Length on Deck: 50 ft
Beam: 13 ft
Displacement: 28 Tonnes
Draught: 8 ft
Carlotta was originally launched as “The Solway” at the W.H. Halford yard in Gloucester at the head of the Bristol Channel. Halford built at least two other Bristol Channel pilot cutters on similar lines to the Solway: including the “Britannia”, and the “St.Bee’s”.
Carlotta is the sole remaining example from the Halford’s yard. Halford’s boats differed from other pilot boats by having several unique features. The bowsprits were not always offset, instead being placed on the centre-line of the vessel. Also, they featured ‘Valkyrie’ bows – straight stems with substantial rake. And in addition to the internal ballast, an external iron keel was fitted.
Some of Carlotta’s scantlings are significantly heavier than comparably sized pilot boats. Her framing is six inches wide with only six inches in between each frame and – in addition to the 3″ x 8″ bilge clamp – she sports two 3″ x 8″ shelf clamps, one on top of the other, the full run of the vessel. Other than these items, she is planked of pitch pine and elm with an elm keel and iron fastened just as her sister ships, and is fitted out on deck and below in a similar fashion as well.
Carlotta’s construction was monitored closely by a retired Pilot. When completed she was put to work in Maryport and Whitehaven as a fisheries police boat. In 1907 she was replaced by a steam driven vessel and as a result sold off as a yacht.
Carlotta has been owned and sailed by pilots, princesses, viscounts, lords, criminals, Churchill’s cousin and an illegitimate line of the royal family. Her history includes a daring escape from Guernsey in World War II. She’s been laid over by hurricane force winds until the mast trucks were almost hitting the water, she’s raced successfully against Twelve-metres, the British Army Training Manual was written on board, and a porpoise once swam across her foredeck in a Scottish gale! She’s been dropped four feet from a travel lift, towed by rowboat completely around Texada Island, and made ocean passages averaging 180-mile days. Carlotta is once again sailing after an extensive seven year refit by the Mohan family in British Columbia.
1899 The Solway
An agreement was signed June 23, 1899 between the boatbuilder William H. Halford of Gloucester England and the Cumberland Sea Fishery Committee to build a ‘Police Boat’ or ‘Protection Cutter’ for the use of Officers to patrol the fisheries in the Cumberland area.
Halford’s yard had previously built at least three Bristol Channel pilot cutters, including the St. Bee’s and the Britannia. Unlike many other pilot boats that sported an offset bowsprit, some of Halford’s pilot boats were unique in featuring a bowsprit that housed directly over a raked stem. The new boat was to be built to the same scantlings, materials, design and layout as the Halford pilot boats.
As work progressed there was some difficulty in getting Lloyd’s to perform a scheduled survey of the boat going together. The Cumberland Sea Fishery wanted someone to report frequently on the progress of the yard and the task was given to a Mr.E Brinkworth – a retired Pilot who worked as the Dockmaster in Gloucester. On November 15, 1899 the boat was launched and Christened The Solway. It measured 50′ long on deck, 13′ beam, 8′ draft and 28 Tons.
Following the launch the boat was found to be under ballasted by about 4 tons. Halford argued that he had fully completed his end of the contract and after much dispute the Fisheries Commitee added the remaining ballast themselves, having to contract another boat builder in Whitehaven to raise the cabin sole to make room for additional lead weight.
Although the boat had been assembled and rigged in the manner of a pilot boat, the Officers delivering the boat from Gloucester to Whitehaven found the rigging, interior, and some of the gear on board to be inadequate. They had the boat surveyed, and were quick to point a finger at Brinkworth for not supervising Halford more closely. Brinkworth responded (noting his 25 years experience in the Pilot service with all manner of craft) that the recommendations of the recent survey were “no more a neccessity to the boat than a side pocket to a shark.”
