Saturday, 30 January 2021

Lockdown projects

 Being unable to visit the boat, our garage at home is cluttered with various bits of boat gear in various stages of being dismantled and/or restored. Lets hope its not too long before they all go back on the boat where they belong.

I bought the cabin clock home as it has been behaving erratically and needs a bit of TLC. As with so many things to do with Bonita, it has a bit of history. It originally came with a boat my brother Tim bought in the early 1970s. She was the Huzure, a 31 foot Fred Shepherd designed bermudian cutter built in 1937. Tim bought her with his friend Justin to do a bit of blue water ocean sailing. Having set out from the river Swale Huzure's cruise sadly came to an unfortunate end in 1977 when she was wrecked on Lady Elliot Island at the southern end of Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The cabin clock was among the items Tim salvaged from the wreck and it subsequently completed its circumnavigation in a packing case in the hold of a much larger ship.

Huzure on the Swale in 1975

Wind-up clockwork marine clocks such as this seem to be hard to get today, and most boats now seem to have the quartz battery powered type. I took the clock to our local high street jewellers and despite the fact that they had several vintage-looking clocks on display, they clearly weren't keen to take it on: I was told  that they have to be sent away, minimum charge £300 and don't expect to see it again for at least 3 months. 

This seemed a pessimistic approach to what is basically a fairly simple piece of mechanism. For a considerably smaller sum I bought a set of miniature jewellers screwdrivers and after a couple of hours work, adjustment  and general cleaning the clock now seems to be running as it should. Of course ticking away on a stationary shelf in a warm dry house is rather different from being fastened to a bulkhead on the boat, but with luck this well travelled little clock will keep going for a few more years.


  1. Your comments on Huzure are very interesting.

    I rebuilt Stardrift an O.M Watts 8 tonner at Conyer.

    Huzure is a sistership to Stardrift. A previous owner of Stardrift said that in the late 1970’s he got a letter from someone who had lost an 8 tonner on a reef in the Pacific and wanted a copy of the lines to build a replacement, I guess the letter must have been from your brother.

    Huzure was an O.M. Watts Ltd 8 tonner, in the 1930’s O.M.Watts Ltd produced designs for a series of standard cruising yachts of various sizes notably of 8, 11, 13 tons. The designs were prepared by Letcher a naval architect employed by Captain Watts, the construction was supervised by Captain Watts partner Captain Sullivan.

    The first 8 tonner was Star Song built in 1934, In 1937 three other 8 tonners were built Huzure, Stardrift and Merope the three were built to a modified set of lines with slightly more beam and finer lines aft.

    Stardrift was built of teak and has always been down on her marks, on the delivery trip the designers said they were not the slightest disappointed about her being down on her marks and thinks that she is all the better for it. I would agree she has always made fast passages and is powerful and can stand up to her canvas. In 1961 her then owner Bill Howell had Blondie Hasler design for her the world’s first self-steering gear for a yacht with an inboard rudder. The linkage to the trim tab is behind the rudder post down the rear of the rudder trunk. With Stardrift, in 1961 Bill Howell held the record for the fastest single-handed Atlantic crossing and in 1964 Bill Howell came 6th in the OSTAR. Nick Clifton was the next owner who took Stardrift on a 6-year circumnavigation.

    Stardrift was not sailed in the war her owner was Harold Newgass he volunteered for bomb disposal and was awarded the George cross for defusing a parachute mine inside a gas holder in Liverpool.

    During the war Huzure was in Ireland and there is a film of the Huzure preparing for the start of the Howth regatta in 1942: -

    Of the other 8 tonners:-
    Merope was in a shed being refitted with the interior removed. The shed caught fire the hull was saved but much else was lost.
    Star Song was in Malta about thirty years ago.

    The 13-tonner Peregrine is currently for sale there are some good pictures on the Web: -

    The 11-tonner Merlin has been rebuilt there are a couple of interesting websites: -!-Merlin-Returns

    Thanks for filling in the gap I always wondered what happened to Huzure.

    1. Kevin

      Thank you for this additional detail and I was particularly interested to read about Huzure's time in Ireland. She made a good ocean cruiser and I was particularly keen on the full standing headroom below, an essential requirement for a liveaboard. Her canoe stern did mean she was fine aft and once we loaded her up with supplies etc she was a little down on her marks. Nevertheless she made good times on long trips so long as she had a clean bottom.

      Our longest trip was 32 days from Panama to Hiva Oa in the Marquesas and about half way there we had the collision with the whale which, as a result of her long keel, put her over on her beam ends as she rode over it. As I watched the Walker log spinner run down the whale's back I remember being concerned that being hit by 9 tons at 6 knots might provoke the whale into retaliation but fortunately it did not come after us. The impact did crack a few frames as we subsequently discovered but it did not cause a leak. This was a relief as we were 1,500 miles from the nearest land and a number of yachts in the Pacific had been sunk by whale collisions leading to their crew spending long periods in a liferaft.

      Huzure had no automated self steering gear but she was very well balanced; we used to rig up a steering sail for'ard with a line to the tiller countered by shock cord. This arrangement would work on a reach or a run (which was what we mostly did). Close hauled one only had to trim the sheets correctly and lash the helm.

      Needless to say losing her on the Great Barrier reef was a highly traumatic experience although fortunately nobody was injured. In those days to gat an Australian visa one had to have an onward airline ticket but that requirement was waived if you had a yacht. Losing the yacht therefore put me in an awkward situation with the immigration authorities. After six months of keeping a low profile I was summonsed to the immigration office and given two weeks to leave. They stamped my passport 'DEPORTED' in big red letters; it remains one of my prized possessions!

  2. Thanks. How very interesting. We knew Capt Watts did not actually design yachts, but were told that Shepherd did some work for him. Huzure looked a bit like a Shepherd design, but interesting that she was actually designed by Letcher ( of whom I had never previously heard). He certainly produced a nice boat, a bit tender initially but otherwise a fine sea boat. My brother had all sorts of adventures in her including colliding with a sleeping whale in mid pacific - several frames got broken. I see from Lloyds that Thomas Letcher designed a number of other yachts while working for -or maybe with- Gale & Co. 22 yachts listed in the 1947 Lloyds.
    Harold Newgass sounds a most remarkable man. My father was tempted to enlist for bomb disposal as there were said to be good prospects for rapid promotion. When he realised why he opted for the Royal Engineers instead.