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Thursday 30 June 2011

Tai Mo Shan

Thanks to Patrick for providing details of what might be one of the most recognisable yachts around.

The oldest star in the Hollywood film version of “Mamma Mia!” was a beautiful yacht, already in her 70s at the time of filming. And it has to be said that, unlike Pierce Brosnan whose singing was questionable, she never put a foot wrong in the part.

Tai Mo Shan was built in Hong Kong for a group of 5 young Royal Navy officers who had the idea of sailing all the way home to the UK. Her designer H.S. Rouse was the Vice-Commodore of the local sailing club and an enthusiastic amateur naval architect. Only a few yachts are known to have been built to his designs, one of the others being the even more famous “Tzu Hang” in which Miles and Beryl Smeeton sailed around the world.

To save money Tai Mo Shan's first owners economised on a couple of items that would these days be considered indispensable – a motor and a heads. However, they did not stint on quality materials and the Whampoa Dock builders used the finest they could get; teak planking, frames of rare Ipil wood, a yacal keelson, a camphor wood stem, steel floors and a lead keel made her both tough and beautiful. When surveyed many years later she was described as having being built to twice the normal Lloyds yacht scantlings.

Although keen to save on unnecesary items, naturally these officers wanted to be properly outfitted for a long ocean voyage, and so all of them made sure to take their dinner jackets with them. These turned out to be useful as they were entertained lavishly in many of the ports where they stopped en-route, including in Japan, where, with encouragement of the Admiralty, they attempted to spy on the Japanese navy.

Tai Mo Shan made it back to Britain and has had a succession of caring owners over the past 75 years. Her first owners went on to have distinguished careers, between them winning many wartime medals and honours, including a VC.

Follow the links below to read much more about this great yacht's history and see lots of interior and exterior photos.





For information on the service careers and later lives of the original owners see http://lintonsview.blogspot.com/2009/11/abba-submarinersand-spying-2.html

Sunday 26 June 2011

Pilot Cutters

We're fortunate to have several Pilot Cutters based locally, but it's rare to see them out together so it was great to receive these pictures from Keith Allso (fellow Solent Old Gaffer member - Keith has a great collection of classic boat photographs on flickr). He explains that they were taken around the Isle of Wight during an event for the TOE IN THE WATER charity for injured service men and women.

I recognise a couple of them Polly Agatha identified by the PA on the mainsail, it looks like Westerman is among them and Annabel J. It must have been fantastic to see these magnificent boats racing out in the Solent

Much is written about Pilot Cutters and their performance and legendary sea keeping qualities but this time please just enjoy the pictures.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

XOD - X One Design

Every time I go past the local fleet of XOD's I can't help but admire these handsome keel boats, which are (I believe) the only fleet of wooden keel boats on the Hamble River. Although I'm not a dedicated racer, one of these would be just the thing for a summer afternoon sail and picnic.

Hamble division racing is run principally under the Hamble River Sailing Club on Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoons. Every month there is Sunday racing under the Royal Southern YC regatta series. The season is between mid April and mid to late October, 22 boats are in the water in any one year, 12 boats race regularly, the remaining 10 are less active.

2011 will be the 83rd year of XOD racing at Hamble River Sailing Club.

Racing crews from the he Lymington and Yarmouth fleets will be decked out in the fashions of 1911 when they mark the Centenary of what has become the UK's largest keelboat racing fleet, with a celebratory race at Lymington on Friday 3rd June.

1911 was the year when seven XODs raced as a fleet for the first time, that race was won by a Portsmouth brewer named Harry Brickwood competing against such gracefully named Xs as Mistletoe, Mayfly, Mischief, and Merrymaid. One of them, X5 Madcap, survives and still races actively today.

The X One Design was designed by Alfred Westmacott, who was Managing Director of Woodnutts Boatyard at St Helens on the Isle of Wight. He specialised in building small day racing boats and these included the Seaview Mermaid, Solent Sunbeam and Victory.

Although the XOD was designed by Alfred Westmacott in 1909, the first race did not take place until 1911 and so it has been decided to celebrate the 100th anniversary in 2011.

The X Class is unique in having six active fleets around the Solent area, between Chichester Harbour in the East and Poole Harbour in the West. In each of the locations a well established local Club manages the racing.

Saturday 18 June 2011


Mingming 2008

Mingming, then called Phaedra, as I first found her at Woodbridge.

A rapid-fire ten day rebuild to make her ocean-proof

A good sea-worthy hatch!

First sea trials - in the not-so-bleak mid-winter.

