Firefly was a steam powered paddle dredger built by William Stebbings for Spencer Addison’s oyster business. Work commenced January 5th 1882; she was launched July 1st 1882; and had her steam trial August 1st 1882. Length on keel 29’6″. Length overall 33′. Depth aft 4’4″. Depth forward 4′. Draft master aft 3′. Draft forward 1’8″ with beam 9′.

In the photograph above, Firefly is the second boat from the right. Her fishing registration – CK47 – can be seen quite clearly on her bow. The semi-circular paddle sponsons can be seen, and they’re also evident on the vessel moored to port. What is slightly confusing it that neither paddle boat appears to have a smoke stack. Perhaps they’d been converted from steam to oil at this point, it is not clear. In Essex Gold, Hervey Benham wrote that Firefly was at some point converted to a motor driven propeller, “ending her working days at Mersea where her exceptionally long nameboard, now in the local museum, is a reminder of the broad counters favoured for this sort of hull”.

Of her launch, the CHELMSFORD CHRONICLE, Friday 7th July 1882, recorded,

LAUNCHES – Never before has such an event taken place at Burnham as that of Saturday last, viz., the launching of two steam dredging vessels on the same day. Both launches were successfully carried out. From the ship-building loft belonging to Mr. Spencer Addison there glided into the river a smart-looking craft built for Mr. Addison by Mr. Wm. Stebbings, and from the workshop in the occupation of Mr. William Read was launched an equally smart looking, though smaller, vessel, that had been converted into a steamer by Mr. Read by direction of Mr. John Auger. Both vessels will be employed in the oyster fishery, and will form important additions to the steam dredging fleet connected with this place, which is all of recent construction. The launches, which took place between twelve and one o’clock, excited considerable interest and were witnessed by a large number of persons. The vessels in question were respectively names Firefly and Zeta, the former being named by Miss Rosa Wright in the usual manner, while in the latter case the ceremony was not observed. On Monday evening, in celebration of the launch of the Firefly, the men employed by Mr. Addison partook of an excellent supper provided by Mr. and Mrs. J. Smith at the Anchor Inn.

Posted in Steam and working boats | Leave a comment


The pictures above show work being undertaken by Stebbings on the William Fife designed Vanity – a 12 metre class yacht built in 1923. Originally owned by J.R. Payne, Vanity was raced around the east coast and at Cowes. She sunk in a hurricane in the Caribbean in 1992.

Posted in Repair Jobs | Leave a comment

More People at Stebbings

Here are some pictures of people from Stebbings. If you recognise anyone – or you recognise yourself! – please leave a reply/comment at the bottom of the page. Very many thanks.

Picture 11. Photo from the the temporary shop set up after the fire of the shop on the quay 1913.

Picture 12. I don’t know who this is.

Picture 13. Unknown group, although the young man front-right appears in other pictures. One of the men in the back row may be Ted Murrell.

Picture 14. Someone working on the fitting out of a Crystal class.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

People at Stebbings

I’ve got a number of photos that include pictures of the people that worked at Stebbings over the years. Many of the images are rather grainy and people’s faces aren’t always clear. I have no idea who the majority of the people are, so if you recognise anyone – or you recognise yourself! – please leave a reply/comment at the bottom of the page, or e-mail me at . Very many thanks.

Picture 1. I think this picture was taken in April 1945. Cyril (Sandy) Burgess back row far right.

Picture 2. Peter Jowers, I think, with Harry Stebbings, 1943

Picture 3. I think this is Wilf Burton, 1950

Picture 4. Men working in no. 5 shop, Chapel Road

Picture 5. Another view of men working in no. 5 shop, 1950

Picture 6.

Picture 7. Final preparations before Festival Vertue is sent on her way to the Festival of Britain 1951. William Frederick “Bill” Stebbings in the centre.

Picture 8. Betty Warren standing in the foreground.

Picture 9. A Bonito class under construction, I think.

Picture 10. On the right is either William or Albert Harry Stebbings.

Posted in General | 2 Comments

Burong Chamar III

Burong Chamar III was an Alan Buchanan Albatross class ketch built by Stebbings in 1961. For some time her home port was out in Malaysia.

Thank you to Barbara for letting me know what happened next.

After the death of her owner the decision was taken to bring Burong Chamar III back from Malaysia to Europe to be sold. She was stowed aboard a cargo ship so that she could be brought through the Suez Canal, and then was readied to be lifted off in Naples to continue her journey to France by sea. Unfortunately, while suspended by the crane a cable broke and the boat crashed to the ground. The mizzen mast was broken and very serious damage was done along the starboard side. No longer in a state to be sold, the skipper who was bringing her to France moored Burong Chamar III in the port of Ventotene. She was discovered there by chance by Barbara, her brother and her father, who fell in love with the boat. After purchasing her, Barbara’s father set about the restoration, and met up with her designer, Alan Buchanan, to get a copy of the plans. Around 1992, after becoming ill, Barbara’s father donated Burong Chamar III to the Samanna Community.

