As we hit the path from Start Point to Salcombe on August Bank Holiday, our landlady warned: “Watch out for the hurricane.” We thought she must be mad. Some hours later we sat outside a Salcombe pub, huddled against driving rain and a rising gale. Apparently this was the ‘tail end of Hurricane Charlie.’
As we watched yachts scurrying for cover, several elegant yawl-rigged dinghies continued to brave the elements. They weren’t going to miss the fun. I was astonished that open dayboats were preparing to take on Charlie – but these were no normal dayboats. They were Salcombe Yawls.
Salcombe Yawls trace their history back two centuries. They started life as inshore fishing boats, evolving to cope with the short steep seas and long rollers that swept up the Channel. They had to be able to beat out of the estuary against a strong tide before fishing under a reduced rig of jib and mizzen.
In 1853 the fleet of yawls – then called Licensed Watermen’s Boats – started racing in the Salcombe Regatta. Then in 1917 a very young Jim Stone – apprenticed to Edgar Cove in Salcombe – built himself Y2. During the winter of 1938/39, Y14 was built for son Alec and from around 1946 Jim Stone built many more in East Portlemouth. Between them, Jim and his son Alec built more than 80 SYs up to 1995.
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