Skip to content

‘Kelpie II’: Launch and first passage, Greenwich to the Blackwater, 1902

We bring the first instalment from the Cruising Log of ‘Kelpie II’, launched in 1902. A Canoe Yacht, 26’ overall by 6’6” beam with a draught of 3’ 9” she has a bulb fin and remarkable history, cruising on the English East Coast based first at Erith Yacht Club and later Pin Mill on the River Orwell. Changing hands only four times since 1902, the first, in 1950 from father, Herbert Kennard to son, Dave, who joined him on this first cruise and kept her until 1988. After a journey down to the river on a wood cart she was launched at Greenwich, probably in Deptford Creek, with the River Police in attendance at 2 a.m. Saturday 28th June, rigged & sailed down to Erith by Sunday evening next day. ‘Kelpie II’ was built on the lines of ‘Rani IV’ by the Skipper & Mate assisted by the Crew & Boy, both of whom will appear on the scene later.

Saturday 5th July, 1902 1.35 p.m. The skipper (who is writing most of this log) embarked at Lewisham and after the usual tedious voyage arrived duly at Erith, being joined by the Mate en route. Spent all the afternoon & evening laying in stores & victualling. Got our new anchor, Table, Water Can & Luggage from the station & carted them on board.

Sunday 6th July We spent the Morning and afternoon finishing the rigging & generally tidying up, putting away stores etc pending the arrival of the Crew & Boy, who both arrived late. Had a visitor during the afternoon in the shape of an Uncle, who took great interest in our Yacht & all her arrangements, & amused himself for a time in paddling about in our daisy of a dinghy an 8ft Berthon Boat. On arrival of the Crew, we had with regret to put our visitor ashore and at 6 p.m hoisted sail & ran down to Gravesend where wind failing & tide turning we had to run back to Grays & there dropped anchor for the night.

Monday 7th July Hoisted sail at 5.30 a.m. to catch the last of the ebb and with a light breeze sailed down to Hole Haven having a light breakfast on the way. Very low spring tide & we touched on the spit for a few minutes although a long way out. We sent a warp & kedge out in the dinghy & waited till the tide floated us off. Then ran up into the Haven & dropped anchor spending the rest of the morning finishing our rigging which had been fixed up in rather a rough & ready fashion owing to the short time which had been left for this i.e. between launching at Greenwich & getting to moorings at Erith. After dinner, again hoisting sail we started for Sheerness with moderate breeze aft & foresail guyed out with boathook as spinnaker making fair progress. The wind shifted about a good deal & at times fell light, going through the Swatchway we lost way & for the moment thought we were aground on the Nore Sand, great consternation! but found we were only taken aback by the spinnaker. Off Sheerness, wind dropped completely, so we anchored amongst a lot of Barges & took this opportunity to have tea. About 7 a light breeze came up and we again got under way & had an uneventful run into Queenboro. Sent the Crew ashore shopping. Crew came back with a great prize i.e. Bottle of vinegar & 2 saveloys. All turned in & had a good night including Crew despite the saveloys.

Tuesday 8th July Up at 5.30, under way at 6 to get the last of the ebb out of Medway. 6.45 passed the Nore Light, wind very light but we got as far as Shoeburyness before turn of tide. Wind held light but by scraping along the shallows we made slight headway. We were overtaken here to our disgust by a Gravesend knockabout, this didn’t look well, so we hauled our dinghy aboard & stowed it below, this made things better & we hung on to our friend the enemy, but she cheated us by standing right over the Foulness sands where we dared not follow with our deeper keel. Breeze now strengthened and with it fairly abeam we were soon going through it in fine form. We now had a chance, for the first time of proving our little ship, we were simply delighted with her, she slid along in a beautiful manner and at a good pace – no boring or fussing, but just a little pizzle & no wake at all excepting alittle white froth… all hands decided we had got a treasure. After passing the Swin Light Ship the wind strengthened to a stiff breeze but Kelpie II didn’t seem to notice it except to foot along a bit faster. Exchanged greetings with men on Maplin Light. After rounding the Whittaker Beacon, we had the wind on the port quarter with a bit of a tumble in the sea all the way up the Crouch, giving the steersman a busy time. About halfway the wind fell light & we had to drop the Hook several times to prevent losing ground. Towards sunset we had a fair breeze & wishing to get up to Burnham, put up our lights & kept going taking long & short boards, things got a bit tricky near Burnham as lots of small fishing craft were anchored in the fairway, carrying no riding lights & the night was very dark. We arrived off Burnham at 11 p.m. & dropping the hook all turned in very tired. We had been under way about 18 hours & had covered about 38 miles.

