By: Joe Henry King (1974)
Introduction by: Alan J Dunn
(chairman & editor Vintage Wooden Boat Association)
In 1988, Jack Hilton of Accrington wrote to me about the Royal Mersey Restricted Class and his AVIS in particular. In one of his letters, he remarks “AVIS does not now have the original cabin but has been built out to the sides. She was altered about 1958 at Wardley’s Creek, Fleetwood, I think. I do like the look of them as they were in the ‘Class’ days, but to put her back would mean very cramped conditions.
She was designed by a chap called Willmer who pushed the class and AVIS was the prototype. She was mentioned in YM Round the Coast section, North West Area, in February 88, and I got quite a lot of feedback”. Among others, he had a call from a chap called John King, son of Joe Henry King, and thereby received copies of JH King’s logs from 1933 to 38, and some history of the class, as follows:
|The Royal Mersey Restricted Class Cutters|
By J H King 1974
|1906||AVIS||GH Wilmer||Williams & Sons||26ft 8in||23ft 9in||8ft 4in||3ft 7in|
|1906||IKINOO||Rowlands||Rowlands||27ft||23ft 9in||8ft 4in||3ft 7in|
|1906||PUFFIN||Rowlands||Rowlands||27ft||23ft 8in||8ft 5in||3ft 5in|
|1906||MYFANWY BACH||A Mylne||Samuel Bond & Sons||27ft||24ft||8ft 3in||3ft 1in|
|1906||DABCHICK *||C Livingstone||Rowlands||27ft||24ft||8ft 3in||3ft 0in|
|1907||ETHILDRA **||A Mylne||Samuel Bond & Sons||27ft||24ft||8ft 5in||3ft 2in|
|1908||FROSETTE||A Mylne||Samuel Bond & Sons||27ft||24ft||8ft 3in||3ft 1in|
|1913||MINK II ***||Crossfields||Crossfields||27ft||24ft||8ft 5in||4ft 4in|
|1913||PHYLLIS ****||GH Wilmer||Samuel Bond & Sons||26ft||23ft 5in||8ft 1in||4ft 1in|
|1935||CORAL ****||A Mylne||Enterprise||-||-||-||-|
Others below I've added to this table from research and feedback in 2010. Further research and verification required.
* DABCHICK was shipped to Buenos Aires before 1912, and subsequently successively named VIKING, COSMOS and EINDRACHT.
* * ETHILDRA became FLORENIEN and then IRENE II.
* * * MINK II became EINNA
* * * * I've added these yachts to this table from research and feedback in 2010.
Further research and verification required.
All carried a sail area of between 530 - 550 sq feet. The length seems to have established at 27ft LOA and 24ft LWL with the 1906 boats, of which I understand AVIS to be the prototype, and belonging to GH Willmer the enthusiast, an RMYC member, who pushed the class. The Mylne boats were of slightly less beam. The class was eventually adopted by the West Cheshire Sailing Club, with Mylne as their only designer.
(Editors Note: THIS explains it! My grandfather carefully explained to me that all the class had to be designed by Milne, and I never knew any different until this manuscript arrived in 1988!)
There was another Samuel Bond built MYFANWY yacht built the same year, a much larger vessel, not built to class. The RMYC Restricted Class boat was actually called MYFANWY BACH, but the additional BACH was never heard until the owner Pat Nesbit passed his 10th pint, after which he would solemnly pronounce the full name.
IKINOO was the hard weather boat, particularly to windward, while MYFANWY always had the edge in light weather, spinnaker went to the hounds. Joe Wallace (IKINOO) bought a masthead spinnaker and made the mistake of sailing up to Rock Ferry with it set while the Midnight Isle of Man race handicappers were watching from the Tranmere SC windows. He didn’t win THAT YEAR!
