I am a
member of Nottm Model Boat Club and got interested in the history of
English ship building. I went down to the West India Dock to see the
"Robin" the last of the old English coasters. This one is unique as it is
still being put to good use as an art gallery. Its history is again unique
so I did a lot of research, even to getting an original drawing indicating
all its original build features before its eventual modification. I took
loads of photographs of it in its present state, and started to build as
accurately as I could.
Naturally a vessel like this could only be made from scratch, in fact 90%
came from 'Do It All" with the rest made from old parts and fibre glass. I
can see from your site that you like an interesting story so I have
attached a picture of my efforts with a potted history.
Kind regards and keep up with the good work.
Story of the Steam Coaster ROBIN
typical of the classic steam coaster built at Orchard House Yard on Bow
Creek, Blackwall that is only three miles from where she lies today at
West India Dock in Docklands. Her keel was laid down in December 1889 by
Mackenzie Macalpine to the order of Robert Thomson, ship owner of Mark
Official number 98185
Length 143 ft.
Beam 22ft. 11ins
Gross Tonnage 365.64 – Net. Reg. Tonnage 175.96
Mast Lengths Fore and Main 60ft. 6ins. Mizzen 50ft dia 11ins.
Main Engine built at Dundee in 1889 by Gourlay Bros. &Co. Triple expansion
12” 18” 30”diameter cylinders Stroke 21” H.P. 60. Boiler built by Gourlay
Bros. &Co. of steel pressure loaded 160 lbs. Psi.
ROBIN was launched on 16th September 1890 first towed to Dundee where her
engine and boiler were fitted between the 20th October and 11th November
1890 its maiden voyage 20th November 1890. The Master was Thomas Gibson
from Wigtown and Mate Thos. A. Premett of Bristol both paid £2.5.0d per
week the rest of the twelve man crew, down to the youngest, 14 year old
Joseph Lea of Holt of Norfolk at £1.0.0d.
The Master and Mate changed positions for its first overseas trip, as
Gibson did not have a “Masters Foreign- going Certificate”. She had three
owners in the next ten years, until in 1900 she was sold to a Spanish ship
owner who renamed her “MARIA”.
He then sold her to Srs. Perez y Cia of Santander in 1913 who kept her for
over half a century until 1965, the only visible changes were (1956) the
wooden wheelhouse was added on the bridge and the stockless anchors were
replaced with stocked and catted anchors.
Her third Spanish owner Sr. Eduardo de la Sota Poveda S. A. carried out
the first major alterations since her launching. In 1966 the Mizzen mast
was removed the Fore mast, Main mast and the Funnel were shortened the
fo’c’sle extended and the coal fired boiler was converted to oil.
In the last years of her Spanish service were spent carrying coal from
Gijon to Bilbao and iron ore from Bilbao to Gijon
MARIA discharged her final cargo at Bilbao only a few days before the
Maritime Trust bought her in 1974. On the 12th June 1974 she left Bilbao
and set course for Ushant and the English Channel. On the afternoon of
Saturday 15th June 1974 she was off Start Point and for the first time in
seventy-five years she was heading home to the Medway for a refit.
She was delivered by Commander R.D.Wall OBE. RN. Deputy director Of the
Maritime Trust. At 1130 hours on Monday the 17th June she was moored to
number 9 buoy in Chatham Reach. On the 24th June she was cradled and
hauled out of the water on the slip at Dousts Shipyard at Rochester for a
survey prior to a refit before being returned to the West India Dock where
today she rests as a floating gallery, a monument to the lost art of
classic British shipbuilding.