In reality, and in model form, Hebrides makes a cameo appearance at Kingston Dock, Glasgow in this clip from the early scenes of an enchanting film, alongside much loved actors of the past, Hubert Gregg (Pusey), Alex Mackenzie (Captain MacTaggart), Geoffrey Keen (Mr Campbell, the shipping agent), James Copeland (the Mate) and Paul Douglas (Calvin B. Marshall – voice only here); not forgetting a real Clyde puffer, either Boer or Inca – they shared the title role. Later in the film, Roddy McMillan makes a brief appearance; he would eventually play Neil Munro’s puffer skipper “Para Handy” in the popular 1960s BBC TV series.
The real S.S. Hebrides appears from 2:28. The site of Kingston dock was immediately to the east of the Kingston motorway bridge, almost in the centre of Glasgow, which rather overshadows the only survivor from the “set” depicted below – the magnificent but nowadays rather lonely Cooperative Wholesale Society Building.
Martin Black’s biography of Scottish yacht designer G.L. Watson pays homage to the side of his work that, reading between the lines, he found most worthwhile: improving the design of rescue lifeboats.*
Both the design of lifeboats and their deployment method are geographically informed. In many locations it is not possible to house the vessel near to its launching place; before the march of the internal combustion engine, horse power was required to get it there.
On the Dutch Frisian Island of Ameland, that tradition well outlived the normally considered practical use of the horse as a beast of burden. The memorial at the start of the video is to the 8 horses that drowned on 14 August 1979 while launching Reddingsboot Ameland into the North Sea.
*In his beautifully illustrated biography G.L. Watson – The Art and Science of Yacht Design, Martin Black quotes Watson from the minutes of Royal National Lifeboat Institution investigating UK Parliamentary Select Committee meeting of 27 April 1897:
“I think it is such good work. I am busy making toys for millionaires all the rest of my time, and [my work for the RNLI] is the only work that I really do.”
Although best known for his work with the RNLI, which the company he founded continued through to the design for the relatively recent Arun Class, G.L. Watson also designed lifeboats for other countries, including the sistership steam-hydraulic lifeboats President van Heel (1895) and Prins van Nederlanden (1909) for Zuid-Hollandsche Maatschappij tot Redding van Schipbreukelingen. Both capsized when on duty in extreme coastal conditions, with heavy loss of life. President van Heel went back into service and, as far as we can tell, still exists as a private yacht, perhaps with her original steam engine. Prins van Nederlanden was decommissioned after her tragic misfortune in 1929; it has recently been discovered that she also was converted to a yacht.
The striking Lysistrata’s styling was unconventional. (Hal Sisk)
The G.L. Watson designed and tank-tested twin-screw turbine steam yacht Lysistrata was launched by William Denny & Brothers, Dumbarton, Scotland, on this day in 1900. Such was the attention to detail demanded by her remarkable interior – festooned with evidence of her owner, New York Herald newspaper proprietor James Gordon Bennett Jr’s obsession with the owl – that completion would take until May 1901 at a final cost of over $600,000.
We’ll let the more sober New York press take up the story, without prejudice:
“LYSISTRATA’S TRIAL A SUCCESS
“Mr. Bennett’s Hansome Yacht Gives Entire Satisfaction to Owner, Designer, and Builders.
“LONDON, March 16. – James Gordon Bennett’s new steam yacht Lysistrata, designed by George L. Watson and built by W. Denny & Brothers, has just completed her trials, and is said to have given the greatest satisfaction to her owner, designer and builders. Over an eighty-five-knots course the Lysistrata showed a mean speed of 19½ knots, and without forced draught 16½ knots. The yacht handles admirably, has twin screws, and 6,500 horse power. During her high-speed trial the machinery acted faultlessly. There was no heating or complications of any kind, and so cool were the bearings at the end of the trial that the Chief Engineer said he was prepared to drive her another 300 miles without fear of the results.
