Helian has quite a history


In 1991 a man of the sea, with enormous skill in engineering and carpentry, took it into his head to build a 78ft two masted ketch. He chose Rye waterways on which to rest as he was a local boy (Peckham and Tunbridge Wells), and also there aren’t many affordable options with great little towns attached.

Ian Springate had learnt his love of the local area and the sea from buying a fishing boat here, and earning a slim living fishing the local waters. After five or six years, he sold the boat to Malcolm Clarke, and commenced his life-long work building Helian. He had found a local field on Harbour Road in which to craft his craft, which took many years of skilled, stop / start labour.

It is a truly local boat for many reasons, not least because the timbers came from the Tunbridge Wells area after the 1987 storm. He came to a very cost effective agreement with the local council, whereby they got their surplus timber used and cleared, and Ian got the skeleton of a beautiful ketch, all cut and sawn on a chain mill he installed on some land at Pembury.

Thereafter there was a bit of a lull, as Ian went off sailing small (400 / 1000 ton) coasters to the West Indies: St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Bequia and so on. Apparently, the local purchasers over there had a distaste for the high seas, and who can blame them, and needed the boats delivered to them. In between boat building and adventuring, Ian was one of the leading mechanics / engineers on Rolls Royce engines, which had a huge local representation, so was much in demand. More delays.

Master craftsman, Ian Springate

The ketch has very beautiful lines, clad initially with English larch, which is gradually being replaced with oak. The mast is one enormous Douglas fir. The ketch has an 8L3B diesel engine (8 cylinder Gardner) that looks as if it would need no help at all pulling the skin off a rice pudding. Of course, now after 30 years the whole craft needs repainting and a lot of TLC. But the level of skills needed to make, fit and mast it all are ridiculously high.

What a beauty!

Image Credits: Col Everett .

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