October 17, 2009

1885 British screw schooner Amazon at Bristol RI Columbus Day 2009

Higher resolution images are available here

The British screw schooner Amazon was built at Southampton in 1885 from designs by the renowned Dixon Kemp. Kemp intended her to be fast and a good seaboat.

Carvel planked in teak and pitch pine on oak frames, with alternate wrought iron strap floor reinforcement, bronze fastenings, lead keel and copper sheathing, Amazon's survival reflects the high quality insisted upon at build - her hull is still largely original.

Her builder and first owner, Tankerville Chamberlayne, Esq., personally supervised her construction by his own 'Arrow Yard' at Northam on the River Itchen. This small non-commercial facility was established by the Chamberlayne family for the maintenance of the famous cutter Arrow (1822), which was adapted continuously and thereby kept racing competitively into the 1890s. Amazon's engine and boiler were supplied by the adjacent works works of Day, Summers and Company.

Amazon was used for summer cruising, to attend sailing regattas along the south coast of England, and to visit France. She was sold shortly after Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee Royal Fleet Review in 1897 to a prominent French yachtsman an was based at St. Malo as Armoricain until 1900, when she returned to British ownership.

A new owner took her to London and after 52 years, her original engine and boiler were removed on her conversion to diesel in 1937. she became a houseboat in a west London Yacht Basin.

Arthur Lowe (1915 — 1982) an English actor best known for playing Captain George Mainwaring in the popular British sitcom Dad's Army bought "Amazon" as a houseboat in 1968, but realized her potential and took her back to sea in 1971. He used Amazon as a floating base while touring coastal theaters, accompanied by his wife Joan. Amazon pursued a successful charter business in the 1980s, before migrating to the north of Scotland in 1990.

This unique vessel is currently registered in Guernsey, a British Crown dependency in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy. I photographed her on Columbus day 2009 on a mooring near the Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol, RI.