Dick Durham dis­cov­ers the newly re­stored Lively Lady is still wow­ing the crowds 50 years af­ter Sir Alec Rose com­pleted his ground­break­ing global cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion

Yachting Monthly - - HERITAGE -

It is 70 years since an am­a­teur boat builder, Syd­ney Cam­bridge, se­cured teak sleep­ers from the stock of the Ben­gal and As­sam Rail­way to help build a 36ft gaff-cut­ter in Cal­cutta. Cam­bridge adapted the plans of de­signer Fred­er­ick Shep­herd, lev­el­ling off her keel, height­en­ing her top­sides and us­ing thicker teak plank­ing. The re­sult was a much heav­ier, hugely strong but slower hull than that orig­i­nally drawn.

As I climbed over the newly re­stored Lively Lady’s rail at her Port So­lent fin­ger berth and de­scended down the steep com­pan­ion­way into the depths of her gloomy sa­loon, the brood­ing ev­i­dence of over­build came slowly into fo­cus as my eyes got used to the dim light emit­ted from the small but­ter­fly hatch over­head. Her padauk tim­ber frames were as wide as the beams of a me­dieval barn and I was at one with the man who would go on to make her the iconic yacht she is to­day.

When, in 1963, Sir Alec Rose first clam­bered be­low Lively Lady as she lay for sale in Yar­mouth, on the Isle of Wight, his im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion was: ‘I was im­pressed by her solid strength. Be­low, this was ev­i­dent in her heavy tim­bers…’

Rose bought her for the 1964 Ob­server Sin­gle-handed Trans At­lantic Race (OSTAR). He came fourth in the event, which was won by French­man Éric

Tabarly. Ahead of the race, Rose or­dered Illing­worth & Prim­rose to de­sign a new rig. Her mast, orig­i­nally keel-stepped, was moved aft and deck stepped. Her long bowsprit was short­ened to a stub and the mast of an En­ter­prise sail­ing dinghy was added as a mizzen. This was not to set a spanker, as that would in­ter­fere with the self-steer­ing gear fit­ted by Blondie Hasler, but to carry a stay­sail to give the heavy old hull ex­tra speed down­wind.

On deck I looked aloft at the faded alu­minium main­mast and sym­pa­thised with Rose’s anx­i­ety while he stared at it in a South­ern Ocean storm, dur­ing his solo cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion in 1967-68: ‘I don’t know of any­thing so fright­en­ing and sickening as to see the mast do­ing fig­ure of eight bends,’ he said, not­ing that he couldn’t even risk fly­ing the spitfire stay­sail.

It’s an odd rig, be­cause tech­ni­cally she’s a yawl with the mizzen mast stepped be­hind the tiller-steer­ing po­si­tion. Yet, she’s de­scribed as a Ber­mu­dian cut­ter, ‘be­cause we never set the mizzen,’ said Steve Ma­son, a trustee of the char­ity Around and Around, which has re­stored the boat.

Steve fired up the 28hp Beta diesel en­gine and gin­gerly re­versed Lively Lady out of her berth. ‘There’s no prop walk, she just goes where she wants to,’ he said as she emerged into the dock. Im­me­di­ately passers-by started tak­ing self­ies, and a yachts­man sup­ping cof­fee in his cock­pit, shouted: ‘Well done, she looks ter­rific.’

I stood with Steve in the small, sea­man­like, self-drain­ing cock­pit as he smiled and told me he reg­u­larly gets Amer­i­can tourists com­ing up to the boat wav­ing their copies of Sir Alec Rose’s ac­count of his solo cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion, My Lively Lady, ‘They ask me to sign it!’ he said. As I joined an­other Around and Around trustee, Pete Yeoman and vol­un­teer yachts­man Stu­art Mcgowan in un­bend­ing the large fend­ers, I was sur­prised to find Lively Lady, for all her 2.5 tons of lead bal­last and long iron keel, list­ing over.

She is sur­pris­ingly del­i­cate, but then she is nar­row for her de­sign, at just over 9ft beam. A 70-litre fresh wa­ter tank is to be fit­ted into her fore­peak which, Steve said, will put her down 3 inches by the head.

‘She is ten­der,’ he con­ceded, ‘but when the rails are awash you know you’ve got too much sail up. She’ll only go over so far.’

We sit in the lock at Port So­lent, drop­ping down the weedy sides to meet the level of Portsmouth Har­bour out­side, and peo­ple gather to ad­mire Lively Lady’s honey-coloured decks. Her orig­i­nal teak deck had been planed down to take out the wa­ter stain, but in do­ing so had brought the iron fas­ten­ings to the sur­face, which had then cor­roded.

‘We had to be­come marine ar­chae­ol­o­gists to work out how they’d been laid be­fore tak­ing them up,’ said Stu­art. When they did so they found they had been fas­tened at the edges as well as through the face.

The new deck­ing is iroko plank­ing glued onto a bonded marine ply base and caulked with rub­ber mas­tic. It means there are now no fas­ten­ings to worry about. Her agri­cul­tural guardrails are orig­i­nal and some of the stan­chions were bent dur­ing Rose’s cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion. They are all straight now and many have had new feet welded onto them. They have been pow­der-coated, as has the bowsprit sad­dle clamp (which dou­bles as a warp cleat), the mast-step, and the steel main­sheet horse, which runs be­hind the cock­pit coam­ing.

‘We’d like to have had them gal­vanised and then painted but that was too ex­pen­sive,’ said Steve, who ex­plained that be­cause all of the work was car­ried out by vol­un­teers the nine-month restora­tion cost only £15,000.

‘If we hadn’t done it our­selves it would have cost £150,000,’ he added.