1900 By July 13, 1900 the Sea Fisheries had tendered out the repairs for The Solway and in the end were satisfied with the work done. She was worked in the River Solway and off the coast of Cumberland by a crew of four to seven men and a Master. The Whitehaven Shipping Registry lists the vessel’s employment as ‘Police duty’ under license number ‘2’ and she was painted black with a vermillion cove stripe.
June 20, 1907 The Solway was transferred to ship chandler John Thomas Kee of the Isle of Man. The Certificate of Registry with Whitehaven Port was cancelled July 3, 1907 as the Sea Fisheries Committee believed the policing duties would be better served by a steam-powered vessel.
It is believed a ‘Lady Vivian’ found the boat at Whitehaven, converted her to a yacht and registered her anew under the name Carlotta at Ramsey, Isle of Man due to alterations. Sometime after this Vivian shot and killed an intruder in her home and as a consequence to this trouble sold the yacht.
1907 records David A. Croall of The Sports Club, St James’ Square, London as owner and the vessel registered in Ramsey.
1908 During this time Carlotta was associated with several prominent people, including the notorious financier Clarence Hatry. One of the key events leading up to the 1929 Stock Market Crash was the collapse of Clarence Hatry’s empire in Britain. In 1930 he was sentenced to 14 years penal servitude for forging municipal bonds and obtaining money by fraud.
1913 Carlotta won the 1913 Royal Cornwall Yacht Club Regatta under the ownership of A.R. Hoette. The Mercantile Navy List and Maritime Directory of 1913 gives the owner as William H. Rogers of Bickford Grange, Penkridge, Staffs.
The 1914 and 1915 Lloyd’s Register of Yachts shows the owner of Carlotta as W.G. Luke of The Anchorage, Hamble, Southampton. In 1919 Beken of Cowes photographed Carlotta under full sail in company with the ‘Banba’ – a yacht built in Southampton in 1897. To date it is the earliest photo record of Carlotta.
1920 Carlotta is reported being owned by a property developer named John Rene Payne of 17 Regent’s Park Terrace, London. He was known as ‘Fiddler Payne’ as he used to play his violin (one of three Stradivari that carry the Payne family name) in the still of the early morning and evenings aboard Carlotta. He sailed Carlotta out of the Royal Burnham and Royal Corinthian Yacht Clubs with a full compliment of paid hands. Carlotta was beautifully kept and took part in all the cruiser races. She underwent a complete re-rig which included having her bulwarks cut down – as a low flat sheer was fashionable at that period. She was also fitted with what was known at the time as a ‘Marconi topmast’ – a hollow spar fitted into a metal cup on the top of the mast. In 1922 Carlotta won the ‘Round-the-Island’ race with a £120 Silver Plate. During this time Carlotta was racing against International Twelve-metres on the Essex Coast. Eventually Payne sold the yacht and went on to own a succession of William Fife Twelve-metres – the yachts Vanity I through Vanity V. Carlotta appears on the Royal Yacht Squadron list from 1923 to 1928.
1925 John Standish Surtees Prendergast Vereker, the 6th Viscount Gort – more commonly known as Lord Gort – is reported to have loved the yacht and preferred to live aboard rather than ashore in the family’s East Cowes Norris Castle. Lord Gort was a British soldier who served in both World War I and II, rising to the rank of Field Marshal and receiving the Victoria Cross. In 1940 he led the British Expeditionary Force to France and subsequently the retreat from Dunkirk. It was aboard Carlotta that he wrote The British Army Training Manual. He lavished care and money on Carlotta and fitted her with every comfort and convenience.
1929 shows the retired Lieutenant Colonel, the Honourable Christian Henry Charles Guest of London as the registered owner.
1933 George Henry Jordan of Southlands, Monmouth is shown as owner on the sixth of December 1933 but only for a very short term as Sir Thomas Hewitt Skinner of London is shown as owner December 22 of the same year. At this point Carlotta was given a magnificent swept teak deck.