“The Lysistrata is destined to excite much comment when she appears completed in May. She is of 2800 tons, has a perfectly straight stem, has a storm deck fore and aft, a single huge funnel, with one mast abaft it, and one square yard for signalling purposes. The interior arrangements are quite unique, and generally speaking, she is unlike any yacht ever built. She has no bowsprit, but a feature at the stern and bow are large owls with electric eyes, amid a scrollwork of mistletoe. More striking than all else in the yacht are the anchors, which are stockless, like those used on board warships, the shaft being drawn into the side of the ship. The hull has the appearance of being made out of a solid piece of metal, so highly is it polished and beautifully finished.”
Lysistrata at Cannes with her crew uniform hanging out to dry in the morning sun. It is said that at times she had up to 100 crew, including a masseur and, presumably, a cow hand… (www.delcampe.net)
The owl figurehead is clearly seen in this photo of Lysistrata at Villefranche. Gordon Bennett died at nearby Beaulieu-sur-Mer in May 1918. (www.triptod.com)
Lysistrata was sold in c1916 to the Imperial Russian Navy, apparently requisitioned by the Royal Navy during the first world war, then returned to Russia and perhaps not broken up until as relatively recently as 1966. She is a very special representative of the G.L. Watson steam yacht designs of the 1890s and early 1900s that may be considered the true predecessors of today’s “megayachts”. Doesn’t every self-respecting megayacht berth a milk cow in a padded stall, and stow a De Dion Bouton car at the ready?
Naval architecture is by Dykstra Naval Achitects, with launching and completion set for 2016. Holland Jachtbouw of Zaandam, Netherlands, has secured the project contract, with the inevitable aluminium hull (described in the blurb as “traditional”) to be constructed by Shipyard Made in Moerdijk. Interiors will be by deVosdeVries Design and wood masts and spars by Ventis Scheepstimmerwerk of Enkhuizen, who last year undertook various shipwrighting necessities and the making of a new mast for the Fife 8-Metre Saskia.
We’ll be following this project with great interest. Hopefully our hero, designer of the original and the subject of Martin Black’s wonderful biography, G.L. Watson, will eventually get a mention, and they will see sense and do away with that ugly cockpit coaming; perhaps in a superyacht it can be retractable…
[Update 9 September 2014: There has obviously been a lot of interest in this project, reflected in an increasing number of internet search engine results, but for some unknown reason the original Rainbow’s launch date is universally stated as 1897: a year too early. According to our author, Martin Black, she was launched from D.&W. Henderson’s Meadowside Shipyard, Partick, Glasgow (on the opposite bank of the River Kelvin from the wonderful Riverside Museum) on 7 May 1898.]
Keel laying of Rainbow II / Hamburg II at Sheepswerf Made, Holland, August 2014. Nobody is admitting her as a true replica, but which name from the famous G.L. Watson-designed, D&W Henderson of Partick, Glasgow-built 1898 schooner will she take? (Photo: MegaYacht News)
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.
Copies of the Nappa leather bound limited edition of G.L. Watson – The Art and Science of Yacht Design by Martin Black have arrived in Cowes: now in stock at K1Britannia, 16a High Street.
As Irish and Scottish sailing teams based at Cowes, Isle of Wight, this week attempt to carry off the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s prestigious Brewin Dolphin Commodores’ Cup, little do they know, we imagine, what an important role some of their countrymen played in shaping sailing and yacht racing as we know it today.
Just arrived at K1Britannia, on Cowes High Street, are copies of the Nappa leather bound limited edition of G.L. Watson – The Art and Science of Yacht Design, Martin Black’s award-winning, intensely researched and beautifully illustrated biography of Scotsman, G.L. Watson, designer of the royal racing yacht Britannia (1893-1936), as well as four America’s Cup challengers and countless racing and cruising yachts – and steam yachts, the superyachts of their time.
The special edition of this unique collector’s piece – an expertly crafted yachting book like no other – is limited to 40 copies.
