For some while and from time to time I always kept a watchful eye out for a little wooden boat. A dream perhaps of those salty sea dogs, long-bearded wise men who played a fiddle, penny whistle or squeezebox, knock back the odd dark rum and sing a happy sea shanty! I'm none of these but the ethos, along with several others, bewitches me.
So it goes to pass that I "finds my little wooden boat and brings it home" as a project for my more leisurely years. "Phyllis" was purchased in 2001 from the brokers Dickies of Bangor, and moved from a rear garden in Bebington, on the Wirral, to lay languishing in a Northwich boatyard on the River Weaver for several years. Although some 22 miles from the sea it's still accessible by river navigation on to the Manchester Ship Canal and hence into the Mersey Estuary.
It's amazing at times, as the boatyard that "Phyllis" was then dry berthed was directly opposite the very place (British Waterways Regional Headquarters) that the previous owner, William Vance Crockett, used to work as the Engineering Superintendent.
We started some work, really just clearing out and removing the old fixtures and fittings. Some professionally commissioned restoration was started which turned out later to be abortive work as when later we decided to restore to her original design! All due to my total inexperience with little wooden boats. Anyway, after some while, the time had come to bring "Phyllis" back to life.
During my procuring of this and that I came across David Moss, a master shipwright of some renown in the best wooden boat building circles. I'd spoken with David a few years before and learned that each year he always has a busy boatshed.
I was also impressed with his approach to taking on apprentices, both male and female, and give them homework, let alone the opportunity to acquire the benefit of his skills and the quality of his workmanship. It was eventually agreed I could dry berth Phyllis in a "line up" in order to get her eventually to the front of the queue to the boatshed. Such is the demand for today's shipwright craftsmen and women!
RMRC Yacht 'AVIS'
An original and very threadbare blueprint of AVIS was used as the basis for the restoration of PHYLLIS. David Moss, master shipwright based at Skippool Creek - Poulton le Fylde, kept AVIS in dry berthing for more than 30 years before she was finally broken up. David managed to uncover an original blueprint of AVIS, on one side the hull construction details, and on the other the sail plan. To say that these are fully working documents would be a travesty, but David has been able to glean some essential information along with a photo or two to help in the restoration of PHYLLIS.
RMRC Yacht 'MYFANWY BACH'
Another Restricted Class, built by Williams & Son who's yard was alongside the RMYC, is depicted in a magnificent oil painting commissioned by the Nesbitt brothers, who owned her from 1921 - 1959 which still takes pride of place on the wall alongside the bar in the Royal Mersey Yacht Clubhouse.
Mersey Maritime Museum has a scale model on display of MYFANWY (BACH) which was made in 1924 by Mr J P Kirkpatrick (who used to sail with the Nesbitts), renovated in 1934 by G R Radcliffe of the West Cheshire Sailing Club. And subsequently donated by R D Nesbitt to Liverpool Museums in 1936. Believed to be the only model ever completed of a Restricted Class boat. It was saved at the last moment from the fires caused during the German Blitz on Liverpool in May 1941 by Mr Leonard Scarth, a Museum security staff member.
From insurance notes, in my archives, I have been able to ascertain that MYFANWY BACH was thought to be ashore under renovation in 1979. She is currently (November 2017) at West Cheshire Sailing Club in restoration.