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1905 Saunders Launch

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  • 1905 Saunders Launch

    Maybe i should have titled this thread "Mustn't rush a project" but i thought better off it!
    Back in the early 1960's as a young child my Dad pointed out to me a lovely old motor launch laying derelict on Benfleet creek.
    She was part of an eclectic collection of boats owned by a local builder & handyman Eric Denton, he was very eccentric & often boasted that he had never painted a boat in his life, (he had owned scores of them). Many people tried to buy the launch but he resolutely refused to part with her.
    Built by SE Saunders probably at the Goring on thames yard she is a typical fast launch of the time 27' 6" loa x 5' 8" beam, her sharp entry blends into a flat hull aft with cruiser style stern. Originally fitted with a petrol engine of unknown make.
    Construction was Sam Saunders patented "Consuta" system, two diagonal layers of yellow cedar with an outer longitudinal layer of honduras mahogany all stiched together with copper wire.

    Fast forward to 1985, i had just set up my first boatbuilding venture Benfleet Boat Co, at this time the old launch had moved up the creek to a new location & was looking more than a little sad, 40 years of neglect really starting to take their toll.
    Shortly after this Eric died & 6 months later i happened to meet his sister & was able to buy the launch for the princely sum of £25.
    A salvage expedition was mounted & 2ft of mud was dug out of her sunken hull.
    We found her keelson was split from stem to stern & the hull was strapped together with several 4x2 temporary deck beams and spanish windlasses. The split was caulked with clay & strips of an old blanket. A sheet of polythene dragged under & stapled around the hull allowed her to float at last.
    She was moved to the yacht club & hauled out a couple of months later, much to everybodies surprise she did not fall apart upon hauling out!
    Been trying to work out uploading url from photobucket but keeps coming up as invalid file, heres the direct link,
    Last edited by keith66; 09-23-2015, 02:56 PM. Reason: photo

  • #2
    Re: 1905 Saunders Launch

    Now that's what I call "raising the dead"!

    "The enemies of reason have a certain blind look."
    Doctor Jacquin to Lieutenant D'Hubert, in Ridley Scott's first major film _The Duellists_.


    • #3
      Re: 1905 Saunders Launch

      Well thank you for getting the photos up! I fear my ancient computer is the problem. The lower photo shows the launch last month in her building shelter at Benfleet yacht club

      I suppose it is raising the dead, in truth i sat & looked at this boat for many months wondering what on earth i was going to do with her. At first i had thoughts of puddening her up & ripping a GRP mould from her. In the end her rarity got to me.
      Saunders built a lot of boats but very few survive today, also used for aircraft construction the Consuta system hulls were notoriously difficult to repair & in the RAF a Consuta fitter was a seperate trade in itself. One survivor the Patricia was used as a plug by Bossoms boatyard in the early 1980s, several other sisters were treated to a GRP overcoat.
      40 odd years of dereliction had left the outer layer of planking in terrible condition below the waterline plus ice damage had literally carved a foot wide strip away around the waterline. The inner planking was oil rotten from generations of engines dumping their oil into the bilge. I realised that to rebuild her as original would mean replacement of the entire structure. I could no see how this was going to be possible.
      In the end i decided on a partly modern method. I had experimented with epoxy encapsulation but results were not good, with three skins of planking i couldnt get adequate penetration & in any case the mahogany outer layer was so brittle that it was pointless to continue.
      On the plus side the yellow cedar inner skin was still sound.
      So inspired by several reports of successfull cold moulded sheathing in Wooden boat magazine i decided to go down that road.
      The outer & middle layer were stripped off in narrow vertical sections with an air chisel with wide chisel blade ground shallow & sharp & new veneer laminated
      directly to the original inside layer with west epoxy. once it was cleaned up. In the oil rotten areas in the bilge heavy builders polythene was used as a shield to protect the new veneer from the oil contamination. (These areas were replaced from the inside later)
      Once the first new layer was glued on the rest proceeded quickly with a a new cold moulded hull being laminated.
      Then life & work got in the way & the project was mothballed, you know how it is, No time & plenty of money or no money & plenty of time, then my son was born & i did the househusband thing. Time passed.
      Recently i reached the age of 54 & abruptly realised that i had owned the old lady for half my lifetime, it occured to me that perhaps i really should finish this boat!
      A month ago i found a suitable engine for her, a 1930' ish Gaines universal 6 cyl sidevalve, rated at 65 hp it should drive her well! If anyone has any info or manual on this engine i would be grateful!


      • #4
        Re: 1905 Saunders Launch

        Now that is frickin cool....
        Fish and ships or is that chips


        • #5
          Wow what a project, would love to hear more about it. So am I right in thinking you started the epoxy work quite some years back. Almost reads like you were a pretty early adopter for encapsulation.

          Sent from my HTC_PO582 using Tapatalk
          My First Boat Build:

          Iain Oughtred - Macgregor Canoe - 15 foot


          • #6
            Re: 1905 Saunders Launch

            Incredibly awesome!

            Even in hard shape, that's a really pretty hull.



            • #7
              Re: 1905 Saunders Launch

              The hull replanking or epoxy work was done from 96 until 98 when i closed the yard. Since then there has been little progress until recently. Work & other projects got in the way!
              In this case it wasnt really epoxy encapsulation, just building a new cold moulded hull using as much of the original structure that could be saved.
              The interior of the hull that wasnt soaked in oil was grit blasted & epoxied first, this held the copper stiching in place. There is approximately 60% of the original inner skin left.
              I remember being inspired by articles in WB on the Falmouth quay punt Curlew & a later tale of a 30 Sq M in San francisco. Both boats had cold moulded sheathing applied. In this case it went the step further that gave her a hull transplant.
              The original planking was 2 diag skins 1/8" thick with a heavier 1/4" outer skin longitudinaly. Using 1/8 western red cedar veneer i put the first new layer on in narrow vertical strips at 90 degrees to the centreline, the second skin at opposite diagonal to the original inside layer & the final 1/8" khaya mahogany skin was laid fore & aft to match the original planking runs. So hull thickness is the same as originally.

              Next big job is the frames, she was originally fitted with 6 rolled angle iron frames around the engine bay, there wasnt much of these left below the waterline.
              Im not sure what to do here but feel replacing them would be the favored option.
              The engine beds are heavy pitch pine & run nearly the full length of the boat. From this it kinda implies she originally was fitted with a big or powerful engine for the time. Many of these boats were used for racing but as to if this one was i dont think we will ever know. Her dimensions dont match with any of the known race boats that are recorded.
              There is much info in Ray Wheelers book From River to Sea (An excellent history of Sam Saunders company) but this boat was so long up a muddy creek that she fell out of knowledge.
              The only history i have prior to WW2 is that she was once owned by a Captain Walker ex Royal Artillery & he used her as a gentlemans launch also for occasional duck hunting trips. I knew a friend of his & he reckoned that her last engine was a ford sidevalve car engine of approx 12hp, apparently this would drive her at nearly 10 knots. The 65hp Gaines universal should be just the ticket!