Rosario then owned Burong Chamar from 1996 to 2016 and she is now in a shipyard in Anzio, close to Rome, where the new owner is undertaking a new renovation.

The photos are courtesy of Barbara Falomo.

Posted in Albatross class | 1 Comment


The motor cruiser Warana was designed by Alan Buchanan for Sir Kirby Laing. The client wanted a motor yacht with god sea keeping ability, capable of extended cruising in fairly open water. The accommodation was to consist of a stateroom aft with plenty of hanging space, a lavatory and shower, one single cabin, one double cabin, a large wheelhouse with inside and outside steering positions, a carefully planned and adequate galley, and a two-berth stateroom foreward. Buchanan commented (Yachting World, June 1964),

Of all the motor yachts I have designed in the last few years I must admit that I have really enjoyed producing the design for Warana. She has been built to a first-class specification with an extensive inventory of modern equipment, including radio-telephone and all the other accessories which one comes to expect in a motor yacht these days.

Warana was built in Burnham-on-Crouch by Stebbings and launched from Bradwell-on-Sea in March 1964. She had a LOA of 46 ft, LWL of 40.75 ft, a beam of 12.5 ft, and a draught of 4.25 ft. She had two Parsons Barracuda engines, each producing 86 bhp. She was built with a mizzen and could carry 80 sq.ft. of sail. This could help to dampen the rolling motion of the yacht when at sea, and could also be used, with the boom swung out, as a derrick to recover the tender.

The rather complicated launch was reported in the Burnham and Maldon Standard, March 10, 1964,


The £20,000 yacht Warana, bound for a launching ceremony at Bradwell, blocked Chapel Road, Burnham, all Friday afternoon. The roof of Messrs. Stebbings’ boat shed, where the vessel had been built, had to be removed so that she could be brought out, and part of two walls were demolished to enable the yacht to be manouvered past a row of cottages along a narrow road.

The Warana, nearly 50 ft. long, was due to go into the water at Bradwell, but the operation of getting her from the building shed at Burnham to the slipway and into the Bradwell Creek, which started on Thursday, did not finish until Monday!

A combination of setbacks forced several changes in the plan to get the giant boat afloat. The Warana is the largest craft ever handled by Messrs. Stebbings (Burnham) yard. Everything went well on Friday morning, when specialists from Kingston moved in and soon had the boat in a cradle. She was then lowered and drawn out of the shed on ‘skates’ and placed on a trolley with swivelling wheels in the yard. It was then that the first change in plan was made. The boat could not be taken up Chapel Road into Western Road and out of Burnham via Crouch Road because measurements showed they would run into trouble with overhead high-tension cables which could not be moved. The alternative route down Chapel Road made the ticklish problem of turning into the road even more difficult.

ONLY INCHES TO SPARE. The operation started at 1.30pm and was only an inch and a half away from success at the first attempt! But in the way were the solid cottages of Burnham Terrace built in 1832. The bow of the giant diesel yacht was only inches away from the bedroom windows as four men of the haulage firm, aided by a dozen from the boat-builders, attempted to ease her through. The great turquoise and white hull of the Warana was broadside across the road for the next 90 minutes as more of the yard wall was demolished and preparations for a push-and-shove operation got under way.

PUSH AND PULL! Two haulage wagons were brought up into the action and with a system of pushing and pulling the castors were eventually shifted into the position so that the boat could be towed into the road clear of the cottages and the wall. The 18-ton load was finally edged into the middle of the road at 4pm and then began the arduous task of jacking the vessel up to a height of of three and half feet. Clicker-jacks were used, working at one end at a time until the boat was raised to required level and the low-loader moved into position underneath the cradle. The jacking operation had taken three hours and it was dark as the lorry moved down Chapel Road, and the Warana was taken along the High Street where she was parked outside Barclays Bank for the night. The Warana was taken to Bradwell via Latchingdon and the two-hour journey went smoothly without a hitch.

LAUNCHING POSTPONED But due to the weather conditions the launching ceremony was postponed and because of the strong wind the Warana was not offloaded until Sunday afternoon. The delay prevented an official launching ceremony and the yacht did not go afloat until Monday at mid-day, after which she sailed back to Burnham. Mr. D. Hackett, of Messrs. Stebbings (Burnham), who built the Warana for Mr. W. Kirby Laing, the contractor, said the operation of getting the yacht to Bradwell went very smoothly and this to a great extent was due to the cooperation the firm had got from a variety of people concerned. Particularly, Mr. Hackett mentioned the Electricity Board, the G.P.O. Telephones, the Police and the people in Chapel Road. Paying tribute to the people living in the cottages near the heaving operations, Mr. Hackett said they had been most understanding about the inconvenience caused to them. One frontager had drawn the curtains and switched on a powerful standard lamp to give more light to the men while hey were working in semi-darkness.