The cock­pit was re­built, leav­ing in place two upright grab poles, legacy of Rose’s bat­tered spray­hood. This looks like a recipe for sus­tain­ing a bro­ken rib in a knock down, but the crew all swear by it. The dog-house was also re­built in lam­i­nated tim­bers, all with off-cuts from the iroko deck­ing.

The fore-hatch had to be re­placed with a Per­spex ver­sion as it leaked so badly, but the orig­i­nal is kept as a lid and put on for show while in port.

Once clear of the pile moor­ings off Porch­ester, we set sail. Stu­art and Pete hauled up the main­sail: a job done on deck at the foot of the mast. The main­sail is a rust-stained, wind-shred­ded wing. The head­sails, with pis­ton hanks so worn that one broke off in Steve’s fin­gers, and the rusty sprigs of luff wire bristling through the Tery­lene have also seen bet­ter days. Lively Lady is des­per­ately in need of a new suit. She

It’s amaz­ing how peo­ple show me Rose’s book and say: ‘This is the book that got me sail­ing’

sports the orig­i­nal roller-reef­ing on her wooden boom, but this is now de­funct and a three-reef slab sys­tem is used in its place.

With a southerly Force 2-3, we tacked slowly down to Portsmouth Har­bour en­trance then turned and ran her back up har­bour. Lively Lady’s bluff, buoy­ant bow squashed flat all the wash from pass­ing fer­ries and busy RIBS. Her pretty sheer, com­bined with a touch of tum­ble­home and a lovely run aft to a snub counter stern, had pas­sen­ger son the Go sport portsmouth ferry aim­ing their smart­phone sat her. Her top­sides are still the char­ac­ter­is­tic pale blue; the same colour Rose painted her. It suits her carvel hull, which was re-caulked and re-splined up un­der the counter where ten­ders have butted her over the years, and on the port side where she lay along­side for many years. All the paint­work has been lov­ingly re­stored by a lone vol­un­teer, Carol Jenk­in­son. Even Sir Robin Knox-john­ston told the team: ‘I never thought I’d see Lively Lady look­ing this good again.’

‘We have a hard­core team of 10 vol­un­teers,’ ex­plained Steve, ‘in­clud­ing an 80-year-old ship­wright from the

Isle of Wight.’

Around and Around’s leader, Alan Priddy, re­placed the keel-bolts him­self by knock­ing them through and cut­ting them off in sec­tions. He also fit­ted a new stern gland and the Beta diesel en­gine. The whole of the boat’s fur­ni­ture was stripped out right down to the bilges, re­fur­bished and re-fit­ted. Six soft spots from fresh wa­ter ingress were found amid­ships on two of the huge padauk frames. To get at the rot, plank­ing had to be re­moved on the out­side and grav­ing pieces let in.

From her five-step com­pan­ion­way, which sits on the en­gine box, there is a fi­nal step onto the cabin sole

be­fore you enter the gal­ley to port. To star­board is the quar­ter berth, over which sits a chart ta­ble.

Pass­ing through the first bulk­head, you ar­rive in the sa­loon, which has grab han­dles run­ning each side of the but­ter­fly hatch. Lock­ers on both sides dou­ble as set­tees over which are two pilot berths. Beau­ti­fully hand-crafted glass cab­i­nets have been fit­ted be­low the deck­head at each end of the pilot berths, with a balustrade book­shelf run­ning between them. For­ward of the amid­ships bulk­head is the head

– to star­board – which is await­ing the fit­ting of a com­post­ing WC and a hang­ing locker to port. Two sin­gle berths are found in the fore­peak, and the restora­tion team has fit­ted a fi­nal new bulk­head up in the bows to form a chain locker for the bower anchor.

It was not there in Rose’s time and he wrote that he was al­ways alarmed to hear wa­ter pour­ing through the hawsepipe in heavy weather.

Lively Lady has been fit­ted with two long-range fuel tanks con­tain­ing 105 litres apiece. ‘We could get three-quar­ters of the way across the At­lantic on that if there was no wind,’ noted Steve. And it is long-dis­tance cruises, with young­sters aboard, that are planned for the old cut­ter.

‘I’ve wit­nessed sev­eral street kids come on here and af­ter a voy­age be­come re­spon­si­ble mums and dads with jobs and mort­gages,’ noted Pete.‘it’s very sat­is­fy­ing. It’s amaz­ing how peo­ple come for­ward in var­i­ous ports to show me Rose’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, with the claim: “This is the book that got me sail­ing”.’

The Around and Around char­ity is now hop­ing to fit Lively Lady with the cor­rect safety equip­ment to get her coded, be­fore cir­cum­nav­i­gat­ing Bri­tain in 2019 with a crew of young­sters.

There are also hopes of an­other crack at an around-the-world voy­age in the not too dis­tant fu­ture.­ly­

Even Sir Robin Knox-john­ston told the team: ‘I never thought I’d see Lively Lady look­ing this good again.’

Words Dick Durham Pic­tures Paul Wyeth

ABOVE LEFT: Alec Rose sails back into Portsmouth. The BBC re­ported that he was ac­com­pa­nied by a flotilla of over 400 ves­sels

LEFT: Alec Rose came 4th in the 1964 OSTAR with Lively Lady

ABOVE RIGHT: She looks like a yawl, but the stay­sail was only ever used to set the mizzenRIGHT: The orig­i­nal sa­loon in­cludes teak taken from rail­way sleep­ers when she was built in Cal­cutta

LEFT: Lively Lady’s orig­i­nal teak deck was dam­aged in an ear­lier restora­tion so was stripped back and re­placed with iroko on ply

FAR LEFT: The book that has in­spired so many to take up sail­ing

TOP: Her top­sides are the same shade of blue that Rose painted her

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