Following on from the sale of two slipper launches so far this season, one electric and one completely traditional, it would seem that the popularity of this design persists.
Slipper stern launches are truly the E-types of the river with their distinctive styling. The first example of the sloping stern, designed to cut wash, was Merk, built in 1912 at Andrews boatyard on the Thames. They were river staples for private ownership as well as hire, right through to the 1960’s.
In the early 1930’s boat building for leisure started to take off again and we see a number of yards, such as Brooke Marine, building this very attractive sloping stern launch. It would seem that more than a hundred years on from Merk, customers are still in love with this elegant design.
Currently we have an enticing selection of slipper launches for sale including “Hennerton Queen”, “Blighty”, “Jayfor”, “The Viceroy”, “Lady Jane VII” and “Ballroom Slipper”.
Meakes of Marlow built some absolutely beautiful slipper launches up to 33ft including Belmont (at Cliveden House) and a boat that I was lucky to see last week, which has been in the same ownership from new. It was a gift to its current owner on her 21st birthday circa. 1950.
Unfortunately Meakes’ archives were destroyed in a fire, so we don’t actually know if they described their sloping stern launch as “a Greyhound”.
We do know for sure though that this is the name Andrews used, as we have an excerpt of the 1952 Earls Courts Motor and Boat Show describing the 1952 Blue Moon:
“GREYHOUND, Sloping Stern, Open Launch of the following dimensions: L.O.A. 25ft, beam 5ft 6in, height overal 4ft 6in, draft 1ft 9in. It is of hard chine construction, planked throughout in seasoned mahogany, on either oak or mahogany frames. The decks are laid in 2¾ in planks, in either obechi or mahogany.
A top speed of 14 m.p.h. is obtainable by use of the C4 Ford 10 h.p. Watermota. Fittings include hood; navigation lights; all deck fittings; mooring lines; Dunlopillo upholstery; paddle; boathooks; lino floor covering; and waterproof boat cover.
Price as shown £771 5s 0d.”
The slipper launch champion in the 21st century is still the Freebody yard. We sold a Freebody 25ft slipper to a wooden boat enthusiast in California recently. It appeared to be in need of some fairly drastic restoration, which its new owner is happy to undertake.
If you would like to purchase a project, please give us a call about “Paula”. An Andrews 25 that could be yours for £7500 (+ several litres of varnish and a few planks).
It is gratifying to see that there are still some customers who are prepared to keep our boating heritage alive. I am increasingly getting calls from people who are telling me that they have had GRP or steel hulled boats but that now that they have a little money and time on their hands, they want to buy “the real thing”.
There is no doubt that some people still experience passion for beautiful tactile examples of authentic craftsmanship.
We hope that with the three branches to our thriving little business we are able to satisfy the needs of all of you, whether you prefer low maintenance day boating or a more intense and classic experience with a historic wooden vessel.