Registration number 775
Status Registered


Function Fishing Vessel
Subfunction Dredger
Location Gillingham
Vessel type Oyster Smack
Current use Private use
Available to hire No
Available for excursions No


Builder Whitstable Shipbuilding Co, Whitstable
Built in 1908
Hull material Wood
Rig Gaff Cutter
Number of decks 1
Propulsion Sail
Primary engine type None
Boiler type None
Boilermaker None


Breadth: Beam
13.00 feet (3.97m)
5.60 feet (1.71m)
Length: Overall
43.97 feet (13.41m)
Tonnage: Gross


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.

Key dates

  • 1908

    Oyster smack built by Whitstable Shipbuilding Co., Kent

  • 1910

    Fitted with an auxiliary engine 

  • 1946

    Sold into new ownership in Essex and worked as motor fishing vessel

  • 1980

    Laid up for ten years whilst limited restoration attempted but fell into decay at Pin Mill, Suffolk

  • 1990

    Bought by Geoff Gransden and towed to Gillingham, Kent, for start of full restoration

  • 1996

    Re-launched following full restoration with new oak timbers and pitch pine planking

  • 2009

    Fully operational and located at Gillingham


Old Gaffer's Association Member's Handbook and Boat Archive, 1993

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