Stebbings Lifeboat Conversion

Stebbings lifeboat conversion 3
Stebbings lifeboat conversion 2
Stebbings lifeboat conversion 1I do not know whether Stebbings actually sold any lifeboat conversions, but an article appraising the design of such a craft was published in Yachting World in August 1946.

The problem for Stebbings appears to have been that following the end of the war their contract with the Admiralty to produce lifeboats was ended and they were left with a number of craft that were suddenly surplus to requirements. And the majority of these had never been afloat.

The conversion was to be to a standard Board of Trade agreed lifeboat design, 28′ overall in length, with a beam of 8’4.5″, and a draught of 2’3″, and clinker built. The conversion included the addition of single engine and fore and aft cabins providing four berths, a small galley, and a heads. The cockpit was central.

The price was reckoned to be in the order of £400. Although this was a lot of money in 1946 it would have represented a significant saving compared to commissioning the build of a new motor cruiser from scratch. As such, lifeboat conversions are not uncommon, with one of the more famous being Erskine Childers’ Dulcibella, around which the classic The Riddle of the Sands was written.

Posted in Motor cruisers | Leave a comment

Golden Otter

Golden Otter is a Burnham Scow built by Stebbings in the 1950’s – probably around 1954. She is still sailing, and is based at West Wittering, Chichester, having been owned by the Western family for some 55 years.

Golden Otter is understood to have been bought originally by the Chalk family, and then owned by the Ambrose family – both of whom lived in the West Wittering area. Then in 1959, she was purchased by Caption Guy Western RN and has been used ever since to introduce successive generations of Western’s to the joys of sailing.

Posted in Scow | 1 Comment


Mokoia was designed by Arthur C. Robb and built by Stebbings in 1948 for Major James Murray. She is a 10-ton auxiliary cutter with a LOA of 37’10”; LWL of 26’0″; beam 8’11”; and draft 6’1″. She was designed principally as a cruising yacht but proved from the beginning to be a very capable off-shore racer.

While she came second place in her first offshore race, the Harwich-Kristiansand, Mokoia is perhaps best known for her participation in the 1950 Bermuda and Transatlantic races. Accompanying Major Murray for these races was Wing Commander Marwood Elton. His daughter Jean was also aboard for the Bermuda race. They came 3rd Open in the Transatlantic Race and 10th in Class C in the Newport Bermuda Race. Accompanying Mokoia were two other British entries – Samuel Pepys and Cohoe. The book ‘North Atlantic’ by Adlard Coles gives an account of their races. At the time of the race Mokoia was using sails made by Cranfield and Carter, and Petticrows (of Burnham-on-Crouch) did the fitting-out for the long voyage.

Mokoia alongside HMS Glasgow at Bermuda.

Mokoia alongside HMS Glasgow at Bermuda.

From the left, Mokoia, Cohoe and Samuel Pepys.  From 'North Atlantic', by Adlard Coles

From the left, Mokoia, Cohoe and Samuel Pepys. From ‘North Atlantic’, by Adlard Coles

Mokoia (left) and Cohoe at Bermuda

Mokoia (left) and Cohoe at Bermuda

At some point after, Mokoia was sold to the Watson family and sailed extensively from the Clyde, Scotland during the 1950/60s.

Mokoia on the Clyde, Scotland.  From the Watsons family web site.

Mokoia on the Clyde, Scotland. From the Watsons family web site.

In 1972 she was sailed to Australia and records show that a boat of the same name took part in the 1972 Sydney-Hobart race, skippered by J.M. Tattersall. She finished 34th on handicap, out of 79 starters.

The Australian List of Shipping has her current home port as Sydney, Australia, and she also spent some time in Tasmania. She is believed to have undergone extensive restoration during the last decade or so.

For anyone interested, there was a Design Supplement article on Mokoia published in Yachting World November 1948.

Notes on the designer
Arthur Cecil (Arthur C.) Robb (1908-1969) was a British yacht designer working in London, England, after World War II. Born in New Zealand, by 1930 he was employed at yard manager at the boat building firm of Morris & Lorimers, Argyll, Scotland. During World War II he was a Reserve Officer in the British Royal Navy attaining the rank of lieutenant commander. It was at this time that he worked on the design of the airborne lifeboat.