K1Britannia also hold stock of the regular edition, together with Hal Sisk’s fascinating examination of the previously little-known crucial role played by 19th Century Irish sailors in the codification of the sport of sailing: Dublin Bay – The Cradle of Yacht Racing.
It seems strange to be thinking about Christmas in the heat of July… but you know what we mean: these books make wonderful gifts.
It’s a busy week in Cowes, but when is it not. At the same time as a multinational fleet of cutting-edge modern racing yachts contests the Brewin Dolphin Commodores’ Cup, the Royal London Yacht Club is running its popular Charles Stanley Cowes Classics Week, a celebration of the variety of yachts now quite sensibly considered classic – such as the early 60s “classic plastic” Nicholson 36s, an eclectic group of classic one design dayboat classes – including the Loch Longs, which hail from the Firth of Clyde but also sail at Aldeburgh, Suffolk – and, of course, the Old Gaffers.
[UPDATE26 July 2014:
“Ireland’s three boat team, comprising Anthony O’Leary’s Ker 39 Antix, Marc Glimcher’s Ker 40 Catapult and Michael Boyd and Niall Dowling’s Grand Soleil 43 Quokka 8, today scored the most comprehensive victory in the 22 year history of the Commodores’ Cup.” Read more at Yachts & Yachting.
And Team Scotland did much better than their 6th place overall suggests, finishing only 15.5 points off 2nd overall.
Once heads have cleared, perhaps the big question is: will Team Ireland succeed this time in persuading the Royal Ocean Racing Club in agreeing to a home waters defence two years hence, and if so, will battle commence on the waters of Dublin Bay, or the approaches to Cork Harbour?]
Snippets of news slipping out online more than strongly suggest that one of the most exciting of classic yacht replica projects is well underway: a reincarnation of G.L. Watson’s design for the fabulous and fast schooner Rainbow, later Hamburg, originally built at Glasgow, Scotland, in 1898.
If my imagination and enthusiasm haven’t got the better of me, this is something students of yachting history – in particular from a Scottish point of view – have been eagerly anticipating for a very long time; in my case, since the days when such vessels could only be imagined from the monochrome pages of books, and framed Beken photographs.
Speculation began yesterday when North Sails New Zealand posted the image above at their Facebook page: a “Classic Schooner project” undergoing wind tunnel rig testing. By last night it was obvious something big was afoot, with a quick search revealing that yacht builders Holland Jachtbouw, of Zaandam, Holland, are building new halls to accommodate large upcoming projects due to commence construction later this year, with naval architecture by Gerard Dijkstra & Partners of Amsterdam.
Presumably the G.L. Watson & Co. Ltd. office is also involved; they hold the original drawings. Their input would hopefully keep things authentic looking on the outside…
Rainbow in her first season, moored (we think off Rothesay*) on the Clyde, 1898. (Yacht Racing on the Clyde 1898)
Rainbow (154ft/ 46.9m long on deck) was built by D.&W. Henderson of Partick, Glasgow in 1898 for Turkey red dyeing heir, and Member of Parliament for Ayr Burghs, Charles Orr-Ewing. After his death aged 43 from heart failure in December 1903, she was purchased by the German syndicate club, Hamburgische Verein Seefahrt, joined the golden era of schooner racing in the south-western Baltic and came second to Charlie Barr at the helm of the three masted-schooner Atlantic in the 1905 Kaiser’s Cup transatlantic race from New York to The Lizard, in which Atlantic set a 100 year course record.
Rainbow is one of the stars of the remarkable 1899 Clyde regatta film footage that can be seen at our web-site here, one of the oldest known moving image clips of yacht racing, filmed at Hunter’s Quay on the Clyde by Belfast whiskey distiller Robert Mitchell, and featuring two of G.L. Watson’s Big Class designs. The web site is also the place to read more about Martin Black’s G.L. Watson biography, G.L. WATSON – THE ART AND SCIENCE OF YACHT DESIGN and to even purchase it securely online.
