Do you know the story of the ‘Blackwater sloop’ Gadfly II?

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Gadfly II awaiting restoration by Simon Papendick

Clacton-based wooden boat builder and restorer Simon Papendick is looking for information about a 1939 gaff sloop that he’s currently restoring. Can anyone shed any light on  this boat please? If you can, please comment below, or write either to me at or to Simon at

The boat in question is named Gadfly II, and apparently the previous owner said she was a Blackwater gaff sloop and seems to have many of the same features – however, having contacted a number of sources Simon now believes she was built in Kent rather than the Blackwater, which is across the Thames Estuary, in Essex.

‘I have now got the job of restoring her to her former glory and hope to have her sailing this year. From what I have been able to find out about it, building on her began in 1939, stopped for the duration of World War II, and she was finally finished in 1945-46 and launched in 1946 for a local man in Kent.

‘The name Gadfly II appears on the list of vessels owned by members belonging to the Old Gaffer Association until the 1970s, but then drops off.’

Follow this link for gaff-rigged boats at

Simon Papendick, who runs J-Star Tuition & Boat Services, can be reached at 07799401650 and

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Historic schooner Lettie G Howard sailing off Stamford

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1893 schooner Lettie G Howard sailing a few days ago,
photos by Peter Vanderwaart

I’ve owed a debt of gratitude to Peter Vanderwaart for some time. He’s the gentleman who took over the Yahoogroup boatdesign when my own commitments and family troubles grew too great for me to continue as moderator. That was quite a few years ago, but I’m glad to say that the Yahoogroup continues, and that I often dip in to find out what’s going on, even if I don’t often have much to contribute.

Anyway, I was pleased to hear from him the other day, not least because he’d obviously been looking at ‘Do you like pics of American old-timers?’ he asked.

‘Absolutely I do,’ I replied. And then he sent me a series of photos he’d taken of a schooner he’d spotted while sailing. The Lettie G Howard belongs to New York’s South Street Seaport Museum, and you can read about her here and here.

‘To fill in the background, we were out daysailing and saw the vessel several miles to the east, off Norwalk. She seemed to be beating against the breeze as best she could, and by and by, she got up to where we were off Stamford. We were sailing reefed, and she was standing up straight with all her canvas flying. (My boat is not too stiff, certainly by UK standards. I would guess we were seeing 12 knots. Not much more.) There was another sloop about our size – an old 1/2 tonner, I think – and she looked like a handful with full sail.’

In the first photo, the schooner is three to five miles away, he says. ‘The picture is notable for two things. First, it’s a pretty remarkable picture to come from an ordinary camera that slips in your picket, given the long telephoto and that it was taken from a moving platform. Second, the “mirage” effects are pretty interesting, and show that the water was warmer than the air, although the temp was in the 60s F.’

Peter’s photos of the schooner can be seen online at Flickr.

Thanks Peter!

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Boats of the Humber Estuary

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Humber dusters – click on the image for more

The Humber blobber – click on the image for more

The striking Paull shrimper – click on the image for more

Some intriguing gems this morning from Goole on the Web. I grew up on the southern side of the Humber Estuary, and I’m always interested in the bits of information about the area’s boats that occasionally come my way.

The Goole on the Web folks have put up a series of pages on each of several important boat types, including the Humber duster,  the blobber, the Paull shrimper and the Humber trawler, as well as the better known billyboy, Humber keel and Humber sloop.

I can’t begin to guess why some of them have such intriguingly unfamiliar names!

It seems the area also had crab boats borrowed from Cromer on the Norfolk coast, and of course its own packet boats.

If the Hull-type duster looks familiar, this might be the reason! I gather the maritime museum in Hull has an example of a duster, by the way, but can find no pictures on the web, which seems a shame – I think both the duster and blobber have potential as the basis of modern-day small cruising boats.

PS The musuem at Hull has interesting links to pages and pictures of the ancient Ferriby boats, the Hasholme boat, and the impressive and even older Brigg log boat.

PPS – I’ve just learned that the illustrations that Goole on the Web have put up are likely to be the work of George Holmes, which would make sense. I’ll add more later when I know more, but in the meantime here are some samples of his artistic work from the Albert Strange Association weblog.

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