Roger and Mingming in Praia da Vitoria, Azores, Azores Challenge 2008

photo Tony Head

Approaching Jan Mayen

Jan Mayen Island

Whales! Roger was accompanied by a very large group of Pilot whales twice on this voyage, he estimates there were about 400 whales in this pod

all photos courtesy Roger Taylor

Mingming is a very small yacht, a 21' Corribee MKII, Junk rigged w/small jib and extensively modified by her owner Roger Taylor. She and Roger have had some very ambitious and adventurous cruses. After a lifetime of sailing and building boats for himself, Roger has formed some very firm ideas about what he wants in a cruising boat. Mingming is the culmination and result of his philosophy of cruising, his experiences and his experimentation. She was originally concieved as a vessel to compete in the Jester Challenge, a rather demanding undertaking, but lately he has moved on to pursue what may be considered even more ambitious undertakings, cruises above the arctic circle.
Rogers modifications allow him to stay in the cabin while cruising in almost all conditions, as well making the little boat very seaworthy indeed. I thought the other day that it was about time for his annual cruise so wrote him to see what he's up to, here's his reply:

"Hi Thomas
Just caught me in time! I leave with Mingming for Scotland, by road, on Sunday, bound once more for Whitehills on the Moray Firth. Another northern voyage this year, the target being 80°N, to the north-west of Spitsbergen. On the way I intend to visit Jan Mayen once again, with the hope that I might be able to catch the island in clear weather and get a proper view of the 7000’ volcano Mt Beerenberg. If things go well I should have plenty of time in hand, and may also nose around the islands of south-east Svalbard and stick my nose into the Barents Sea.

The other main news is that both my books are coming out soon in Russian. Voyages of a Simple Sailor is now at the printers, and the Russian translation of the second book is almost complete. I’ve had great fun working with the translator, a retired Russian merchant master mariner (fortunately I am reasonably fluent in Russian). Looks too as if both books will be published in French before long.

Have a good summer (I should be back mid-August)."

So, Mingming is both Junk rigged and a twin or bilge keel boat which should go some way toward answering questions about either of these design element's suitability for long distance cruising. I will hopefully be writing about their cruise upon their return in August on 70.8%.

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Rushton Princess

Described as "A paddleable sailing canoe for use by one or two people, based on J.H Rushton's Princess model, built using modern timber construction" suggests that builder John Floutier is perhaps a master of understatement. She is a beautiful example of a canoe yawl.

Sailing and exploring in these small craft was popularised during Victorian times, perhaps the most famous being John "Rob Roy" Mac Gregor who voyaged across Europe, the Baltic and even the river Jordan aboard a small sailing canoe.

On his web pages John echo's the sentiment that many of us have with larger boats, that is the loss of freedom and the plain simplicity of enjoyment that small boats can provide, allowing us to sail to places that our larger boats simply cannot go.

LOA : 15' 8"

Beam: 32"

Sail area: 45+20= 65 sq ft

Hull weight : 80 lb approx

Built in 4mm ply with mahogany keel, stern and stem post and ash rails, coaming and trim, the detail and finish is simply superb.

If you read John's account of cruising the Western Isles you will see that Rushton Princess is no pampered show boat.

Saturday 11 June 2011


An intriguing boat from the post war yachting boom, the Kestrel 22 was designed in 1955 by J Francis Jones at Woodbridg in Suffolk. Jones had been a pupil of Kim Holman and perhaps his situation among the shoal waters of the east coast rivers helped shape the design. It was described as a cruising boat with the responsiveness of a dinghy.

The first Kestrel was built in the same year by Ernie Nunn of Wadringfield in Suffolk at a cost of £375. Originally the hull was of clinker (lap strake) construction which was light weight. Later examples were built in carvel and a glass fibre version was also produced in the late 1960’s.

With a stub keel and lifting centre plate Kestrels can take the ground with a draft of 2’ 4” when the plate is up. The centre plate is contained in the stub keel and together with the mast deck stepped the design takes maximum advantage of interior space for accommodation.

LOA 21 ft 8in
LWL 19ft 8in
Beam 7ft 1in
Draft 2ft 4in Plate up
4ft 4in Plate down
Sail Area 205sqft

But for all its practical qualities it is the aesthetics of the Kestrel which stands it apart. The clinker construction shows of the fine and modern hull lines, while the sleek and forward sloping windows and low slung coach roof imply 1950's speed and modernity, a style which was also represented by some of the super cars of the day – an early Maserati or perhaps the famous Facel Vega.

Monday 6 June 2011


Another fantastic boat built by Will Sterling and his team down in Tavistock the West country lugger Alert.

Will explains "Alert is a Westcountry Smuggling lugger of circa 1835. At 15 tons she was our first heavy displacement new build. She was drawn after a part time MA in Maritime History at Exeter University during which the principal area of study was the design and construction of Revenue Cutters between 1770 and 1850".

Will's initial interest in maritime history came through Admiral Sir Robert Barlow of Plymouth, a very great Grandfather, who during his early naval career ccampaigned against the Westcountry smugglers with success. His daughter married William Nelson, Horatio's elder brother.

Alert sailed on her maiden voyage to Iceland with Will and crew before returning to Plymouth where she is moored having been sold to a local man. The Alert build received an award from the South West Maritime History Society for 'exceptional boatbuilding and research.