"Letitia", Leigh Cockle Bawley Motor Sailer Ketch Lying Essex
We were attracted to the boat because she was a Dunkirk Little Ship in need of rescue. We saw an opportunity to rebuild and convert a very unusual historic boat. Letitia was one of the few fishing boats taken to Dunkirk in 1940 by their owners, when she narrowly missed being bombed and mined and she is one of the very few now left afloat. There is a full archive with photographs and witness accounts to go with the boat. Owners of the boat can join the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships – a most unusual and exclusive club.
We liked the idea of a traditional fishing boat with accommodation. During the extensive re-build in 1999 we tried to keep her looking and performing as a traditional work boat, while still being comfortable enough to holiday on board. The top half of the boat is new, and the hull has been extensively restored.
Letitia is an estuary boat, built in the period where fishermen were turning to motors but had not quite given up on sails. She is ideal for cruising around the estuaries and backwaters of our coastline. Being a cockle boat she has a roomy hold which is now the cabin.
We have travelled as far north as Lowestoft and south to Dover and across to Dunkirk. On the Dunkirk trip we had five crew. Although she is a shallow draft motor boat she still performed well on the channel crossing. She keeps her decks dry and rides over the waves.
Apart from cruising we have used her for fishing – trawling by day and herring drifting by night. We went cockling once and caught two!
Her powerful motor will push her along at her optimum hull speed of six knots and more. She will turn on her heel and is OK manoeuvring in marinas. She steers astern fairly well. The combination of sail and motor works extremely well for passage making, making her very steady although it would take a long time to get anywhere under sail alone.
Put her to work towing a trawl and she digs in her stern and pulls like a tractor. The tow staysail is designed for trawling and we have trawled under sail (slowly).
In heavy weather Letitia rides over the waves ‘like a gull’ ,(as it says in one of the Dunkirk books). She does not have a deep keel so I would not consider taking her out in heavy weather by choice, but we have been caught out a couple of times in rough water in the Thames estuary and over the Colne bar and she remained buoyant and responsive and under good control.
Although the cabin headroom is low, the bunks are wide and comfortable and visitors find her very attractive. We have had six at supper. Four is more usual and very comfortable, with room to stretch out. Children love the boat as they can roam through the hatches and around the decks and there are places for them to sit and play. The deep side rails have a thin scupper but do not allow ropes or anything else to go overboard.
The decks are wide enough to walk about and work on. The wheelhouse adds a very important element – the ability to enjoy bad weather in the dry. The wheelhouse makes winter sailing more attractive. It also makes a very good sitting-room for sipping drinks in the evening.