Arthur Cecil Robb, M.B.E. was born in 1908 at Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, and was considered one of the great yacht designers of his generation. He came from a farming and sailing background, and gained considerable local fame as a helmsman. He also had a good deal of talent as a designer and builder of small yachts and dinghies. In the early 1930’s he was encouraged to make a living as a yacht designer, and, being in the Naval Reserve, chose to go to Great Britain where he became yard manager at the boat building firm of Morris and Lorimers at Sandbank, Argyll, Scotland.

At the outbreak of World War II he went to sea as a Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve Officer, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He worked in both the Admiralty and Air Ministry. In the latter he and Uffa Fox were concerned with the design of the airborne lifeboat.

After the war he set up practice in London as a yacht designer. His wife Susan assisted him in handling many of his contacts with prospective yacht owners and with firms that might supply the materials for the yachts he designed. He was well known throughout the world, but particularly in the United States, for his one-design cruiser/racers. Arthur Robb died after a long illness in London, England in 1969.

From the Arthur C Robb archive, Museum of America and the Sea, at Mystic Seaport.

Posted in Arthur C Robb | 2 Comments

Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair - Yeoman Junior - Stebbings.

Vanity Fair was built by Stebbings in 1957. She is Yeoman Junior class yacht designed by Alan Buchanan, with a carvel teak hull and mahogany for the topsides. She is currently for sale at Brighton Marina (link). Thank you to the owner (FN) for permission to use the photograph.

Posted in Yeoman Junior class | Leave a comment


Photos by Chris Van Der Schyf.

Built by Stebbings in 1948, the 30’7″ sloop Restive was designed by Nigel Warington Smyth O.B.E. for use by himself and his family. The requirement was for a modern cruising yacht, large enough for three people but designed for easy handling by himself and his wife Barbara.

The specification and cruising qualities of Restive were described in detail in earlier editions of Eric Hiscock’s Cruising Under Sail. The designer kept Restive for many years.

Restive has a couple of ‘sister ships’. Black Cygnet was built in 1949 by the Falmouth Boat Construction Ltd (which was owned by Nigel W-S’s brother Rodney Warington Smyth), and nowadays is based on the Tamar. Peter Robyn, by contrast, was built in Sydney, Australia in 1950, without the blessing of the designer, and currently sails from Kettering, Tasmania.

Restive has sailed all over the world and was last known to be in Vancouver, Canada, where her mast was restored (details of which are here).

Nigel Warington Smyth served with the Royal Navy during World War Two. For some time based on the Helford river, and alongside his brother and father, Lieutenant-Commander Nigel Warington Smyth was involved with the operation of clandestine contacts with France, by sea.

Among the activities of the Helford unit, Nigel, along with his brother Bevil, designed surf-boats of various types that could land on French beaches to extricate and repatriate downed allied airmen. The surf-boats were also deployed further afield to support the work of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and its agents.

The clinker-built, double-ended SN1 was 14-foot, and could be carried on a motor gun boat (MGB). The 25-foot SN2 was designed for HMS Minna and was very similar to the 25-foot SN6 surf boat. Many, perhaps all, of the SN surf-boats were built by Camper and Nicholson.

Nigel Warington Smyth was made a Commander of the Military Division of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in March 1945, for “gallantry and great devotion to duty in hazardous operations” (London Gazette Issue 37002).

Posted in Other boats

Sarda of Burnham

Bonito - Sarda of BurnhamSarda of Burnham is an example of Alan Buchanan’s Bonito class of GRP-hulled yacht. Although she was built in Burnham-on-Crouch, these days she is moored in warmer climes, at Mornington, Victoria, Australia. It’s not clear at the moment which year she was built, but it was probably 1961 or 1962.

She was brought to Australia by George Fox and took part twice in the Sydney to Hobart race. She finished 11th on handicap in 1965, skippered by D.L.Gilling. In 1967 she finished 41st on handicap, skippered by George Fox.

In about 1965 she was brought to Mornington by Harry and Murray Barnett who raced her successfully on Port Phillip Bay for more than a decade. She now rarely races but still cruises gracefully. She is reputed to have been the first GRP yacht in Australia. Her original marinized four cylinder Ford engine was replaced with a diesel and her hull surface has been renovated.

Many thanks to Tim Dixon for providing this information and the photograph above.

