East Coast


Botters in English hands

'Windhaver' sails on the River Colne, 1962
©Roy Elwood

Fritz van der Mark, Dutch OGA member, has been undertaking a long-running project to research what has happened to the Dutch botter, 'Windhaver'. This research is now complete, and members may be interested in what has been found out.

English interest in the Dutch botter begins in the autumn of 1958 at the famous Ferry Boat Inn in Fambridge on the River Crouch. Mike Peyton, a founder member of the OGA, listened to a conversation, as he describes in his autobiography ‘Celebrating 50 Years of Sailing’. The speaker had just returned from the Netherlands and said that because of the embankments, there were rows of sailing fishing boats in the ports of the IJsselmeer for sale. Peyton did not have a lot of money, but the pound was still a hard currency. A few weeks later he owned the EB49. He had paid the ‘wooden-clogged fisherman’ £400 for the botter which was still in completely original condition.

Once in England, his botter EB49 was named ‘Clementine’, derived from the American folk song, ‘Oh My darling, Clementine’ via the fishery number 49. The second verse contains the lyrics: ‘Dwelt a miner, forty-niner, and his daughter Clementine’. The botter proved to be ideal for the English east coast with its shallow draft and the possibility of taking the ground. The rigging was simple and resistant to a bump, but it was heavy. Peyton found the botter on the whole to be labour-intensive. After a few years he sold ‘Clementine’ and switched to a smaller yacht that he could sail with his wife and two children.

Roy and Rosalind Elwood from Colchester were looking for a ship which they could sail and live on at around the same time and influenced by Mike Peyton's article, they took the night boat to Hook of Holland to find a suitable botter. They took a week to search and visited almost all IJsselmeer ports. Eventually they looked at a promising botter in Harderwijk for the second time. It was Bart Jansen’s HK23. Sailing her to England, they named her ‘Windhaver’ and sailed regularly on the East Coast Rivers and the Thames Estuary. During the holidays the North Sea was crossed twice, on the last occasion the trip lasted three weeks and a number of Zeeland ports were visited. Roy says:

“We continued to use ‘Windhaver’ very actively, the sailing season actually became longer and longer. We have learned to enjoy the estuaries in the winter. We visited places we had not yet seen such as Great Yarmouth and carry on the Broads as far as possible with a fixed mast. The sails were very old and we had had the fore sail re-sewn but the canvas of the main was going. In 1970 we had a new main sail made and did what we could to keep her in working order. We would have been happy to replace a few planks or frames, but it was an overall thing. The ship became more and more vulnerable and with two children and more and more things on board we decided to look for something else.”

‘Windhaver’ had a berth at Woodbridge Quay in the River Deben and in 1972 the family moved to Newcastle, having lived on board for 13 years. The ship was sold in 1973 to a certain Granville, and then to Paul Bruce. She remained in Woodbridge for another 25 years, finally sinking into the mud across the river from the Tidemill Yacht Harbour.

Follow the links to the full story, researched by Fritz van der Mark and published on 'Sailing by' 

Botters in English hands: part 1
Botters in English hands: part 2


26 Nov 2018