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In my opinion: Memories of two great Westcountry sailing vessels

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 07, 2013

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Recent editions have carried reports of two Westcountry sailing vessels, the Garlandstone and the Kathleen and May.

The historic ketch Garlandstone, launched in 1909, was built at Calstock with timber from the Cotehele Estate. As with many other sailing vessels of the period she was later fitted with a forty horse-power engine.

Garlandstone, a familiar sight in the Bristol Channel, enjoyed a colourful career, among her cargoes were coals from Lydney to Ireland, with oats on her return; pitch and salt from Gloucester. During her working life she had several owners, the last one being Alfred Parkhouse of Braunton whose family were well known in the North Devon coastal sailing trade. Alfred Parkhouse sold Garlandstone in 1958 to new owners who had ambitions to use her for cruising.

But this failed to materialise and she lay in a forlorn state at Barmouth until she was rescued by new owners. She was later extensively restored by Tommi Neilsen of Gloucester and has been moored at Morwellham since 1987. After her recent flood damage let us hope this Devon vessel built by Devon shipbuilders will once again be restored to her former glory.

The topsail schooner Kathleen and May was built at Connah's Quay in 1900 for Captain John Coppack and originally named after his two daughters Lizzie and May. Her principal cargoes were many and her destinations varied. In her first eight years she sailed upward of 40,000 miles and in that time her cargoes amounted to 24,000 tons. She could be seen anywhere between Scotland and the Channel islands. In 1908 she was sold to M J Fleming and he renamed her after his daughters, Kathleen and May.

In 1931 the vessel was purchased by Captain Jewell of Appledore and fitted with an eighty horse-power engine. After Captain Jewell's death in 1945, Kathleen and May was left to son Tommy who continued to obtain cargoes for her until 1961 when she was sold to new owners. It was a sad day when this historic vessel left Appledore and crossed the Bideford Bar for what was thought to be the last time. But in 1998 she returned, towed over the bar by tug to Bideford on an early morning tide. She underwent complete restoration by skilled Appledore craftsmen at a cost of two million pounds.

The writer Henry Williamson chose to include Braunton's 'port' of Velator, with its Braunton-owned ketches and schooners, in Tarka the Otter (1927): "By an old broken wicker crab-pot, a small head showed without a ripple, moving with the water. Men were walking on the deck of a ketch below; other men were sitting at oars in a boat under the black hull waiting for their mates. Men climbed down to the boat, oars were dipped. The otter head, drifting nearer, sank when a man pointed with his pipe-stem. Fifty yards below, by the chain sagging and lifting from the bows of the riding ship, the head looked up again."

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