El­iz­a­bethan 23 restora­tion

Labour of love to bring Elissa back

Practical Boat Owner - - Contents -

Our El­iz­a­bethan 23 Elissa was launched in 1973 at the Rope­walk Boat Yard in Lyming­ton. Pre­vi­ous owner Roy Lis­ter sailed her ex­ten­sively us­ing the very ba­sic dead reck­on­ing meth­ods of nav­i­ga­tion most of the time, and he never re­ally got around to do­ing much cos­metic work to the boat.

How­ever, his love and trust in the yacht de­sign and its fab­u­lous han­dling abil­ity al­lowed him to sail to the coast of Brit­tany, the Chan­nel Is­lands, St Malo and the Isles of Scilly.

Roy then de­cided to get more ad­ven­tur­ous so, leav­ing Lil­liput Sail­ing Club in Poole, he sailed the Chan­nel to France, drop­ping the mast to nav­i­gate the canals, and with his wife join­ing him they mo­tored all the way to the Mediter­ranean.

A good friend flew down to meet Elissa to help him sail her back to Poole, while his wife flew home. The two of them then made their way back through the Bay of Bis­cay. As they were both re­tired they had plenty of time to do this. It’s a pas­sage they made not once, but twice – an amaz­ing achieve­ment in a small boat.

When things aren’t so rosy at sea for us aboard Elissa I just think: ‘She’s sailed Bis­cay twice, so just get on with it!’ It doesn’t al­ways take the fear away, but at least gives us re­as­sur­ance in the boat.

With more ad­ven­ture in mind, Roy later sailed north, tak­ing Elissa to Nor­way.

Later still, on one of his trips to St Malo, Elissa was off Alder­ney when Roy handed the helm to his crew so he could get some rest. The wind picked up from the west and, faith­fully fol­low­ing the course he’d been given, the helms­man was not aware that Elissa was slid­ing down large waves with an on­shore wind. Tack­ing and try­ing to beat away on a very dark night with a 5ft draught was a bad com­bi­na­tion – the keel touched bot­tom and was bounced up the beach on a 35ft ebbing tide.

Two small holes meant wa­ter and sand fil­tered through­out the hull, sink­ing her in shal­low wa­ter but at least al­low­ing them to get safely to shore.

Patch-up job

With some in­ge­nu­ity she was patched up at low tide, re­floated on the next high wa­ter and then sailed back to Poole with­out fur­ther in­ci­dent.

When Roy’s health started to de­te­ri­o­rate he de­cided to put Elissa up for sale in

1985. As a mem­ber of Lil­liput Sail­ing Club I was con­stantly look­ing at this pretty boat which sat on her moor­ing for 17 months.

At the time Mon­ica and I were look­ing at Dras­combe Lug­gers to buy for gen­eral day sail­ing, but the prices were too high.

l con­tacted Roy and viewed Elissa on sev­eral oc­ca­sions in Novem­ber when it was freez­ing cold and dark – a good time to buy, but not to sell!

I came to re­alise the El­iz­a­bethan would be a much bet­ter buy than a Dras­combe Lug­ger for me so a deal was made. Roy was very sad to let her go, of course, but pleased that she would re­main at the same club where he’d be able to see her.

David Thomas de­sign

We were de­lighted that we were now the proud own­ers of one of the best and pret­ti­est boat de­signs by David Thomas, who also de­signed other boats in the El­iz­a­bethan range as well as the Sig­mas.

Soon came the very daunt­ing task of restor­ing Elissa to a stan­dard she de­served for such a clas­sic yacht de­sign.

We de­cided to make a list for our win­ter work – a list which turned out to be about a mile long.

First was to get the hull look­ing bet­ter. Due to the con­di­tion of the gel coat, I had no op­tion other than to coat her with epoxy paint all over – not the eas­i­est of jobs when tem­per­a­ture is so crit­i­cal.

Gun­wales and all bright­work were stripped to bare wood and four coats of var­nish ap­plied. Work­ing in the cold and as long as light was avail­able we were able to see some re­sults.

Sand ev­ery­where

Once this was done, the in­te­rior was next. Be­low decks did not have the best of smells, and sand was in ev­ery nook and cranny which was a night­mare to re­move – and is still be­ing found sev­eral years later. The head­lin­ing was hang­ing down in many places which was ini­tially sealed back and later com­pletely re­newed. We re­placed all the wiring.

The orig­i­nal en­gine, a petrol Pet­ter, we re­placed with an air cooled 6hp diesel Hatz, burn­ing a third of a litre an hour. The big­gest dif­fi­culty with this set-up proved to be the ex­haust: we even­tu­ally set­tled on a lagged stain­less steel flex­i­ble pipe which works very well.

Back in the wa­ter

By re­launch day Elissa was ready to face her proud new par­ents and the many new ad­ven­tures to come – and we’ve had quite a few of them!