Warana underwent a conversion by A. Koytsoyiannaki Ltd. of Larnaca, Cyprus. The photos show that the mizzen has been removed and the wheelhouse has been extended aft almost all the way to the stern. This extension is also higher than the original line of the coachroof and has a new flying bridge position on top.

After a period of neglect in Larnaca, money changed hands in 2012 and work was begun to bring Warana back into shape. Unfortunately, it appears the question of ownership and settlement of unpaid marina bills led the marina to auction the boat for scrap to settle the debt, and scrapped she was.

Posted in Motor cruisers | Leave a comment

Flum II

Flum II was designed for Sir John Holder, Baronet, by Laurent Giles and Partners. Required to be a cruising boat, the design drew on ideas from Giles’ previous projects, including Wapipi and Myth of Malham‘s light displacement hull. In Sir John’s own words (Yachting Monthly, November 1953),

I sought a solution to the eternal triangle. A man goes to sea because he likes to sail his on ship. A woman, so often goes to sea only to “get some place” and the quicker the better. Wishing to sail and yet not become a wave-widower, I went to Laurent Giles and Partners for a sports car version of their ocean racers. It must retain the seakindliness and sailing qualities and yet be as fast under power as a motor cruiser we had previously owned. Instead of a large number of berths and crew-lockers required in an ocean-racer, it must have motor cruiser accommodation for four in two compartments, with a separate lavatory between. I was prepared to give way somewhat in the matter of going to windward, in return for which I asked for draught which would allow me to enter shoal harbours, and comfortable headroom below.

The finished boat had a LOA of 36.9 ft, LWL 29.5 ft, beam 9.9 ft, and draught of 4.6 ft. Her sail area was a fairly modest 564 sq. ft.

Built by Stebbings, Flum II suffered disaster when she was launched for the first time. A decision had been made to use the Priors crane. She was raised and swung over the water, when the crane’s lifting cable slipped, causing a sudden jolt. At that moment, the whole crane tore away from its concrete base and the crane’s boom snapped in two and sliced into Flum II, which had dropped into the river.

Wilf Burton, a shipwright who worked at Stebbings, recalls,

I took photos of her launching. When the crane broke off the ground and the boom broke in half, leaving 2-ton top half laying at an angle from the top plank stbd side to one plank above the water line port side. Also there were two 3 inch steel rods still fixed to the crane body now bent over Flum II holding her tight to the quayside like a giant claw.

Fortunately, there were no serious casualties, although a couple shipwrights, who were below decks, had a narrow escape, and a woman had to be treated for a gash to her leg. The boat was towed down river to the Petticrows stage, where the crane boom was lifted from her and the boat hauled out to be returned to the Stebbings yard.

Laurent Giles came to inspect the damage, and the owner instructed Stebbings to carry out the repairs. Flum II was then relaunched from the slip at Creeksea.

Thank you to Wilf Burton for sharing his memories of Flum II, and to Peter Pearson for other details of the fateful first launch.

Posted in Other boats | Leave a comment


Motor cruiser Sonbar was built by Stebbings in 1947 to a design by J.H. Hardman. LOA is 33.6′; beam is 10.2′; and draft is 3′. She still has her original twin Ford Parsons D80 4-cylinder diesels. Stebbings built a number of cruisers to this design in the years after WW2.

Sonbar has been laid up afloat on the River Medway, but has been sold recently.

The 1968 Llloyd’s Register of Yachts listed the owner as Mr Rose of Poole and the home port as Kingston-upon-Thames. The photos above are from Wooden Ships brokerage, Dartmouth.

Posted in Motor cruisers | 1 Comment


Originally named Pelagos, Floray was designed by Alan Buchanan, and her measurements suggest she’s an example of Buchanan’s Bonito class, although I’m not certain of this. She was built in 1963 and was raced by Ted Dallimore for a time. The Bonito class had GRP hulls built by Seamaster and were fitted out by the Stebbings shipwrights.

Floray currently sails out of Tollesbury. The photo of Floray ashore is by Bill Serjeant.

Posted in Bonito class | Leave a comment

Alan Buchanan Yacht Plans

Following the death of Alan Buchanan, his collection of yacht plans and drawings have been passed to the National Maritime Museum Cornwall for entry into their archive. The update below describes progress as of April 2016,

Rolls of plans are being sorted and racked by Dwg Nos There are more than 1400 sets of drawings to be identified and catalogued. To date more than 90% have been identified and racked. Many of the rolls of plans were badly damaged when in store before being received. Four large rolls containg 90 Lines plans have been found and catalogued details will be published shortly Enquiries can be accepted and copies of specifications for individual designs can be traced.

So if anyone is interested in obtaining plans for a Buchanan designed yacht, I suggest contacting the staff at the NMMC Bartlett Library.

Posted in General | 1 Comment