1935 Beken of Cowes once again took several photographs of the yacht.
Bessie and Aleck Bourne of London bought Carlotta to replace their aging Idris – another smaller ex-pilot boat. In 1938 Aleck Bourne (a noted gynecologist) performed the operation of abortion without fee on a young girl not quite 15 years of age who was raped by a group of British soldiers. Bourne was charged with unlawfully procuring abortion but later acquitted of all charges.
The Bournes would spend the summers sailing around the coasts of Northern Europe in the North Sea, the Channel, the Baltic and the coast of Brittany. One summer was spent sailing right around England. A silent home movie documents these travels.
During a stay in Brest in 1939 the radio receiver on board broke down. Without much concern the Bournes took a leisurely course southwards down the Britany coast. At Concarneau, a large port where they finally met civilization again, they received a telegram from London:
RETURN HOME IMMEDIATELY. WAR IMMINENT.
They promptly sailed North and left the boat in the care of friends at St. Peter Port on the island of Guernsey thinking that Carlotta would be safer here than on the mainland.
1940 The ownership was transferred to three gentlemen in Guernsey: Commander Lewis Tobias Peyton-Jones, Mr. Harry Lyster Cooper, and Timothy Patrick Moriarty O’Callaghan. Far from being a safe haven, the Channel Islands were the only British territories to be occupied by the Germans. On a Sunday in June 1940 the Germans landed at the airport.
1942 The yacht was found laid up in a canal basin dock near Fleetwood in 1942 by Richard Twist. Twist paid 1000 guineas and became the next registered owner. Twist sailed her out of Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland for about four years with his friend Harry Pitt – a master helmsman who scorned the use of the engine. During these years they sailed mostly among the Hebridean Islands, Scotland, and Ireland. Twist claimed that a porpoise once swam across her deck in a Scottish squall!
He later chartered Carlotta out of St. Mawes, Cornwall with his wife Nellie (who incidentally could set all sail and singlehand the boat) with frequent voyages to France. Carlotta was laid up at St. Mawes beside the Laurent Giles designed cutter Dyarchy every year when out of season. The following season the Twists would always leave on May the first “whatever the weather” as Richard used to say.
Sometimes they used the laborious process of a block and tackle to raise the anchor. Mrs. Twist would take the business end over her shoulder and walk the length of the deck until the anchor was aweigh, at which point Mr. Twist would shout “Avast there!” She seemed to like it. Apparently one season Twist could not afford anti-fouling so he used sheep dip instead that year.
Some fast times Twist made with her were from Wicklow Head in a N and NE wind to Longships in twenty-four hours. Another time she was off the Manacles on the South Cornish coast at 7:15 am and was abeam the Abervrach lighthouse at 6:00 pm. This was under trysail in a strong NW wind. In September 1950 in the North Channel a hurricane force wind over an ebb tide made the sea white all over and the Carlotta was laid down until the masthead truck was almost hitting the waves. Another time in the Sound of Bute a williwaw put her over until the water came up to the deck skylights.
She was also sailed out of some tight corners, notably inside of Caladh Island in the Kyles of Bute, as well as going South to North through the rocks inside the Raz de Sein – a terror of sailors from the very earliest of times. In the Middle Ages, when a ship had safely passed through, one of the sailors would blacken his face pretending to be Father Neptune collecting tolls. This bit of tomfoolery was later extended to crossing the equator.
Twist was a regular contributor to Yachting Monthly and wrote several articles of his adventures in Carlotta during the 1950’s and 60’s. He taught Adlard Coles (who in 1947 founded his own nautical book publishing firm and wrote many pilots, narratives and the classic world-famous Heavy Weather Sailing) and Sir Max Aitken (son of Lord Beaverbrook – proprietor and founder of the Daily Express newspaper) all they knew about North Biscay and its ports. Twist would often consult for French Naval officials and correct the inaccuracies of their charts!
