In Ferro-Cement (page 3)

The build and then rebuild (ferro-sheathing) of


A gaff rigged Essex sailing 'Oyster Smack'.

72ft from bowsprit end to boom end, carvel built in 1883.

Story and pictures by Colin Brookes


 Fitted with an engine, her famous mast shorter by a third after a lightning strike (she motored in to Mersea Quarters with a rescued German airman tied to it in 1941), her foredeck rebuilt after an unexploded arial torpedo ripped through it in the the First World War, her rig removed and replaced with steel derricks, and about 7 ft cut off her counter-stern. This was 'Priscilla', in 1974 preparing for her last illfated working voyage. Heading up the English Channel loaded with 8 tons of native oysters dredged up in the Solent area. Her port side including the covering board opened up and seperated from the deck and beams by more than a foot off Ramsgate. Luckily the crew managed to beach her and remove the valuable cargo. After temporary repairs she continued her voyage round to the East coast, where she was laid up until I bought her in 1975.


By 1997 I had ripped the engine out, rebuilt her counter stern, replaced many planks, repaired her decks and rails, doubled up broken frames,  designed a new rig and made new mast and spars. a calm 'wing and wing', and sporting a water-sail below the boom. Below....4 reefs in and triced-up, running down the East coast to Kent in a good blow.

In the early 80's I sold her to a young German who unfortunately neglected her.

Leaving her to swing at anchor for months on end, she dragged in a blow,

and ended up straddling a small creek breaking her back (both keel and keelson), and

springing many hull and deck planks. An ex crew member of mine heard the wreck

was up for sale (complete with allher gear). Lacking the finance for an almost

total rebuild he approached me with a request to ferro-cement sheath her (if she

could be purchased for a song). The yard where she was being stored stated they would

break her up if not sold within a few weeks.With the obvious answer that if I did not she

would probably end her days almost immediately, I agreed. The counter-stern

had to be jacked up by almost 2 ft to put shape back in to her, and after 6 weeks

on the hard, she was sheathed and re-commissioned. When re-launched,

we had to add almost 2 tons of extra ballast to bring her down to her old marks.