[Edit, 30 June 2014: overall length (on deck) corrected from 133ft/ 40.5m to 154ft/ 46.9m]
*[Edit, 6 July 2014: believed location of Rainbow in photo changed from Gourock to Rothesay. Thanks to our Twitter follower @MarineBlast]
[Update, 27 July 2014: a rendering of Rainbow II from asia-pacificboating.com. Pity about the boatyard buildings cluttering the view, but you don’t get beautiful yachts without ugly boatyards these days…]
SY Hermione in New York waters, 27 July 1895, 24 days after a passage stopover at St. John’s, Newfoundland. The Red Ensign, New York YC burgee at the foremast and swan houseflag at the mainmast confirm the photo was taken while on charter from her Scottish owners to railroad and property millionaire, Robert Goelet. (J.S. Johnston/ Library of Congress)
When the elegant G.L. Watson-designed steam yacht Hermione arrived at the Newfoundland port of St. John’s on 2 July 1895 on passage from Gourock, Firth of Clyde, to New York, she naturally turned heads.
The seafaring citizens of such a place would want to know her vital statistics in great detail. Their evening newspaper, The Evening Telegram, duly obliged, leaving us with this remarkable account of the combination of luxury, and technology – especially in the generation and storing of electricity – employed in a typical Watson-designed, Clyde built steam yacht of the early 1890s:
THE STEAM YACHT “HERMIONE”
From Gourock to New York Calls Here According to Arrangement.
The steam yacht Hermione, 17 men, Capt. Colin Mitchell, 7½ days out from Gourock, on the Clyde, bound to New York, called here last evening, at 5 o’clock, according to the arrangement at the time of sailing, and is taking a little coal. Upon her entrance into port she was much admired by our citizens. She is built on the lines of a model by Mr. G.L. Watson, of Glasgow, the designer of the
Great Racer “Valkyrie”
– which leaves Glasgow within two weeks to compete for the American cup – and is considered his masterpiece for a steam yacht. The Hermione is a steel boat, was built at Paisley in 1891, and is owned by the Messrs. Allan, Mr. James A. Allan, of 25 Bothwell Street, Glasgow, being managing owner. Her descriptive figures are:- 154.1 feet long; 22.7 feet broad; 13 feet depth of hold; 99 net, and 270 gross, tonnage. She has 120 nominal, and 1,100 indicated, horse-power. The engines are quadruple expansion; the boiler is driven by forced draught at a
Pressure of 200 Pounds to the Square Inch.
A speed of about 15 knots the hour is obtained. The steamer is called after a character in Shakespeare’s play of “The Winter’s Tale” – “Hermione, Queen of Leontes, King of Sicilia.” The saloon goes the full breadth of the steamer, and extends the other way sufficient to give a square and very spacious saloon indeed. All the figures of the play: Mamillius, Camillo, Sicilian gentlemen, etc. are represented.
Some Carved in Wood,
others cut in the glass of the “ports.” The saloon is furnished in mahogany. There are eight staterooms for passengers, two of them being double berths. There are three berths done in olive wood. Four of the staterooms are provided with hot and cold baths, under the floor, and two over the floor. The vessel has electric light, generated and
Stored into accumulators,
sufficient to supply 24 hours without use of the engine. There is an electric launch, 27 feet long, and, should anything get wrong with this electrical apparatus on board the steamer, the machinery of the launch would generate sufficient electricity of the demand. In a word, regarding the saloon, it is pretty well fitted in accord with the palace, characters and lives of “The Winter’s Tale.” The yacht has been chartered for 12 months to Mr. Goelet, a wealthy gentleman with business concerns in New York, Philadelphia, etc. He will use her for pleasure purposes, no doubt, doing much sailing down South.
