Thursday, 31 January 2013

Happy Holidays on the Costa Clyde



Holiday Afloat for £30

The first motor charter cruiser service on the Clyde has been established at Helensburgh and on Sunday the eight ton cruiser Morning Sky is due to leave with the first party of six persons on a week’s cruise on the Firth of Clyde.

The prototype motor cruiser was specially designed for hire work by the Glasgow naval architects Alfred Mylne & Co for the Arden Yacht Company, a new venture by two Glasgow business men John McNiven and Donald Crockett.

The second boat is due to be launched by the end of the month. Chartering from Sunday to Saturday costs £30, and such has been the demand that the first boat is booked until mid September.

The boat was designed to keep down the price both of construction and chartering, so that a high class yacht finish was not contemplated.

Morning Sky is 28 foot 8 inches overall with a beam of 8ft 6in and a shallow draft of 2ft 6in. The air-cooled diesel engine of 13hp, driving a four bladed 18 inch propeller through a 2 to 1 reduction gear, gives a speed of seven knots and a cruising range of 150 miles.

There are berths for six persons, more than 6 ft headroom in the cabin, and the boat is chartered fully fuelled and watered and complete with cooking stove and utensils, crockery cutlery and bedding. The firm will even put groceries on board if they are ordered in advance.

The cruisers will be covered by insurance and for third party risks up to £25,000. Their cruising range has been limited to the Clyde above a line drawn West through the Little Cumbrae and the North of Arran, which leaves plenty of water to explore.

The boat’s outfit includes the sailing directions of the Clyde Cruising Club, a set of charts with suitable anchorages marked, anchor, chain, warps, fenders and a ten foot dinghy. 

Thus the Glasgow Herald of 25 May 1960 introduced Scotland’s first charter business,  set by two enterprising Glasgow businessmen and boating enthusiasts in premises in East King Street, Helensburgh. To build the boats they recruited the young George Hulley, a time-served boat builder who had been building Air-Sea Rescue craft in the RAF.

John McNiven’s son Renwick has sent me some nice memories of the early years of the business and a picture of the first of the “Skye Class” boats.


It would be interesting to know if either of the two survives. John writes

“Charter operations started up from an abandoned wooden pier near the head of Loch Long, however it turned out to be abandoned for a reason and the council promptly condemned it and put up the barbed wire fencing shortly before the charter boats were due to return.
One of the first charter parties turned up with a sea-going trunk fit for a passenger liner, this being too big to go in the cabin was left on the cockpit sole for the duration of the charter. However after this start the party phoned later to say that they were in ‘A-roach-er’ and after some language translation it was  ‘Arrocher’ at the head of Loch Long, turns out that the point of the call was to say they needed a new anchor.  The 30 fathoms of chain and anchor had gone runaway over the side in too much water depth in Loch Long breaking the securing strop.”
The motor cruisers were followed from 1963 by the very neat little Arden Fours, 
the concept being a ‘Folkboat with headroom’, sketched during a meal using napkins!”
Thirteen were built in wood, then another fifty five hulls were built in fibreglass in England and shipped to Helensburgh to be finished. A final two, to a slightly different design, were built in 1971/2.


"The journey along Helensburgh’s promenade always had a large following, but then the tractor could only pull at a walking pace of  4 mph!"

Lots of Arden 4s survive and do good service as tough, seaworthy little ships with no great pretensions. One of them, built as Dirlie for the Crockett family has arrived in our area.





Latterly the surviving member of the team, George Hulley, ran his chandlery business from MacAllisters yard in Dumbarton, where generations of west coast optimists, myself included, toiled away on restoration projects. It was always a challenge trying to persuade Mr Hulley to sell glue with slow hardener, rather than fast stuff which he was convinced was essential in Northern climates. He made up for this minor eccentricity however by his legendary quiet good humour and patience.   

The internet is a useful resource for a blog like this. Often the effort is fruitless and boring but occasionally throws up a little nugget. Googling the Ardens produced

"Dumbarton is never fun.
Fine, young man, it was fast… I found an old buy boat chin, and it has a photo of yore Ardennes forest zone tribe, she is generic can not see the keel - This is the same design? …the yore Ardennes forest zone 4 would have been to add wood and then later in the GRP…. im not sure if the george hulley is designer when time i being chatted designer he mentioned a certain extent, he suggested it was not his. He also told me that some arden 4s augmented england south.- georges hulley in the dunbarton in operating a candle maker enterprise. 
In Hulley Dumbarton Now, I may be disturbed."

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The Wherrymen

The Wherrymen
Two old friends on the water