‘Cachalot’ was built in 1898 by Robert Sanders in Folkestone, Kent and advertised for sale in ‘The Yachtsman’. Perhaps this was a ‘speculative’ build for the new class of ‘gentleman sailors’ returning home from the Boer War? She’s a 30′ gaff cutter drawing 4′ 6″ with an elliptical counter stern, registered gross tonnage 6.37. Her original construction was pitch pine on oak. She has an interesting history of illustrious owners interspersed with periods of neglect. She’s been a liveaboard twice and seems to have spent most of her life on the East Coast of England. She had her first engine fitted just before the second world war, according to the Lloyds Register. In 1940, she took part in ‘Operation Dynamo’ as one of the 700 ‘Dunkirk Little Ships’ sent to the beaches of northern France to evacuate allied troops 26 May – 4 June.

In the mid-1950s, her owner, Lieutenant Colonel EE Nott-Bower sailed her on the west coast of Scotland and Ireland. When tiring of the rain and clouds, he sailed south, taking ‘Cachalot’ through the French canals and into the Mediterranean, leaving her in Majorca, August 1955. She returned to the East coast of England in the 1960s and became somewhat neglected. Following a period of restoration in the 1970s, as a member of the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships (ADLS), ‘Cachalot’ took part in the ‘Return to Dunkirk, 1990. 

Steve saw ‘Cachalot’ advertised for sale and lying in Suffolk Yacht Harbour, Levington, August 2005. Subject to survey, he sealed the deal with the yacht broker. Her home port became the Tidemill Yacht Harbour, Woodbridge, just up the coast at the head of the River Deben. Although nearly four hours drive from home in Derbyshire, this proved to be an excellent choice for many reasons, not least in becoming members of the East Coast Old Gaffers Association (OGA) and the subsequent major changes in plan, from learning to sail to major restoration and honing many new boatbuilding skills. 

Along with the usual Bill of Sale, other papers and formalities, we received a little of Cachalot’s history. Previous owners include Sir Lancelot Henry Elphinstone and Lieutenant Colonel EE Nott-Bower. Amongst others, there were a solicitor, shopkeeper, opthalmic optician, master builder, retired mariner, yacht broker and schoolmaster. 

Following our purchase in 2005, we achieved our first objective in August 2006 by joining the East Coast OGA Classics Cruise, sailing down the coast to Ipswich and back. Apart from another brief sojourn into the river, October 2006, the next time she sailed was to be more than ten years later! In researching her history, we have been fortunate to have the original ’Blue book’ for ‘Cachalot’, unfolding to reveal handwritten records for all her registered owners from 1936 until 1992. She is also listed in Lloyds Register of Yachts from 1900.

This website collates our research into her history, catalogues our major restoration and rebuild, 2007 – 2017 and recounts some tales of people we’ve met on our sailing and restoration adventures with ‘Cachalot’. Our thanks go to everyone who has encouraged and helped us throughout the years. Despite the somewhat inclement weather, we enjoyed celebrating her 125th year afloat in 2023 and look forward to 2024.

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