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East Coast featured boat: ‘Bonita’, looks back 85 years

Our featured boat for April is ‘Bonita’. She will set sail from Ramsgate, Kent at the end of April, 2023 as a member  of the OGA60 Round Britain Cruise fleet. Ten years ago, she left her berth in Faversham, Kent on 26 April 2013 to take part in the OGA50 Round Britain Challenge. ‘Bonita’ has been in the Beckett family for more than half of her long life. Mike’s father, Allan Beckett, purchased her in 1936. Watch the archive movie showing a weekend sail in the yacht ‘Bonita’ on the river Thames from Erith Yacht Club to Holehaven and back. Original 8mm cine film by Allan Beckett.

From 1937 to 1965 ‘Bonita’ was based at Erith Yacht Club spending the winters in a mud berth dug into the saltings and summers on a swinging mooring. In 1937 there’s a photo of her up on the scrubbing dock with the EYC club ship ‘Garson I’, a converted Thames barge behind. She has clearly just been painted, no doubt the reason for the photo. The smart paint wouldn’t have lasted very long, after a week or two on her mooring the topsides would have been smeared with oil. 

Yachting clothing has undergone dramatic changes. The photo shows Dad’s pre-war sailing outfit. By the time the war had finished he had smartened up a bit and was sailing in his demob suit but by 1960, nothing much had changed in terms of clothing. The 8mm cine film was taken on one of our weekend trips down to Holehaven; you can see that my ‘yachting jacket’ consisted of a normal raincoat. As I remember the only wet weather oilskins we had aboard were a very stiff and not very waterproof PVC ensemble complete with sou’wester. In the film ‘Bonita’ is sailing under her last suit of cotton sails, she got her first  terylene suit in1964. If stowed away wet the cotton sails would go mouldy, a constant concern. As was blowing the sails out; we spent more than one Saturday evening at anchor hand stitching repairs so that we could sail home on Sunday.

‘Bonita’ yawl’s blog