"Daphne III" Thornycroft Cruising Launch Lying on the Thames
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Drawings, Restoration and History
Here is a real slice of history: Documentation even includes a copy of the sea trial records.
DAPHNE III - THORNYCROFT CRUISING LAUNCH No. 1856. 'Daphne' was built by John I. Thornycroft & Co. Ltd as boat no. 1856 at their Hampton Works on Platt's Eyot in 1923. She had been ordered by Mr G. Collis on 3rd November 1922, and had her trials on 24th March 1923. She reached 6.59 knots, with a displacement of 2.9 tons SW, and was delivered, with a towing dinghy, on that day.
Carvel-built of mahogany on oak, she is 30' long x 7'6" beam x 2'3" draft. She was originally powered by a Thornycroft DB2 handy-billy petrol-paraffin engine, driving an 18 ½" diam. propeller with a 16" pitch. The original engine has been replaced (in 1954 or 1955?) by a petrol-driven Morris Navigator Mark 2, engine no. 496, driving her original stern-gear through a 2:1 reduction gear box, and giving a maximum speed of about 6 or 7 knots, at around 1,200 r.p.m.
'Daphne' has been restored to, or retains, her original layout, as shown on her three Builder's Drawings, which are part of the Thornycroft Drawing Office archive in the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich.
She has an 8' x 7' (max.) cabin with standing headroom under the skylight, a drop-leaf table between two seats (whose backs drop down to form berths), a hanging locker to port and a sideboard locker to starboard, and a bulkhead-mounted Taylor paraffin heater.
Forward is the fo'c'sle with Portapotti, wash-basin, chain-locker and spares-rack. (The original Simpson-Lawrence 'Junior' sea-toilet is temporarily in the Owner's garage, but 'Daphne' still has the original outlet and inlet sea-cocks.)
Aft, sheltered by an extension of the deck above the cabin, the galley is fitted with a two-burner Taylor paraffin cooker, with pressurised fuel tank (which also serves the cabin heater) in a locker below on the port side, and a sink-and-drainer over a locker on the starboard side. The varnished mahogany engine-casing doubles up as the "kitchen-table".
Aft again is the large (9' x 6') cockpit. Under the small stern-deck is the 12-gallon LRP-petrol tank, and the 10-gallon flexible water-tank piped to the sink and wash-basin. Steering is by wheel on the port side, cabled to the rudder-post quadrant below the stern-deck, with a stand-by tiller above the deck.
'Daphne' has her original mast, but no spars or sails. From the remaining (original) fittings, a sheave at the masthead, three bronze cleats on the tabernacle, a fairlead beside each shroud-plate, a bronze cleat each side of the cabin roof aft, and a bronze cleat set at an angle outside the cockpit coaming on each side, and from the Thornycroft drawings of other similar boats, she probably had a lugsail and jib for auxiliary use. From her hull shape, and from her tabernacle simply mounted on the deck, they cannot have been intended to drive her seriously. She also has her original Simpson-Lawrence 'Hyspeed' double-action lever hand-winch on the foredeck.
'Daphne's' present owners bought her in 1982 from Dr David Townsend on Mr See's moorings at Hammersmith. Dr Townsend had bought her a few years before from the estate of a gentleman who had lived in Maldon, and had apparently used her there for fishing. She had carried the name 'Maldon Boy' and the number BW31 on her port cockpit coaming. Nothing else of her history is known to her present owners.
In October 1991 'Daphne' went to Michael Dennett's Yard at Chertsey for general structural refurbishment. The sixty-eight years since she had been handed over after her trials at the Thornycroft Hampton Works had taken their toll. A cracked stem-post, cracked ribs (some not just doubled but trebled over the years), some "soft" planks below the water-line in various places, and a gradually increasing leak from an unidentified location inside her very elegant but structurally very ambitious canoe stern, had forced her present owners to conclude that she was running away from them. The amateur repairs and restoration, which had been the joy of their spare time, were clearly not adequate for her increasing needs. So she spent the winter of 1991/1992 in Michael Dennett's workshop, undergoing a thorough stem-to-stern examination and overhaul.
