Blue Jacket

Built as a working fishing and shrimping boat in 1894 by Arthur Payne in his own yard, Summers & Payne, Blue Jacket (originally ‘Helen’) is 21ft Itchen Ferry. These capable boats were not generally used as ferries as the name suggests, but took their name from the village Itchen Ferry on the Southampton Water. Here, the fleet had moorings and many were built. No early history is known as the yard and records were obliterated by wartime bombing. Blue Jacket seems to have been designed with an eye to the fierce summer racing of the era, as she has more rake and draught to her straight keel than average. This helps her stand up to weather better when carrying a boomed mainsail. The older typical rig was boomless – rather like the East Coast Bawleys. But for racing, they were kitted out with large boomed sails, which no doubt contributed much to their reputation for being heavy on the helm. By 1920, Blue Jacket had acquired a low cabin top and was registered as a yacht. In the 1930s she was bought by the great designer Uffa Fox, who was sufficiently impressed to dedicate a chapter to her in his 1938 book “Thoughts on Yachts and Yachting”. In 1983 she was rescued from a pitiful state with no bowsprit, bermudan mainsail and a larger cabin – being converted back to gaff rig with yet another cabin and with an inboard engine. After buying her in 2004, she was returned to as near original semi-open configuration as was possible to determine. Since then, Blue Jacket has proved a fine family boat and, as Uffa Fox concludes, “a thing of beauty and a joy for ever”. Owned by David Ellis and based from Falmouth.

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