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East Coast Gaffers featured boat: ‘Bonita’

Our featured boats for the next few months will be East Coast participants in the OGA60 Round Britain Cruise. Six boats are registered to set sail from Ramsgate on Monday 1 May, 2023.
‘Barbarossa’, built 1976, 49’ gaff ketch, home port Benfleet
‘Bonita’, built 1888, 35’ gaff yawl, home port Harty Ferry
‘Cygnet of London’, built 1906, 40’ gaff yawl, home port Fambridge
‘Lahloo’, built 2012, 26’ gaff cutter, home port West Mersea
‘Mutual Friend’, built 1983, gaff cutter, home port West Mersea
‘Onward of Ito’, built 1923, gaff cutter, home port Greenwich

In April, we’re featuring the oldest boat in the OGA fleet, 135 years old this year. She’s been sailed by our Association President, Mike Beckett’s family, for four generations. The Crossfield-built ‘Bonita’ took part in the OGA50 Round Britain Challenge in 2013, celebrating her own 125th birthday. We’ll be bringing some more articles about ‘Bonita’ during April before she departs Ramsgate for the OGA60 Cruise on 1 May, 2023.

‘Bonita’: OGA50 Race, Cowes, 2013

‘Bonita’ has been in the Beckett family for more than half of her long life. Mike’s father, Allan Beckett, purchased ‘Bonita’ in 1936. ‘Bonita’ is 35 feet long, weighs 9 tons and was built by Crossfields at Arnside in 1888. Most boats surviving from those days are old fishing boats, but ‘Bonita’ was built as a yacht. She is a very elegant old lady, but there are few luxuries when living aboard. She has been in the Beckett family for over 80 years so we know a fair bit about her maintenance – what has and what hasn’t been done. She is largely original, and unlike many old boats she has never been rebuilt. She seems sound but is definitely old.

In preparation for the OGA50 Round Britain Challenge, I decided to have work done to strengthen the hull. The planks were fastened to the frames mostly with iron nails. The boat seemed strong enough and didn’t leak, but I knew that a few of the nails were not holding properly. The rest seemed OK as far as anyone could tell but they were all just as old. Most wooden boats get refastened before they get to their second century: it would have to be done one day. So I decided to get her refastened by the proper shipwrights in Alan Staley’s yard in Faversham. Hundreds of bronze screws were driven in next to the iron fastenings. I had wondered about doing the job myself, but when I visited the yard and found four people working on her at once I realised that it would have taken me an awful lot of weekends.

Bonita’s Blog by Mike Beckett