Wednesday 9th July Rose late, (about 9 a.m.) & so to breakfast, after which sent Mate & Crew ashore with the Boy to victual. Weather rather boisterous. After dinner had a short turn up the Crouch dropping back to Burnham for tea, it was now raining hard. After tea sent the Crew home, all were sorry to part, the Crew had behaved well, shall try to ship him on again should occasion offer. Glorious sunset but rather wicked looking.

Thursday 10th July Up at 8 o/c. Blowing hard. 10 o/c blowing harder. 11 o/c dragged our anchor owing to soft bottom or fouling. Sent out the spare anchor on warp but this didn’t improve matters, so sent a line off to nearest moorings & took them up weighing our own anchor. We found the moorings we had picked up were marked Rani, Kelpie’s sister, strange coincidence. In getting on board after picking up these moorings we managed to let the dinghy go adrift, but hailed a man on a neighbouring yacht, who recovered her for us and on our rewarding his efforts – as we thought adequately – he remarked that she was well worth it, to which we smilingly assented. Wind blew hard all day & evening didn’t look promising for the morrow. Mate very busy & useful all day putting up hooks & other internal fittings, fitting up our table etc.  When all was done , the Boy, who had superintended, remarked that it “was like blowedone”.  Mate much gratified.  The table was really a great comfort partly cribbed & partly the skippers own idea, it was very quickly fixed up or taken down & would fold up & stow away very snugly.

‘Kelpie II’ sails off Erith Yacht Club, c.1962

Friday 11th July (Log will now be a plain truthful account of ships voyage without persiflage appearing as heretofore). Rose (carefully so as not to bump) at 8 a.m., breakfasted & went ashore for supplies. Victualled variously & generously, filled water tanks (stone jar & tin can) returned on board & stowed away supplies, weighed anchor 12.15 p.m. under difficulties as our stern anchor had hooked the moorings we had lain to. All hands had to haul up about half a ton of heavy chain from bottom of river to free same. Under plain jib only & with wind N.W. & very fresh we sailed through the anchorage below Burnham to the River Roach & turning up here dropped anchor at 2 p.m. for dinner. Spuds not done so had to wait a hungry & interminable 15 minutes. Mate hadn’t put them on early enough. 3.30 underway again with close reefed mainsail & jib. Sailed up the Roach nearly to Roachford with the flood tide. The Boy who was also photographer got into a sack and the mate held him down with a black blanket, whilst he loaded up a plate. Cast the photographer adrift  in the dinghy to take a shot at the ship. No disastrous results followed & we picked him up again. Wind now lighter, so let out reefs & under all sail, ran back to first bend of river & anchored in 4 fathoms at 6 o’clock – Tea – Mate pulled the skipper “round the houses” for half an hour & then aboard again, sun set about its proper time, snuggled down for the night, and supped at 9.30 & then wrote up log.

Saturday 12th July Up early. Had breakfast & started at 6 o’clock down the Crouch, wind light & progress slow. Tide low & we found very little water in the Ray Sand Channel, only 2 fathoms, but that was enough for us.  Rounded the Knoll & past Bench Head into the R Colne. Dropped the hook opposite Brightlingsea Harbour, had a bathe & then dinner. Lovely day & very pretty spot here. After dinner we started down the Colne again & rounding Bench Head ran up the Blackwater with a fine breeze, opposite West Mersea we stood inshore & made a shot for Besom Flut, got it all right & running along close to the line of Oyster Dredgers, dropped anchor just off the Kings Hard. After tea weather looking blusterous we explored & sounded the channel in the dinghy & finding a better & more sheltered berth, raised our anchor & stood a little further in, where we anchored & lay under shelter of the land of Cobmarsh Island. Channel extremely narrow, we had about 9ft of water under us at dead low, but nearly touched the mud bank astern.

Ships Company
Skipper: H E Kennard
Mate: A R Kennard
Crew: D Kennard
Boy: D C Kennard

Contributed by East Coast OGA member, Rik Graham, owner/skipper of ‘Kelpie II’
Find the second instalment here