Skip to content

East Coast Gaffers featured boat: yacht ‘Cachalot’

Our featured boat for October is ‘Cachalot’, built as a yacht in Folkestone, Kent 1898 and celebrating her 125th anniversary in 2023. She’s pictured above at the Suffolk Yacht Harbour Classics, 2023, photographed by Toby Essex.

East Coast Gaffer, Steve Yates undertook the restoration and rebuild of this beautiful yacht on the banks of the River Deben, Suffolk, 200 miles away from his home in the hills of rural Derbyshire. After ten years under a tent, she was relaunched in 2017 at the Tidemill Yacht Harbour, Woodbridge, Suffolk. The interior fit out is now complete and she’s sailing again on the East Coast rivers and estuaries to celebrate this impressive milestone. She joined the East Coast Gaffers OGA60 celebrations on the River Orwell, taking part in the Parade of Sail and East Coast Race.

Built in Folkestone, Kent, 1898 ‘Cachalot’ has an interesting history of illustrious as well as more ordinary owners interspersed with periods of neglect, including at least two sinkings. She has spent most of her life on the East Coast of England, but after cruising the west coast of Scotland in the early 1950s, her owner tired of the weather and took her to the Mediterranean. The voyage is reported in ’Yachting Monthly’ by Brigadier E E Nott-Bower, her owner and contributor to the magazine. 

In 1940 she responded to the call to action and took part in the Dunkirk evacuation ‘Operation Dynamo’. As a member of the Association for Dunkirk Little Ships (ADLS) she joined the ‘Return to Dunkirk’ in 1990. In 2009 she received a restoration award from the Transport Trust and in 2019 was nominated for the ‘Classic Boat Magazine Restoration Award (under 40’)’. In 2022, she won the Concours d’Elegance Trophy at the East Coast OGA Annual Summer Cruise.

The restoration included a new ply deck, 90% new planking in larch, new sternpost, stem, rudder, bulwarks and replacement or sistering of most of her frames. Her bowsprit, featured in Tom Cunliffe’s book ‘Hand, Reef and Steer’ (first edition) was replaced and a new set of gaff jaws were crafted from the shattered remnants of the original and fitted to her gaff spar. The renowned sail loft, Ratsey & Lapthorn, Isle of Wight was chosen to make her new suit of sails and her Yanmar auxiliary engine was fully reconditioned. New boards for the sole and cockpit were crafted using some of the reclaimed teak deck. The interior fit out was completed afloat between 2018 – 2023.

As members of the OGA, there was plenty of local support during the restoration project from the friendly, helpful membership on the East Coast, Netherlands and other parts of the UK and Ireland. During the summer months visiting yachtsmen, berth holders and OGA members called by to provide encouragement and to marvel at how much progress had been made ‘since the last time we visited xx years ago!’