IKY (IKINOO) was always launched with impeccable topsides, but after her first hard plug to windward showed all her forward seams. My description ‘Like a five-barred gate’ didn’t go down too well with Joe Wallace! In 1934 Tyler stiffened up her mast partners and mitigated this somewhat. PUFFIN was the best built – secret fastened topsides, teak trim, oak coachroof beams picked out in varnish, scrubbed deck etc.
FLORENIEN (originally ETHILDRA ) had a clumsy counter added in 1930, and I think her centreboard removed. Post Hitler war she was rebuilt by Rudge Davies with built up topsides, an improved counter, Bermudian sloop rigged and the centreboard replaced.
MINK II, (EINNA to the class), had a weaker sectioned transom, and was almost fishing boat built, and was always looked upon as non-competitive. Her engine installation looked to me to have been original and not a later addition as they were in MYFANWY, FLORENIEN, AVIS and AYESHA.
Disappointed of buying IKINOO in, I think, 1935, the Poynton Brothers had CORAL built by Enterprise. Very much a copy of the Milne boats, but without a centreboard with a deeper keel. She sailed well against them and looked identical.
In the late thirties, MYFANWY was cut down to a 390 sq ft sloop by scrapping the topsail and jib and recutting the mainsail to give a higher peak. With the addition of an engine, she thus became an even sadder travesty of the original conception than the mutilated ETHILDA, which her owner tells me, as IRENE II was a lovely cruiser.
IKINOO and PUFFIN had straight stems which, on the same waterline, allowed rather more transom height than those with a round in the stem, which cut down skin friction. We called IKY ‘The long snooted rule cheater’, for an obvious reason. There is a legend of her winning the Isle of Man race because there was a half hitch on the topsail halyard at the spiderband pin, and because it was a new Italian Hemp fall, the skipper refused to allow it to be cut. There was also a reference on this trip to ‘seventy buckets of water’!
Once when dropping PUFFIN’s topsail at sea, the sheet threw a half hitch around the gaff-end, being ‘Ambitious’. I was the one who climbed the hoops and out along the gaff across the peak halyards to clear it. We got a squall, she lay down, and some fool let the mainsheet run. The mainsail flogged and I came down its belly to land feet first on the coachroof.
Things moved fast then. I had the helm shoved into my hand and the owner dived down the companionway like a ferret down a rabbit hole, to see if I had bust any of the deck beams! I carried out an acrimonious inquisition with complete lack of results as to who had let the sheet go. I got no damned sympathy at all!
One of them, I think AYESHA, parted her centreplate hoist wire. They were cased in and very liable to be neglected, and as their plate had no limit stops it dangled from its pin, became bent, and would not come up when underrun. She had to be craned out in Liverpool docks. There is a lesson here – I’ve never rigged a centre plate without a stop since!
In PUFFIN, we once found the putty of Manesty Mount, a muddy bight just upstream from the Eastham Locks entrance to the Manchester Ship canal, and dried out, starboard side up, and to the south, on a hot sunny day. A couple of months later we found the port side clean and the other side grassy and showing seed barnacles. Thus we learn that the arsenical International ‘Kobe’ antifouling doesn’t like sunlight.
IKINOO we were told, is a Sioux Indian word meaning Little white mouse which runs over the waves, ie foam. I made or designed the racing flag a white mouse on a blue ground. It didn’t turn out too convincingly, and the crew always referred to it as ‘Joe’s Rat’, most disrespectful, I thought.
Again aboard IKINOO, I was alone on the moorings north of New Brighton ferry stage with a strong flood running up the river and was engaged in threading a rubber pipe anti-chafe fender on the mooring chain. I had removed the buoy rope and had her on two or three turns of the chain around the Samson post. A tug went past, as always, too close and too fast. IKINOO didn’t roll. She WAGGED! and I heard the chain running out! (Editors note: my copy of the manuscript ends there, perhaps the memory was too painful?)
Joe Henry King 1974
Published courtesy of Alan J Dunn
Vintage Wooden Boat Association
Newsletter No.10 Autumn 1992