Built in 1908 by the Whitstable Shipbuilding Co for £265 complete, and registered under the number F 86 at Faversham, THISTLE is an oyster smack, carvel built with oak frames and pitch pine planking and deck. She is cutter rigged with gaff sails, and was first fitted with an auxiliary engine as early as 1910. Her main use was as a carrier boat, taking the oysters from the Seasalter and Ham Oyster Fishery Company’s smacks to the harbour, from where they were taken by train to London.
After the Second World War she was sold into ownership in Essex and worked as a motor fishing vessel until 1980. She was then laid up for ten years whilst a limited restoration was attempted, but fell into decay at Pin Mill, Suffolk. In November 1990 Geoff Gransden bought her and in the following month THISTLE was towed to Gillingham, Kent, for the start of a full restoration. This took six years, firstly in a mud berth and later in the Medway Cruising Club’s dry dock. New oak timbers and pitch pine planking replaced much of the rotten timber, about one-third of the original wood was retained.
Below deck five bunks, a separate heads compartment, galley, Victorian range and a fresh water tank were installed. Lighting is provided by three paraffin hurricane lamps.
On 18 February 1996 THISTLE was re-launched into her mud berth for re-rigging with a pitch pine main mast, and spruce topmast and gaff. New sails were made by James Lawrence Sailmakers, Brightlingsea, based on the sail plan of STORMY PETREL.
Source: Historic Sail, Britain's surviving working craft, Paul Brown, the History Press.
Old Gaffer's Association Member's Handbook and Boat Archive, 1993
Oyster smack built by Whitstable Shipbuilding Co., Kent
Fitted with an auxiliary engine
Sold into new ownership in Essex and worked as motor fishing vessel
Laid up for ten years whilst limited restoration attempted but fell into decay at Pin Mill, Suffolk
Bought by Geoff Gransden and towed to Gillingham, Kent, for start of full restoration
Re-launched following full restoration with new oak timbers and pitch pine planking
Fully operational and located at Gillingham
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