1969 The Twists kept Carlotta for twenty-seven years. They lived aboard for seventeen years and spent the off-seasons living at Elwynick, St. Anthony. Richard Marsden Twist died at St. Anthony in Roseland, Cornwall October 28, 2003 aged 94.
1970 Twist sold Carlotta to two young men from Golant, Cornwall. The two men ignored a warning from Twist “not to leave the boat up on legs” and she fell over and came into a deplorable state of decay with many frames smashed.
1973 Canadian Peter Heiberg found Carlotta in the Fowey estuary. Heiberg had been searching for this type of vessel for some time having sailed aboard the Bristol Channel pilot cutter Marguerite T with his friend – owner Les Windley. Heiberg bought Carlotta and spent the next four years replacing frames and restoring her at Thomas’ Ponsharden Yard at Falmouth. He removed the dark, compartmented, falling-apart, Japanese Oak interior and gutted the boat for the most part. He replaced twenty-eight futtock ends, seventeen planks, sixteen deck beam ends, refastened the hull throughout, refastened the deck, fitted new bilge stringers, re-caulked where necessary and fitted a small transom where the end of the counter had gone rotten.
The restoration was a full time job for Heiberg. At one point he felt close to giving up and traveled all day by train to the other end of England to visit his friend Les Windley for words of encouragement. As he made his way down to the harbor he spied the Marguerite T from afar and was so overcome by her beauty that he turned around and went straight back to Falmouth full of inspiration – without even visiting his friend!
1977 In the summer of 1977 Heiberg set out to Vancouver, British Columbia but was thwarted by a severe storm in the Bay of Biscay. The following summer he set out again but was forced back to Falmouth. On a third attempt he reached Vigo, Spain and sailed on to the Caribbean island of St. Barts where he proceeded to win every category in the Old Gaffer’s races for the next two years.
After two years Heiberg pointed west again through the Panama Canal to Hawaii. Eventually he reached Vancouver after a quick passage averaging 180 miles a day – without an auxiliary. He then tried to make the boat earn her keep by chartering and offering sail-training to distressed juveniles – possibly becoming the only vessel to be towed by rowboat completely around Texada Island since Captain Vancouver’s voyage! Carlotta was a regular winner in the Old Gaffer’s races in English Bay, Vancouver, B.C.
Peter Heiberg’s relationship with Carlotta lasted for over 30 years – the entire time without an engine or any other modern conveniences installed. He has proven that an old gaff rigged boat need not be thought of as a slow, clunky, old tub – as he raced Carlotta competitively and made many long passages aboard her.
2004 Heiberg sold Carlotta to Barbra, Jasper and Stephen Mohan. Long time admirers of Carlotta and pilot cutters, the Mohan’s jumped at the chance to be Carlotta’s next custodians. After one year of sailing and living aboard on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia attention was turned to necessary long term repairs. The Mohan’s began the process of restoring Carlotta with an eye towards the original workboat she was in 1899.
2009 August – The hull and decks are completed and the mast had been stepped. A small party was held at the Hotel dock in Lund with a traditional Celtic band, Champagne smashed on the bow, a few sea shanties belted out by the Lund Shanteymen, and cake for everyone!
2009 October – Carlotta sails again! There are still many jobs to do – including rigging of the topmast, building a windlass and constructing the interior. On board for the first sail is Richard Campbell from England – wearing the same red sailing smock that his father wore when sailing on Carlotta back in Cornwall in the 1950’s with the Twist’s.
2011 October – The interior is completed and the Mohan’s move back aboard Carlotta!
2015 Carlotta was based at Powell River, British Columbia, and was purchased by Michael Wright who lives in London. She underwent repairs and restoration work at the yard of Abernethy and Gaudin on Vancouver Island. In 2017, she was transported by road and by sea back to the UK after more than 43 years abroad and is now based on the River Hamble, near Southampton.
Carlotta Pilot Cutter | 33 Streathbourne Road, London, SW17 8QZ, GB