon boat for the Scobles

[ad name=”intheboatshed-post”]

Tamar salmon boat Gloria Marcella. Click on the thumbnails for bigger images

Stirling and Son are currently building some smaller boats after having had to relocate to a garage while they organise themselves some new premises – for some years they were based at Morwelham Quay, which is sadly now in administration.

To prevent misunderstanding, I should explain that the garage is a temporary arrangement and that the outfit will be moving to new premises to begin a new 44ft project by the end of this month. Meanwhile, however, Will and his colleagues have been hard at work, as he reports, and have sent in these very nice shots of a Tamar salmon boat in build:

‘Two recent new builds in the garage have been a 17ft salmon boat for the river Tamar and an 11ft pilot’s punt for a pilot cutter.

‘One of the elder salmon fisherman, Alec Scoble, who has net fished the Tamar in wooden boats since the 1950s has ordered a new boat in preparation for the renewal of the fishing licences, which have been suspended since 2004.

‘In order to increase the viability of the boat, Alec’s son Colin Scoble will net fish with tourists in the traditional manner, tagging and releasing the fish for the National Rivers Authority. Also as a continuation of the family tradition Alec’s grandson, Sam Scoble, helped build the boat.

‘There were no plans for Tamar salmon boats; it seems most likely that none have ever existed, so in order to record the shape for the future, I created a draught of the shape based on dimensions given by Alec. Before planking small alterations were made to the forward moulds following an inspection by Alec and his friend Frankie, who had both fished the river since War War II. The draught was altered accordingly and is now held by the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich.

‘The boat is named in memory of Alec’s wife Gloria Marcella, and  has an oak backbone and framing with spruce planking; all fastenings are copper and bronze.’

‘Best wishes, Will’

Will does seem to have the knack of finding some great projects!

Stirling and Son are offering plans for a traditional general purpose 9ft clinker-built dinghy and an 11ft pilot punt of 1900. For more on these, see this earlier post.