Hermione would never return to Scotland. Property and railroad magnate Robert Goelet’s charter resulted in the commission of a much larger steam yacht of his own, designed by Watson. In fact, in the autumn of 1895, Watson had excused himself from the contentious final stage of Lord Dunraven’s Valkyrie III America’s Cup challenge to negotiate orders for four large steam yachts from American clients, including Robert Goelet’s Nahma, and his brother, Ogden’s Mayflower, both eventually built by J. & G. Thomson’s Clydebank Shipyard, later to become famous as the John Brown yard of Cunarders fame.
After a few years in private US ownership, Hermione experienced a long naval career as the gunboat, later patrol yacht, USS Hawk, seeing action at Cuba in 1898 during the Spanish-American War.
We might think it very modern for a yacht of 1891 to be fitted with such an advanced electrical system, but this coincides with the beginning of practical electric cars – which would soon gain rapid acceptance – and no expense was spared on these forbears of the modern super yachts. The vehicular land speed record was held by an electric car until 1902.
The demands of power-greedy comforts afloat still continue to challenge yacht designers: check out Tako van Ineveld, of Holland Jachtbouw, talking at 14:18 below about the challenges presented by a replica of the Starling Burgess-designed J-Class America’s Cup defender, Rainbow (has it really taken us 121 years to move ahead so relatively slowly?):
Hermione was launched 23 April 1891 at a nowadays unlikely site for a shipyard: on the banks of the River Cart, Paisley, by Fleming & Ferguson for the shipowning cousins James A. and Richard G. Allan of the Allan Line, partly as tender to their ground-breaking 10-Rater racing yacht Dora, built the same year by James Adam of Gourock to G.L. Watson’s design. Hermione’s steward was Archibald McNicol, previously heard of here as the 2nd Cook aboard the 1887 America’s Cup challenger Thistle: my great-grandfather.
Read more about these early, quite hi-tech versions of the “super yachts”, and their colourful owners, in Martin Black’s beautifully written, produced and illustrated biography, G.L. WATSON – THE ART AND SCIENCE of YACHT DESIGN, which can be purchased online at our website here, and at a growing list of other online and over the counter outlets here.
[Update 28 March 2015: Grateful thanks to Maureen Borland – author of The Allan Family: Scottish / Canadian Shipowners (2013) – for pointing out that an earlier version of this post erroneously described James A. and Richard G. Allan as brothers instead of cousins.]
As Women’s Match Racing World Championship competitors prepare for a second lovely Cork Harbour sailing day at the Royal Cork (the world’s oldest yacht club), meet Gipsy and Brunette of 1893. G.L. Watson designed them specifically for racing against each other. Were they the first match racers?
Gipsy and Brunette match racing on the Firth of Clyde, 1893. (Yachting World)
We wrote about their story, and the replica presently being built in Brittany by Hubert Stagnol for a Singapore based customer here.
In-build photo of a replica of possibly the first ever match racing yacht design – minus lead keel. (Yachting Classique)
(Martin Black collection)
Is this another feather in the fedora of Glasgow yacht designer to the world, G.L. Watson (1851-1904)?
Martin Black’s beautifully written, produced and illustrated biography, G.L. WATSON – THE ART AND SCIENCE of YACHT DESIGN can be purchased online at our website here, and at a growing list of other online and over the counter outlets here.
“I am jumping up and down for joy having the book, if only you knew how excited I am.” – John Lammerts van Bueren. 8mR Class Secretary.
We’ve been spoiled rotten of late by wonderful footage of G.L. Watson’s masterpiece, Britannia, from the recently fully released Pathe archive.
This, from 1931, is particularly fine – and rare because she’s in passagemaking mode: the galley stove pipe and her huge forepeak ventilator are in position forward of the mast; her beautiful gig is hoisted in the davits. Who is that at the helm dressed for the city? How big is that trysail? And the camera can get close alongside because she’s not racing.
Britannia was “Clydebuilt” by D. & W. Henderson, Partick, Glasgow in 1893. She features on the front cover of Martin Black’s biography of her designer: G.L. WATSON – THE ART AND SCIENCE OF YACHT DESIGN. http://peggybawnpress.com .