Speedy Shipbuilding

Martin Black began researching the life and work of G.L Watson over 25 years ago. His book, G.L. Watson – The Art and Science of Yacht Design is a fitting tribute to quarter of a century of spare time slog, much of it spent on the road, in dusty archives and silent libraries, often searching for a needle in a haystack when that needle might not have been there in the first place. But in recent years, the number of superb online resources to assist the researcher, and reduce fuel bills, has multiplied.

After posting Steam Yacht Racing yesterday, we found the following about the San Diego-based, Clyde built steam yacht Medea at the wonderful Graces Guide site, and her actual launch date (August 29, 1904) at the equally wonderful Clydesite.

So our “reputedly to be ready in time for the ‘Glorious 12th'” wasn’t quite right, but her owner, having obviously made a last minute impulse shopping decision in May, must have been rather pleased to take delivery of his 134ft/41m steam yacht, launched – with steam up – only 51 days after the keel was laid. And still in time for the shooting season.

From A Shipbuilding History 1750-1932: a Record of the Business founded About 1750 By Alexander Stephen at Burghead and Subsequently Carried on at Aberdeen Arbroath Dundee and Glasgow, via Graces Guide:

“In 1904, Captain W. MacAllister Hall, of Torrisdale, sent out an enquiry for the construction of a steam yacht of 137 tons, to be delivered within three months, in time for the shooting season. This contract was secured by the Stephens, as they were the only builders who would undertake to construct the yacht in so short a period. As there was not a great deal of work on hand at Linthouse when the contract was obtained, the Firm was able to push the order through so well that only fifty-one working days elapsed between the laying of the keel and the completion of the vessel. She was launched with her engines and boilers on board, steam up, and complete in every detail. Two days later she was handed over to her owner, who expressed his complete satisfaction — especially in receiving the yacht in time for his requirements. This feat the Firm regards as one of its records in shipbuilding.”

SY Medea, 1904Clydesite

SY Medea, 1904.

Resources like Graces Guide and Clydesite, more often than not created by enthusiastic volunteers, are a superb addition to the tools available to the researcher. The combination of their use alongside more traditional sources in a beautifully produced hard copy book that can be read away from the glare of a screen means that publications like Martin’s, and Hal Sisk’s new Dublin Bay – The Cradle of Yacht Racing (available to purchase online imminently) can be better informed than ever.


G.L. Watson – The Art and Science of Yacht Design is something to be cherished, and to be left lying around for your friends to be amazed at your high standard of aesthetics and cultural nous.

And the information it contains will still be easily available in centuries to come without any artificial interface, such as whatever it is that brings this ‘post’ to you.

[Thanks to David Asprey and Stuart Cameron of Clydesite Clydebuilt Database for Medea launch date and image.]


Martin Black’s beautifully illustrated and written biography, G.L. Watson – The Art and Science of Yacht Design, can be purchased online at our website www.peggybawnpress.com, from Amazon UK and Amazon USA, and from the bookstores listed here.

~Iain McAllister~


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About Peggy Bawn Press

496pg biography of Scottish yacht designer, George Lennox Watson (1851-1904). Significant book on the history of yacht design & the development of modern yachting. Beautifully illustrated. Many photographs previously unpublished.
This entry was posted in Clyde yachting, Clydebuilt, Dublin Bay - The Cradle of Yacht Racing, Firth of Clyde, G.L. Watson, Glasgow, object of desire, other yacht designers, River Clyde, shipbuilding, shipyards, Steam Yacht, yacht design, yachting history and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Speedy Shipbuilding

  1. Murshed Alam-Ahmed says:

    The record in “speedy shipbuilding” is held by Mr. Henry J Kaiser – he built 10,000 Liberty Ships in 4 years. The record is 11 days for a Liberty Ship of about 10,000 tons DWT.

  2. Quite a record! I believe that many of these ships enjoyed a long life.

    Are the remaining Clyde shipyards about to go the way of Stephens, Dennys etc? http://gcaptain.com/shipyards-doomed-scots-vote/ Or is it just political sabre-rattling?

    In Victorian and Edwardian times, G.L. Watson had a remarkable choice available to him of Clyde shipyards to build his larger designs for beautiful, fast and efficient racing, cruising and steam yachts, many of them merely a short walk from his drawing office.

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