The cracked English oak stem-post was removed, a new Iroko stem-post fitted, and the adjacent mahogany planking repaired. At the same time the original bow-roller, which had seized up, was stripped and restored.
In the cabin, one of the original 3 ½" x 2" English oak floors had partly rotted away, and was replaced with a new Iroko floor; and a number of cracked 1 1/8" x 7/8" English oak cabin ribs were replaced or doubled.
The original decks over the cabin and in the stern were ½" pine-boarded and canvas-laid. Numerous carpet-tape patches (not to mention the margarine-boxes hanging in the cabin) showed up the cracks in the old canvas. So it was all stripped off. The original boarding was overlaid with 4mm marine plywood, and finished with epoxy-glass fibre and polyurethane paint. And the original 1 ½" x 1" American elm toe rails, with their beautifully shaped handgrips and drainage ways, which had begun to rot, were removed and replaced by new ones carefully shaped to match.
The cockpit and canoe-stern, which extend for nearly half the boat's length, were in the worst shape. All the ribs were cracked at the turn of the bilge, including the many added doublers. Some of the ¾" mahogany planks below the water-line were soft. And the heavily curved sided 2 ½" English oak stern knee had begun to rot (at the unidentified point of leakage already referred to). Alternate ribs were removed, and replaced with steamed 1 1/8" x 7/8" English oak, to match the originals. When this had been done, and the planks copper-fastened to the new ribs, the other old ribs were removed and replaced too. The old stern-knee was removed, and a new three-piece Iroko knee beautifully set in; and gradually, a bit at a time so as not to lose shape, the soft planks were removed and the whole after part of the hull was restored to much nearer its original state. The stern deck was replaced; the cracked 5/8" mahogany coamings each side of the cockpit gave way to new, and the old split mahogany covering boards were replaced with new.
The other repair included in the programme was the rebuilding of the starboard side of the galley, where an idiotic attempt to leave a pontoon with the tide had resulted in a hole punched in the planking beside the galley starboard port-hole, caused by impact with the port stern corner of a floating margarine-box. I have never cast off with the tide again.
While 'Daphne' was in the workshop, her engine was overhauled and serviced, and realigned with the sterngear, and the starter motor was reconditioned.
Finally 'Daphne' was painted outside, all through the bilges, and throughout the cockpit. (The galley, cabin and fo'c'sle were done later.)
On 4th May 1992 'Daphne' left Michael Dennett's Yard and set off downstream to Chiswick. Six months' work had given her the new lease of life which she had needed if she was to avoid ending up as firewood.
'Daphne' attended the Thames Traditional Boat Rallies at Henley in 1990, 1992 and 2000. In 1994 she was at the Richmond Half-Tide Lock when it was reopened by HRH the Duke of York after its Centenary major repair (it rained hard all day, but stopped in time for the Fireworks in the evening).
In 1995 'Daphne' did her longest voyage, a two-week summer holiday, to Oxford and back. In 1997 she paid her respects to the barque 'Endeavour' at Greenwich. In 1998 she was at the Thornycroft Rally at Platt's Eyot, Hampton, with 'Morn', 'Tarifa' and 'Zenita'.
In May 1999 she took part as a dressing boat (i.e. moored up) in the River Chase at the beginning of the Bond film "The World is Not Enough"; she can be seen broadside on across the front of the screen when the Thames barge SB 'Wyvenhoe' blows up, and then gets very wet indeed when Cigar Girl turns her Sunseeker 37 tightly round her, with Bond in hot pursuit.
Her life has been quieter since then. And in June 2002 she took part in the six-episode LWT documentary "From Sea to Source", a hitch-hike from the Estuary around Whitstable to the field in Gloucestershire where the Thames rises. She helped Nick on the bit from water voles at the Barnes Wetlands Centre to mitten crabs on (or in) Chiswick Eyot.
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