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The End of Sailing Dreams

Many people, maybe even you - dream about buying an older boat, fixing it up, and sailing the high seas, but sadly the reality of actually doing it comes with a price.

I don't know what it is about boats that make people take the risks they take, sometimes it's the boat itself - Some boats have a story, and they don't always end well.

For those of you that read our 'ship's blog', you may remember that we recently traveled down the East Coast of England and back again on a failed job run, but on the way back, just before we got back to Berwick - we almost stopped at a place called Seahouses.

In planning to possibly stop, I had called ahead for provisional berthing instructions and in my conversations with the Harbourmaster, I had said that we might stop in if there was time, but may just press on so that we didn't arrive in Berwick in the dark.

He warned me that if I was passing, I should be careful about using the Goldstone Channel and that a vessel had recently lost its rudder due to some currents, or so the skipper had claimed - and had to be towed into Seahouses by the RNLI - as it would turn out, we didn't have time and just passed Seahouses, I did take his advice and used extra caution as we passed through.

This was the first I'd heard of this boat, but for whatever reason, I would keep hearing about it over the next few weeks...

Nevil Shute and his boat, Runagate

I think it was a few days or a week after arriving back in Berwick - a boat turned up here in the harbour. I wasn't sure it was the same vessel, but all I can say is that it was, by far, the sketchiest-looking boat I've ever seen in the water.

It reminded me of the boat from 'Adventures in Paradise' and if the said boat had been neglected for 50 years...

Now, I have seen boats like this before - but they were in a yard, and had been for 20 years. I've seen wrecks like that dragged up on beaches, but never actually floating - this boat was in need of some extensive repair, like a full refit of just about everything.

There was almost nothing on that boat that wasn't coated in rust or some algae, every piece of timber that I could see was in its final stages of just giving up, and rigging was in a real sorry shape - but there was still a glint of possibility - beneath it all she'd been a lovely vessel at one time, here and there you could see where she had once been a gem.

From brass portholes to beautiful bronze fittings - rare and expensive items needing only to be serviced/polished in order to be brought back to life littered the boat, and in a way, I could see what might have captivated the current skipper to acquire this very unseaworthy, but most interesting vessel.

I did go over and have a chat with the skipper, if for no other reason - just to get a closer look at this boat! And I confirmed that this was the boat that lost its rudder, now allegedly due to a fishing pot, who knows - either way, rudder = lost.

I spoke to him for about 20 minutes, and he gave me a rundown of all the problems he was aware of, and I pointed out a few more he'd forgotten - everywhere you looked there was something that required attention - and he knew it.

The boat was called Runagate, built-in 1939 and had been commissioned by a famous author/engineer named Nevil Shute, who was also an intriguing guy - So intriguing, in fact, that a search was conducted to find his legendary, elusive, historical boat that he owned from 1939 to 1949.

If you get 5 minutes and want to read the full story, there's a link at the bottom of the page that covers the story of the Search for Runagate, it has quite a few pictures of the vessel in its better, and better-ish days...and the previous skipper who was also quite taken with the vessel, it's a fascinating read...

He informed me that he was taking it up North to be restored, and had some pretty lofty plans for the vessel, I told him - I hope you have deep pockets!

He was also traveling with a dog called Lucy, a very friendly Boxer, and seemed very at home on the boat. Despite the challenges, he seemed very upbeat about everything, I don't think he had lots of cash, I can sympathize with that, but never underestimate a dedicated man and his dog, his only aim was to save the Boat.

About a week later, both he and his dog left with a little assistance from the local pilot boat. I later heard that he had spent a night in Eyemouth before carrying on up North.

The next I heard, he was in Granton Harbour up in Edinburgh, in exactly the place where we'd spent a few weeks earlier this year. A nice little space in calm conditions...but not ideal in all conditions.

The skipper had told me that they were on their way to Grangemouth to begin the restoration, and Grangemouth is just a hop and a skip from Granton - so I hadn't expected him to be there for very long, when I spoke with him he seemed very keen to get on with fixing everything.

The sad story of Runagate - a drowned dream

And that's about the last I thought I'd hear of them, to be honest...

Sometime later, during Storm Arwen, I learned that the boat was still there! and had broken free of her moorings and struck a few other nearby vessels, and suffered quite a bit of damage. Being 82 years old, she wasn't in great shape before the storm, but after a severe battering she was in much worse shape and was now taking on a decent amount of water.

As I understand it, they managed to get some lines on her, and rafted her onto a larger nearby vessel, which seemed a bit safer for such a fragile old girl...banging against a condemned pier with nothing but old car tires for fenders is less than ideal.

In the picture above you can see all the fresh damage amidships on the starboard side moving towards the bow, some cleats have just ripped right out the deck...

But then, disaster, as the UK got hit with more weather in the form of Storm Barra, and again Runagate broke her moorings and, this time, ended up on the rocks.

It seems like such a waste, whatever chance there was, all seems lost now.

The story even made into a Scottish newspaper, link at the bottom of the page...

I love old wooden boats, I really do - Every great sailing adventure story starts with a wooden yacht, I think they sail differently, they have a look and charm that no fiberglass boat could ever have - BUT, they need maintenance, lots of it, and that takes money - and these kinds of projects can, very quickly, get out of hand.

The older they are, the more they cost to fix, in my opinion...but it's so easy to fall under the spell of these old boats and when things go awry, the sailing dream ends where the money does, and the dream becomes a living nightmare.

In learning about the vessel, the author, the present owner, and the overall history of it alI, seems such a shame for it to end this way. I really feel sorry for the current skipper, and it seems like the dream is over.

At least for now, Runagate is on the rocks with bits of her round about, it might just be another chapter in her life, but it sure seems like the end for Runagate.

There is nothing sadder to see than an old boat meeting her end like this. It's not the death of the boat, but the death of all the blood sweat and tears that went into her over the years, the death of all the hopes and dreams that will never come to fruition - it's just sad when something is, maybe, gone forever.


During Storm Arwen, we also took a bit of damage to our bow, it really was nasty weather. We broke our cast aluminum bow roller that was kind of integrated into the bow, it was an original part from 1984, and I don't think I'll be able to get that replaced, it'll probably need to be a custom-fabrication job, but it's not the end of the world, and in comparison to Runagate, I feel we faired ok...and we had no damage from Storm Barra, so that was nice.

There was another yacht here in Berwick during Arwen, their mooring line broke, and that vessel ended up on the beach, but other than it being a bit sandy - it survived with only a few cuts and bruises and was later re-floated with no detectable issues.

I was annoyed about my bow roller, but I have to remind myself that things could always be worse...


>>>> The Search : The Runagate Story <<<<

>>>> The Scotsman Article : Masts sticking out of the water... <<<<


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