Posts Tagged: Dunkirk

Samson posts, rudder and more . . .

Rudder in place

Bev returns home for a couple of days after the survey and the weather takes a turn for the worse with 40mph gusts again in Suffolk forcing Steve to pack up the van and take refuge in a shopping trip to Ipswich for the afternoon before the General Election. With rain and gales, Bev decides to stay in Derbyshire and as it abates in Suffolk Steve starts work on the second Samson post.

Whilst checking the fit, lying in the forepeak, he knocks out a chock and it slips, the solid oak dropping 18” onto his face! Clutching his mouth and expecting to find a handful of teeth, Steve’s relieved to find there’s just bruising. Bev doesn’t find out about this incident until she returns to Suffolk . . . apart from the Samson post being completed and fitted, the rudder is at last hung and a final coat of primer applied below the waterline in preparation for Bev’s return to do the anti-foul.


  • Last coat of primer under the waterline
  • All engine controls connected, June 2017
  • Stern gland connected
  • Lever and stop button installed
  • Cachalot displays her Dunkirk, 1940 plaque


More jobs ticked off the list! The rudder stock is fitted and new tiller now in place. Control cables for the engine are connected with control lever and stop button installed in the cockpit, stern gland greaser re-fitted and new capping to complete the restored cockpit coaming. Bronze skin fittings all cleaned up and replaced, along with her Dunkirk plaque, polished and back in place. We’re getting there, she’s beginning to look like a boat ready to float!

A new bowsprit

A new bowsprit, August 2016

A new bowsprit, August 2016

What about the spars?

'Cachalot' features in several photos in Tom Cunliffe's book 'Hand, Reef and Steer'. The caption for the picture above is 'a fine bowsprit', and of course, she's flying the St George's cross as a Dunkirk Little Ship sailing in company on the Return to Dunkirk, 1990. However, the bowsprit now needs to be replaced since it is showing it's age and needs to be a bit stronger . . . The new one has arrived from James at Larkman's, being constructed from two pieces of narrow grained Douglas fir and, whilst the same length, has a greater diameter.

The boom has now been taken to Larkman's yard for varnishing and other refinements . . .

The mast has already been repaired and varnished with several coats, surviving a fall from it's rack during the winter storms in early 2016, and ready to step once the hull is ready . . .and the gaff has also been repaired, but needs transporting back to Suffolk from Derbyshire where it attracts frequent comments and enquiries from visitors, bemused to find such an unusual item in the garden of a house in the Peak District!

Find out more about the gaff, still being stored in Derbyshire, in the post from Winter projects 2015/16.


1956 – 1991: the missing years and living aboard

Apart from entries in the Certificate of British Registry and Lloyds Register of Yachts, we know virtually nothing about ‘Cachalot’ from when she was left in the Mediterranean by the Brigadier in 1956 and 1976 when she came into the hands of Ian and Jenny Kiloh. She had several owners during this period, each owning her for only 2-3 years, including Hugh Ian Gibson, a Solicitor from London; Norman Frank Dixon, MBE, from Maldon, Essex; David Garber, a London Company Director; Cecil David Richardson, a Maldon Company Director; David Robertson Hiner a Property and Structural Surveyor from Maldon; Thomas Alexander Corbett, a schoolmaster from Hockley, Essex and Andrew Ross Wheatley a yacht broker in Wivenhoe.

In the OGA Newsletter, 1977, the Editor muses: “In the earlier 1960s a good looking 30′ cutter’s hull sat up at the top of Dixon Kerly’s yard at Maldon, quietly drying out and deteriorating. Occasionally there was evidence that some work had been done on her, and in 1965 her then owner, David Garber was persuaded to join the OGA, and we looked forward to seeing her sailing. But it was not to be. In 1966 she was bought by David Robertson Hiner of Maldon, and things happened. David got her into sailing trim, and in 1970 he entered her for our East Coast Race, but she did not start. On the 16th September that year, David sold her to Thomas Alexander Corbett, who owned her until the 9th February 1975, when she was sold to Andrew Ross Wheatley of Wivenhoe. On 24th May, 1976, Ian & Jennifer Kiloh bought her from Wheatley.”

The 1963 Lloyds Register of Yachts lists a different engine: 2 cylinder, 8.5hp, Lister Blackstone 61.

Cachalot at sea by Tom Cunliffe

‘Cachalot’ takes part in the ADLS ‘Return to Dunkirk’, 1990 (photo: Tom Cunliffe)

Jenny and Ian Kiloh spent many years restoring ‘Cachalot’ and researching some of her history. They lived aboard from the mid-1970s in Brightlingsea, Essex, moving to Heybridge Basin and Suffolk Yacht Harbour, Levington.

‘Cachalot’ had a Yanmar 16hp diesel engine installed and took part in the 1990 ‘Return to Dunkirk’ before being sold to Julia Webb and Martin Davy in July 1991, who also used ‘Cachalot’ as a live aboard.

1936 – 1951: the war years, Dunkirk and beyond

'Cachalot' is asked to trice up the mainsail by Tom Cunliffe

‘Cachalot’ is asked to trice up the mainsail during the ‘Return to Dunkirk’, 1990. Photo: Tom Cunliffe

There are two references to ‘Cachalot’ in the Lloyds Register of Yachts (1936). One is the well-known ketch built in Brixham the previous year, the other is a steel-hulled vessel from 1911. Neither being our ‘Cachalot’, we now turn to her Certificate of British Registry. The hardcover ‘blue book’ unfolds to reveal handwritten records from 1936 to 1991.

Based on records in the Certificate, Sir Lancelot Elphinstone sold ‘Cachalot’ to two stock brokers; Herbert Charles Norton: Stock Jobber from Amersham, Bucks., and Hugh Leycester Bedwell: Stock Broker from Warwick Square, London in August, 1936, after owning her for only four months.

These same two owners are listed in the Lloyds Register of Yachts (1937-39), along with reference to a petrol engine, Stuart Turner, 2 cylinder.

The Lloyds Register was not published during the war years, and in 1947 we find she is listed as owned by Hubert Somervell, living at 97, Clifton Hill, NW8, still with her Stuart Turner petrol engine. Hubert Somervell is also listed as owner in the ‘Alterations and additions to the 1939 Register’ published in 1946 to incorporate supplements from May and July 1939. There is also a gap in the Certificate of British Registry from 1939 and Hubert Somervell is not recorded as her owner.  So when did he purchase her, and who owned her when she was requisitioned to take part in Operation Dynamo, May 1940? In ‘The ships that saved an army’ by Russell Plummer, pub. 1990, ‘Cachalot’ is recorded as being owned by ‘Mr Spurling’ at the time of Operation Dynamo but there is no reference to his source.

‘Cachalot’ is a member of the Dunkirk Little Ships Association and listed amongst the vessels requisitioned to assist in the evacuation of Dunkirk, but there is no record of her activity there. She has taken part in events run by the ADLS, including the 1990 ‘Return to Dunkirk’. A Hubert A. Somervell enlisted as a midshipman in 1916 and is listed in the London Gazette on three occasions (1918, 1920 and 1921) as a Royal Navy Lieutenant [retired in 1921]. In 1939, Hubert A. Somervell is living at 10, Fishpool St. London, now a Clerk in Holy Orders. Could this be the same man who owned her in 1947 and perhaps when she was taken to Dunkirk?

Kenneth Albert Harwood: Opthalmic Optician and Neauer Messinger: Shopkeeper, both of Guildford, Surrey are listed as joint owners from November 1948 until Brigadier Edward Elwyn Nott-Bower purchased her in 1951. These two owners are also listed in the Lloyds Register of Yachts (1949-51).