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East Coast Gaffers featured boat: ‘Alberta’

Our featured boat for March, 2023 is ‘Alberta’. Quite the talked about smack on the East Coast due to her cleaning up the cups in most races – but what do you know about her? Elly Rule gives us some background with photos by Seamus Masters . . .

‘Alberta’ was originally built by Aldous in Brightlingsea back in 1885 where she was given her registration number of CK318. She’s one of the bigger smacks at 45ft. She was a regular user of the Smack Dock when she was owned by one of the trustees of the Colne Smack Preservation Society. A tough day came when he decided to hang up his dredges and cast them over to new custodians – Barry and Dan Tester who were based in Faversham at Hollowshore.

Having completed a few successful smaller smack rebuilds, they decided to turn their attention to the wonderful ‘Alberta’ back in 2002. After a two year rebuild, she came out of the shed in all her glory and went on to win various races throughout events based around the East Coast. Then a new owner came along, no stranger to smacks as he already owned the beautiful Hall smack ‘Kate’, CK52. With the chance to own a larger seafaring smack and the opportunity encourage others to sail on ‘Alberta’, a young crew was formed and now both smacks race alongside, although very much competitively, against each other.

‘Alberta’ is based in West Mersea and is a regular attendee at not only East Coast events but she has been taken further offshore to take part in the Round the Isle of Wight Race on the South Coast, Cowes Classics and in 2019 the Falmouth Classics, crewed by many Mersea sailors. ‘Alberta’ invites experienced and novice sailors aboard and the crew are keen to give the chance to those who wouldn’t have had the opportunity otherwise to sail a gaff rigged boat. The owner is an active smack enthusiast with plenty of maintenance to keep him busy and with plenty of help from the young crew, having two just makes more the merrier . . . doesn’t it?

So his attitude must be applauded and to encourage the younger generation to get involved – well, hats off to him. I’m sure their cruising plans are just as exciting this year. If you think you would like to give smack sailing a go, there are many smack skippers willing to take new crew on. We have recently welcomed Ash Faire-Ring to the dock on his smack ‘Primrose’, ‘ADC’ are always flying about somewhere, or there’s the more serene type of winter sailing onboard ‘Maria’ who engages in the traditional skill of stowboating.

If it takes your fancy, send your details to the Eastcoaster Editor and we will be in touch.

Words: Elly Rule
Photos: Seamus Masters