Today we are featuring Part 1 of a 2 part story about an early English race boat believed to be from the very early 1900’s. This great story came to us from fellow Woody Boater Wint Taylor in England, the owner of “Fixitor” – with help from an amazing transportation photographer Peter Zabek. Peter’s photography also helps to bring the boat alive in Part 2 of Wint’s story tomorrow.
Art Nou·veau (är n-v, ärt) – A style of decoration and architecture of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, characterized particularly by the depiction of leaves and flowers in flowing, sinuous lines.
The Victorian period marks a time when the British Empire was at its strongest under the rule of Queen Victoria, which took place between 1837 and January 1901.
The original e-mail we received from Wint Taylor from back in March as we were leaving for Florida, and it read:
Dear Matt & Texx,
As a Woody Boater fan I thought you might like to see what an early English racer (circa 1900) looks like. It is a typical “Trials Boat” developed for the early Harmsworth Trophy races and may be the earliest still afloat.
I finished the restoration of “Fixitor” last year and it took part in the historic Queens Jubilee Pageant on the River Thames through London last June and seemed quite popular.
Do you have historical racing boats of this vintage in North America? I do have some more images of the project if you would like to see them? I am very grateful that Peter Zabek does my archive photography, and would be happy to share some of the photos with Woody Boater to help tell the story of “Fixitor.”
Very best regards to all you boaters.
The Queen and members of the Royal Family on board the Spirit of Chartwell Royal Barge cruise along with a 1,000-boat flotilla down the River Thames for her Diamond Jubilee celebration in June 2012. Wint Taylor and “Fixitor” joined the 1,000 boat flotilla that day.
We were excited to learn more about the history and recent restoration of “Fixitor” so thanks to Wint Taylor and photographer Peter Zabek we can share the story with the Woody Boater community today and tomorrow. We are going to let the photographs tell much of the story with commentary from Wint Taylor.
Fixitor: Victorian Art Nouveau Gentleman’s Racing Boat
by Wint Taylor
We first came across “Fixitor” for sale as a hulk without any superstructure upon a trailer at the Thames Trad Boat Rally on July 20th 2009. Colin and Steven Messer and I were struck by a number of things:
All the fixings on the hull planks under what was left of the paintwork were very carefully doubled up and in line and with no disrespect for boatbuilders, this is not a regular feature unless the boat is of very high quality.
There was not a straight plane anywhere on the deck area or the hull. She had this very special organic “Art Nouveau” design style and would have been difficult to design not to mention build. The two images (below) demonstrate the “Original” seat position in the main cockpit of “Fixitor” as a racing trials boat, the ribs demonstrating the original set of the turtle deck and the special conection point witin the boat for the tow rope (these were not the most reliable boats).
I bought her and she was delivered to Colin and Steven Meser at Classic Restoration Services at Clewer Boatyard Windsor on the River Thames Near London.
We started researching the boat which had been well known in the 1950’s onwards as an interesting shaped cabin cruiser. Indeed over the years there had been some articles in the Boater Magazine speculating that she had been an air launched WW2 lifeboat or Windermere Canoe. Our later reasearch would prove that speculation to be incorrect.
Ann and Michael Hawkins had bought “Fixitor” then known by another name in 1949 in a cabin cruiser format. They restored and used the boat until 1996, when she was laid up and sold it on. When we bought her in 2009 she had been laid up for 10 years or more.
The Hawkins had bought the boat in 1949 from an army officer who had bought her prewar in the cabin cruiser format and moved her from the Soar to the River Fleet, then he sold it to the Hawkins when he was posted to the British Army on the Rhine.
Nothing conclusive is known about “Fixitor” from circa 1900 until the late 1930’s though research continues.
When we spoke to the Classic Boat Museum on the Isle of Wight, they identified the hull as classic state of the art 1900 racing yacht design and the fitting we had trouble identifying was identified by them as a bronze guide for a tow rope hole of a very early trials boat as subsequently used on the 1903 Harmonsworth Trophy Boats and of those that took part in the 1908 Olympics Power Boat Race around the Isle of Wight. (only one finished, the others suffered engine failure hence the need for the tow rope arrangements). Indeed the in situ towrope arrangements are still in place on “Fixitor”.
So Fixitor had lasted well over a century and now we had an interesting Restoration Project. We have yet to precisely identify the original maker or name though work continues. Here are some photos of the restoration process that was successfully completed by Classic Restoration Services at Clewer Boatyard, Windsor on the River Thames.
Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2 of Fixitor: Victorian Art Nouveau Gentleman’s Racing Boat as we see the amazing engine installation, historic relaunch and the completed project now back in service and being used as she was meant to be.
Thanks again to owner Wint Taylor and photographer Peter Zabek for sharing thier story with us here at Woody Boater. If you have any questions, please feel free to note them in the comment section or you can e-mail them to Texx@woodyboater.com and we will try to get them answered for you directly from Wint Taylor in England tomorrow.
We just love these international stories and it’s fun to see and learn what Woody Boaters around the world are working on and saving from extinction. Nice work guys!