Posted in Bonito class | Leave a comment


Stebbings probably built the Scow Clemency in 1953 or 1954. The new owners would like to learn more of her past but she doesn’t appear in the Royal Burnham Yacht Club list, so she may have left Burnham soon or straight after being built.

We do know that the last owner kept her on the south coast for a number of years, first at Itchenor , and then on the Fal estuary, Cornwall . She was restored by John Claridge of Lymington and is now settled at Knysna Yacht Club in South Africa.

If anyone knows any more about Clemency, please get in touch.

More information (and pictures of Clemency in Knysna) can be found on Gavin Atkin’s

Posted in Scow | Leave a comment


Apologies to any recent visitors whose browser warned them that this site is insecure.  I got hacked!

The damage has now been repaired and the security has been tightened up.  If you run a WordPress blog and suffer a similar intrusion then I can recommend the services of Sucuri Security.


Pete Shepherd

Posted in General | Leave a comment


Cassis, built in 1967, is an Alan Buchanan designed Bonito class sloop, based on a GRP hull from Seamaster of Dunmow, Essex. She was originally named Silwen, and was built for Mr D.T. Beer, of Porthmadog, Wales, where Silwen was originally based.

The boat had a Lloyd’s 100A1 certificate and an RORC rating. She was originally equipped with a 4-cylinder, 29 bhp Watermota petrol engine, but this has been replaced with a Yamaha 3-cylinder diesel.

At some point in time Silwen was renamed Cassis of Kent and spent a number of years mainly cruising England’s East coast. Since her last change of ownership she has moved to Cornwall, and the ‘of Kent‘ has been dropped from her name.

Cassis has special significance because she was the last boat to be built by Stebbings, or at least part-built. The registry documents and the Lloyd’s entry show her having two builders, Stebbings, and R.J. Prior & Son (also of Burnham-on-Crouch), so it seems likely that Stebbings started the build and that it was finished by Prior’s after Stebbings closed down.

Thanks to Jeremy Burnett for his help with this post. The photographs are copyright of Eastern Yachts and have been reproduced with the kind permission of Adrian Espin. Further photos can be found on the Eastern Yachts web site.

Posted in Bonito class | 1 Comment


Kingcup, designer: Arthur C Robb, builder: Stebbings of BurnhamKingcup was designed by Arthur C Robb and built by Stebbings in 1952 for a Burnham man Mr J.W. Ridsdale. Her construction was reported in the yachting periodicals, as was common at that time,

At Stebbings’ yard in Chapel Road work was proceeding on the 12-ton motor sailer being built for Mr J.W.Ridsdale. The deck and coach roof were in place and the interior fittings were being installed. The engine is a Ford V8 Mercury.
Yachting Monthly May 1952

Mr J.W.Ridsdale’s new 12-ton bmu. ketch rigged motor sailer to be called ‘Kingcup’ was nearing completion at Stebbings yard. She has the fore end of her coach roof raised and this coupled with bright yellow topsides will make her a striking looking yacht when she gets under way.
Yachting Monthly June 1952

My mother, who grew up in Burnham-on-Crouch, remembers seeing Kingcup on the river. She was always painted a striking yellow (Kingcup that is, not my mother).

And Peter Pearson recalls, “I certainly remember her myself. I have a recollection that she was up for a scrub on the pounds in front of the Anchor Hotel. You couldn’t forget her cadmium yellow topsides, she really was a beauty”.

Mr Ridsdale kept Kingcup for quite some time, but then the boat was sold and a subsequent owner, a lady teacher, brought the boat to Spain. After another change of ownership Kingcup passed into the care of the current owner, David Girling.

As mentioned in the Yachting Monthly piece, Kingcup she was originally built as a ketch. The Lloyd’s Register of Yachts records her later conversion to a sloop rig and mention is also made of modifications in 1957 and 1963 that had the effect of increasing her length overall by at least 5′. Details of the 1963 work were reported in Yachting Monthly,

The 12-ton Robb designed yawl ‘Kingcup’ owned by J.W.Ridsdale has been to William King & Sons [Burnham on Crouch] to have the iron keel removed to be replaced by lead and the bottom sheathed in Cascover by Leicester Lovells.

These days Kingcup sails out of Port de Sitges, Catalonia, Spain and is currently (April 2012) for sale.

Thank you to David Girling and Peter Pearson for their help bringing this information together.

Posted in Arthur C Robb | 2 Comments