Davia – A Dunkirk Little Ship

A James Silver Dunkirk Little Ship, sister to Wairakei II

The current owner bought Davia in 2014 in a moment of Gallic passion. He then instructed Simon Evans, a UK shipwright based in France, to undertake a whole series of repairs. However the hull had been previously sheathed and a survey suggested that this had been professionally done and should be left alone.

In 1929 when the boat was slipped she had been designed not only as a coastal cruiser but also as  a fast motoryacht. Indeed that very year she was triumphant in the Andre Gold Cup which was a race between London and Cowes. Just over a decade later Davia would bring back many British and French soldiers in the evacuation off the beaches of Dunkirk and thus became a Dunkirk Little Ship for which she has the necessary documentary proof.

Her first owner was the honourable William Coryton who was born in 1895 and died in 1981 after a stellar career as a lieutenant colonel in the RAF. After the war the boat was sold in 1954 to Walter Bowen who renamed her Barracuda before in tun being sold to Old Windsor on the Thames where she resided from 1969 to 1972. Two years later a Mr George Young sold her to John Shelby an American who ran the International Herald Tribune in Paris. He added a II to the name Barracuda and brought her across the channel to France.

In 1978 Mr Shelby left the world of newspapers to devote himself to Barracuda II becoming skipper on board and taking American tourists along the Burgundy canals. This venture was fairly shortlived however and in 1980 an architect, one Jan Karczewski bought her. Who knows what he did with her but certainly maintenance was not his strong point and 12 years later the boat was rescued by the Ruffenachs who restored her original name and brought her to the River Yonne. They managed to get the boat to Simon Evans yard, Evans Marine in Sens thanks to sturdy and reliable bilge pumps ! Simon was a great fan of Dunkirk Little Ships (who could not be !) and during the next five years he was charged with the restoration of the boat by the Ruffenachs. Madame insisted on a proper double bed and a bath in the master cabin and sewed a series of attractive cushions for the cabins and the saloon which are still in situ. Francis put a galley into the bow which suits the period of the boat.

In 2014 the current owner fell in love with Davia right there on her mooring and decided to purchase her partly seduced by the beauty of her lines and partly thanks to her military history being himself a military man. His first job was to replace the decks with pine and to revarnish her (done again in spring 2018). The interior is completely charming with a cocktail cabinet, a fine table with bottle storage and you can see on stepping aboard that the boat feels very authentic. At this point the bath was taken out and a 140 cms bed installed in its place. Bathing is now done in a modern shower compartment.

The boat was repainted and varnished in spring 2018. Davia will be at Dunkirk for the 2020 return and in the meantime is available for overnight rental on the River Yonne in Burgundy through Air BnB.