Motor Launch Dormouse (1927)

We undertook a restoration of the historic motor launch, Dormouse, in late 2015. Built by Harry Gibb at his boatyard on the Thames, she is likely to be the earliest of his boats still in use and displays many of the features synonymous with his work, including the rare bare-brass fittings rather than the later chromed ones he used as well as being 27ft long prior to his standard launch design being lengthened to 30ft to suit fashions.

Working on her at her Windermere boathouse was a privilege, despite a close call with disaster in the floods we experienced here in Cumbria in December 2015 we spent 2016 undertaking quite a comprehensive below the waterline rebuild on her 90 year old mahogany planking. Floor timbers were added forward and around 90ft of planking was replaced. These being very lightly built boats, extreme care was taken to support the hull while repairs were effected and in making sure the 3/8-inch planking fitted properly.

Restoration included taking the transom back to bare timber, removing the non-original galvanised steel exhaust fitting which had let warm water seep into the transom timber as it had corroded away and had started a large patch of rot on the transom and repairing the timber. It was decided that a letterbox repair would keep as much original material as possible and this was carefully let into the transom. The exhaust fitting removed, our clients commissioned us to provide a suitable exhaust fitting that suited the boat. Inspiration was gleaned from the existing original fittings, in particular the fore deck mounted fuel filler cap. We made a pattern and had a new fitting cast in bronze and machined it up to both suit the design of the original fittings and to make sure that water from the exhaust would drop off the fitting rather than run back onto the timber to prevent future damage. Restoration also included carefully recording the original gilded and painted decoration on the transom and this was carefully re-applied using traditional methods incorporating 23.5ct gold leaf.

Repairs were also subjected to the stem and forefoot with poor repairs in the past having included pouring 3 inches of epoxy resin into the cavity around the stem knee which had led to horrendous rot it proved to be something of a minefield in removing the epoxy, but if left it would have led to highly expensive repairs including the loss of original material in having a new stem, stem knee and forward section of keel needing to be replaced. The glue removed, douglas fir repairs were let into the keel and oak into the forefoot and stem. A new oak floor timber was installed over the stem knee to tighten up the planking there which being thin in section and lightly framed had worked and allowed water in- hence the poor repair. The cavity left behind the floor timber after the repairs was back-filled with a pitch based tar compound that will back up the planks somewhat, repel water from inside and keep the structure safeguarded for many years to come.

The hull was sanded back to timber below the waterline and new planking installed where necessary. A good treatment of Cuprinol was applied to the timber. Seams were caulked where needed and high quality marine paints applied to the hull. A change from the modern blue antifouling to a more subtle green in keeping with the boat’s era was applied and the planking above the waterline sanded back and varnished.

We look forward to seeing our clients complete the finishing touches and seeing this grand lady back on the lake soon.