In the summer of 1935, Michael Mason wrote to Fife commissioning an ocean racer, designed to ocean racing rules and not constrained by the inshore Metre rule. Latifa is one of the best known of Fife’s later yachts, as well as being immortalised on the Fairlie church wind vane.
Kentra is a little unusual in that the same family have owned her for the last 25 years. Kentra's current owners bought her, unseen, at a Sheriff's auction in Helensburgh back in 1993. After bringing her back to Hamble the restoration took 18 months, which included removing a meter of the lead keel from the aft end to balance the weight of the new machinery, engine and generators. Happily all the deck structures were serviceable and reused. Much of the interior furniture in the cabins was original and could be reused. A complete new gaff rig was constructed from Fife's drawings and additional working drawings from Theo Rye, who at that stage was our naval Architect.
I first caught up with her in 1987. The ‘Shed’ was the way down below and also contained a toilet, which emptied into the mud below the yacht, nice!.
The Salvage operation was directed by Harry Spencer, using his tug, Hoffland, and a Thames lighter. We loaded up all the necessary gear in Hamble, including the lifting cradle into the lighter and sent that up by sea, towed by the Hoffland.
With Mariquita’s greatest draft well aft only the equinox tides lifted her entirely clear of the mud, so, as it was August it was necessary to dig under the aft end of the hull and place two airbags under each side to lift the aft end clear. The plan was to lift the yacht at high tide the day after the bags were placed. With the bags fitted a low tide and inflated we all went off until the next day.
The question in everyone mind was were the bags high enough, too high etc. At around 02.00 in the morning Harry banged on my door and we went down to the yacht, at high tide. The bags were too low, the yacht wasn’t stable, she rolled around far too much as we walked around the deck. We carefully eased the lines holding the airbags until she became stable and then crept away to await the next day.
The next morning as the tide rose we cut off one set of piles and then bought the lighter alongside Mariquita and secured the two vessels together to give more piece of mind.
With the tide flooding, a high pressure ridge had crossed Suffolk lowering the height of
the tide from the night before- would she come free of the mud?
With the Hoffland moved offshore I went out in the tender and rang a tow line back to the yacht, which, when secured and went tight, flipped me out of the tender into the river, with a large roll of cash of my pocket, I am pleased to report that only the outside notes got wet.
With the tow line attached, the tug gently started pulling at the yacht – Nothing. A few more revs – Still nothing. A burst of full power did it, Mariquita gently slid out of her berth of forty years.
With the yacht safely afloat we boarded her and gently eased the valves on the airbags thus lowering the stern somewhat closer to the design waterline.
Off we went slowly moving up the Orwell.
With the iconic bridge behind us we slowly approached the wet dock in Ipswich and locked in.
Mariquita sits quietly without any air bags, afloat for the first time since the nineteen fifties awaiting the next phase of the operation.
The cradle which had come up with us in the lighter was assembled on the dockside and swung over the water and slid gently under Mariquita.
The cradle and yacht are picked up and the lighter warped into position under the yacht.
The cradle and yacht fitted like a glove, due to some good design work before hand! thanks to Midship Boat Services
Time for a glass of bubbly before starting the job of making the lighter/Mariquita joint watertight with a few dozen sheets of sterling board.
With the 24hr hour tow complete the lighter is towed into the travel hoist dock at H.Y.S. The salvage was complete, now just need to find a buyer. In 1994/5 Mariquita served as the project office for the restoration of Kentra
With Easter fast approaching Fairlie relaunched Lutine in time for the Owner to enjoy a four day break over the holiday. The old blue cove line and names were returned to gold leaf as the Owner had recently seen the model of the yacht in the Lloyd's building in Southampton.
With the yacht now back on her berth in the Hamble the deck varnishing will take place in a clean environment, a very pleasant way to spend a week or so, out on the river.
Lutine will compete in the BCYC Panerai regatta in Cowes in mid July.
Some years ago, an experienced yacht owner came to me with a different approach to campaigning a racing yacht. He suggested buying and restoring yacht small enough to fit into a large shipping container. The yacht can then be easily and reasonably inexpensively moved around Europe, and kept in the ‘box’ even in the south of France heat.
Exciting times for us here in Hamble, as our new website goes live today. We're looking forward to sharing more news and developments as they happen. There is plenty going on in the yard too, not just online. Classic 8mR 'Helen' is coming together nicely, ahead of her racing season, and caulking on 'Lutine' is progressing well too. and something else is probably happening too.
An exciting project for the winter at Fairlie Yachting: Lutine of Helford has joined us in the yard for some work. Due to constant moving of topside seams, the owner has asked us to recaulk and spline.
Elements we are attending include:
- Set up scaffolding, build tent over, ensuring no draft
- Cut out old caulking, tapered seam with special sawblade
- Minor replacement of planks affected by freshwater from leaky chainplates
- Re-caulked using tarred marlin, gluing in mahogany spline
- Replacing a few rotten fastenings below waterline
- Repaint using Epifane single part system