“Melisande” is a short 22ft whaler, built at Robertsons boat yard on the Holy Loch in 1918/19, has oars & sails and was the ship’s boat for the Royal Navy survey vessel “Melisande”, built on the Clyde also in 1918/19. She weighs approximately 1.2 tons and up to 6 persons can row her, with a cox & lookout forward. She would have been used as the ship’s boat for general duties, plus inshore work as she has a very shallow draft 15-18 inches aft. She has a very heavy centre plate and no engine. She was sold out of the Navy after the First World War having had a short Navy life. She has been in the care of one family from Essex ever since. Her sails were made by Jimmy Lawrence of Brightlingsea in Essex assisted by the last owner who wanted to experience making the sails for her in an evening class Jimmy was involved with at the Nottage Institute at Wivenhoe, Essex on the River Colne. I was offered her 3 years ago, but it has taken that long for the family to part with her. They wanted her to go to someone who would look after & who was into whalers & wooden boats.



I worked at one of 4 shipyards on the river Colne some 55 years back, all the shipyards have now closed. The yard I worked at was called Rowhedge Shipyard & Ironworks one of the last yards to rivet iron to make small ships on the east coast. I started aged fourteen & a half. You could leave school early if you got a job & I was not much good at school, so my early life was all about boats. I was a Sea Scout & the group had been given 3 old whalers which are what I learnt to sail on; the rules about the whaler use was minimum of 6 scouts in the boat, one had to approved as a skipper. At 15 I got approval & we had a whale of a time sailing these old clinker boats up & down the river Colne camping out overnight, campfires, food from mum, old ex-army tents, lifejackets from the Army & Navy stores. We would sail away for one or two nights adventure on the weekends. 


I spent 9 years working in boat yards on the East coast & then retrained for outdoor education over 5 years & worked at sailing centres as an instructor & looked after the boats. Then I was 50 all of a sudden & got offered early retirement. Became a part time boat dealer, bought & sold old wooden boats & traditional fishing boats like Orkney long liners, my boats tend to be towable, so I called myself “Boatsutow”. I am still trading part time & very interested in old wooden working craft. I enjoy working on boats as much as sailing them.


We have just moved to the Haugh of Urr, I am an active 70 & looking for a 50 + crew for Melisande to row & sail her. I am planning to have an outboard bracket aft made and am looking for a metal worker? Any skilled metal workers in the Club? Please get in contact ASAP to make a one-off bracket to suit a canoe stern to one side of the boat aft.

I plan to use a big 5 bladed seagull long-shaft on her which I have arranged to buy in Essex when I go down to collect her on the weekend of the 24th/25th Feb. I have an 18ft flat-bed trailer to transport her on, due to her light construction double diagonal with canvas in between & light ribs she has to be treated gently and would not survive a roller trailer. Once up here at the Haugh of Urr I plan to construct a launch & recovery trailer for her which will support her along her keel length. I have a Toyota Hilux pick-up truck to tow her & which I use part time to create wildlife gardens my other interest, being busy keeps you young at heart!


Dave Hart.


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