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East Coast Gaffers featured boat: ‘Onward of Ito’

Our featured boat for July, ‘Onward of Ito’ is another centenarian, also taking part in the OGA60 Round Britain Cruise. Built in 1923 by W Mollett of Southampton she was purchased in 2019 by Martin Goodrich when he sold ‘Gwenili’. Both Martin and ‘Gwenili’ are well-known members of the East Coast Gaffers. ‘Onward of Ito’ is a gaff cutter, 25’ built as an inshore fishing boat on Itchen Ferry lines, commissioned by Alfred Parker, landlord of the Marsh Tavern. Her unusual name is due to the fact that his nickname was ITO. Converted to a yacht following her fishing career, she underwent a big restoration by Traditional Sail in 2000.

When it was clear that ‘Gwenili’ was sold, my wife posed the question, ‘so what are you going to do now?’ She explored the Internet to find a suitable smaller boat to fulfil more modest ambitions, something to take you into your 80’s. It didn’t take long. “Have a look at this, a 1923 24ft Itchen Ferry sailing yacht called ‘Onward of Ito’ in excellent condition.” We visited on 26 March, my birthday and I’m impressed: the hull is in good condition, the equipment top of the range, the varnish sparkles, the interior is spectacular, the cockpit a good size for sailing with grandchildren and its all there! The engine and sails are old and probably need to be replaced, there had been lots of insurance work because of storm damage in 2016 . . . I put my offer to the agent, its very low but next day the offer was accepted and the fun started.

The vessel seemed astonishingly well equipped with the latest electronics, a heater, a fridge a toilet of shiny brass, items I was not used to, but they were not all working! Here I was with a beautiful historic boat with bits not working and she’s not ready for sea, so I decided to appoint skilled services. I commissioned the new starter motor and report on electronics, planning my first sail to participate in Yarmouth Gaffers Festival. We joined in with The Gaffers and sailed about in a race with no wind but strong tides, we got the topsail up thanks to Ben and after the race had a very pleasant sail. I was buoyed up and extremely pleased. The next stage was to commission the services of an Engineer and Electrician to work with me on my return to get her going so I could sail to Greenwich. The mountings were replaced, alignment checked, tightened belts, servicing completed, replaced exhaust elbow. The B&G GPS plotter card installed checked working re connecting depth and speed meter were serviced, the wiring of the switch board were reconfigured so they made sense and that both sets of nav lights were repaired. All was good ready for sea. My stay in Lymington was extremely pleasant for me as the water was alive with sailing and sailors. As people passed by they stopped and admired ‘Onward’ engaging in conversation about the merit of gaffer sailing.

I was joined by my good friend  and top crew Kevin and we set off on Friday at 0500hrs taking the tide to Selsey Bill, motorsailing as the wind was light and we wanted to get back by at least Monday. So on through the night by midday we stopped at Ramsgate for three hours for fuel ,water and to tighten the engine belts. We managed to get two sailing sessions without the iron horse and I was made up by her performance. I can’t wait to improve her abilities and get some new foresails  and reduce the drag of the prop. There was another reason to get bak asap to GYC as on Sunday morning there was a race for cruisers and we fancied it. We arrived at 0230 hrs Sunday  with a passage time of 45.30 hrs. We awoke prepared ship went to briefing were given two Club volunteers to crew, tightened the engine belts again. Then at 0800 we were off over the line through the Barrier and on to Tilbury and back. There were three boats in it, all Gaffers ‘Lily’, ‘Rosebud’ and ‘Onward of Ito’. It was great fun. ‘Lily’ was the winner but ‘Onward’ was first over the finish line after battling with ‘Rosebud’.

Martin Goodrich, first published in OGA Gaffers Log, October 2019