Roy came down to watch the re­launch and con­grat­u­lated us on chang­ing her looks so well, shed­ding a few tears while telling us: ‘I know you’ll look after her’. Roy sadly died a few years later, but at least he knew Elissa would have a fine new life with us.

Over the years since then we’ve added var­i­ous bits of kit such as an echo

sounder, an elec­tric au­topi­lot and a new set of sails.

I have also de­signed and al­most per­fected a servo pen­du­lum self-steer­ing wind vane. They look sim­ple enough but in re­al­ity are very com­plex in­stru­ments in the pro­por­tions of weight and en­gi­neer­ing re­quired. Mine has taken over three years in the de­vel­op­ment. On a trip from Hurst to Swan­age, I set it up and we sailed within five de­grees of our course straight to our way­point. I was de­lighted, but I has­ten to add that I’ve not yet gone to sleep while be­ing steered by the wind vane, not even for a short time!

Roller­coaster rides

On one of our trips, we were on the way to Wey­mouth. Just off the Sham­bles and on our fi­nal tack in, the wind dropped. The en­gine was labour­ing and we had no al­ter­na­tive but to an­chor close to the south en­trance of Port­land Har­bour where the old Hood was sunk as a block­ship – it’s a re­ally good fish­ing spot. It was no time be­fore our friends the Royal Navy turned up to check on us as we were an­chored in their wa­ters.

While in­spect­ing the en­gine I found that the gear­box was full of sand – no won­der the en­gine was labour­ing – so on our re­turn to home port it was gear­box out, clean up and re­place four bear­ings. Shocked at the £156 one ma­rine sup­plier quoted for bear­ings I went to a VW parts shop where I got the same bear­ings for £4.80 each. A big sav­ing!

We took an­other trip back from Wey­mouth in a south-westerly Force 7 (some will be say­ing the b .... y fools!), but we found it to be a real learn­ing curve. Not only do you gain vi­tal knowl­edge, but you can as­sess the boat’s per­for­mance and your abil­ity – and later make any re­in­force­ments or changes to ei­ther!

While round­ing St Ald­helm’s Head we en­coun­tered waves higher than the crosstrees. Elissa was in a calm at the bot­tom of the trough and at the full Force 7 at the top. I al­ready had a reefed main but even so she per­formed very well. A very in­ter­est­ing sail!

Bright ideas

One night while moored at Chap­man’s Pool I was con­tem­plat­ing the fact that there was a good deal of wasted space un­der the side decks, so I started to de­sign a way of util­is­ing this space.

On the port side I made a con­trol panel and full size chart ta­ble which can double up as a din­ing ta­ble when bolted to the stair­way. On the star­board side, I built five lock­ers for stor­ing the usual things one needs on any boat. A whole de­sign change to our lovely lit­tle boat.


On the rig­ging side I re­placed old Tufnol blocks with mod­ern stain­less steel ones, and slab reef­ing took the place of the old roller reef­ing sys­tem. I then made my own stack­pack for £35, after re­ceiv­ing a quote at the Southamp­ton Boat Show for £375.

The frayed wire keel up­haul was re­placed with Dyneema braid rope and has been there for over 12 years now.

I can highly rec­om­mend the El­iz­a­bethan 23 for its looks, sail­ing abil­ity, draught and vast locker space for a small boat.

We have en­joyed many years of sail­ing around the South Coast – one year do­ing 970NM. We’re able to get very close to the shore­line out of the wind, which is a big ad­van­tage as we of­ten see fel­low sailors not far away wear­ing win­ter cloth­ing while we’re still in T-shirts.

The El­iz­a­bethan Own­ers As­so­ci­a­tion has a very in­for­ma­tive web­site (eoa.org.uk) and mem­ber­ship is great fun with an an­nual week­end get to­gether in some South Coast port. We also try to meet up on land dur­ing the win­ter to ex­change ideas and of­fer help and ad­vice.

Alas­tair and Mon­ica sail­ing Elissa off the Dorset coast

As found: rust stains and foul­ing can’t dis­guise the good looks of the El­iz­a­bethan 23

Old Tufnol blocks have been re­placed with mod­ern stain­less steel ones

Alas­tair has de­signed and made his own self-steer­ing wind vane

Durable Dyneema rope re­places frayed wire on the keel lift­ing mech­a­nism

Sand in the gear­box re­quired a com­plete strip down and bear­ing re­place­ment

Elissa on the pon­toon at Lil­liput Sail­ing Club shortly after her re­launch

First job for Elissa, a scrub down from top to bot­tom

Above Sit­ting pretty: Elissa on a moor­ing at Swan­age

Right Look­ing good in a new coat of paint on her cra­dle at Lil­liput

Alas­tair built his own con­trol panel in pre­vi­ously empty un­der-deck space

Chart ta­ble dou­bles as a din­ing ta­ble when at­tached to com­pan­ion­way steps

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