South Staffs Burgee
South Staffordshire Sailing Club
RYA Volvo Champion Club National Lottery - Sport England

Gailey Lower Pool 1974 - 1984


The Evolution of a Safety Boat Fleet

by Steve Baker

To Sink ............ or not to Sink ............

When I first joined SSSC in 1975 we had two craft, which doubled as committee and safety boats (or ‘rescue' as they were then known).
The Gallop (known as the Gailey Gallop) was a red, flat-bottomed "craft" somewhat redolent of a tea chest with a sharp end. This was the end that normally went first. It had a number of good features, namely an inboard diesel engine with a vertical exhaust pipe (like a tractor). This pipe had the advantages of giving you somewhere to warm your hands in winter and a location indicator when it sank. It should be remembered that the Gallop was moored off the main jetties all through the sailing year (April to New Year's day), was accessed by rowing out in the Duckling, and regularly filled up due to inclement weather and a leaky stern gland.
Apart from doing sterling work as a committee boat and general tug it has been known to double as an icebreaker. This was until it was realised that thin ice is sharp and our relatives of Amundsen, in their zeal to get some water clear for racing that day, nearly sliced the sides off the boat to leave nothing but a powered tea tray and some driftwood!
The other watercraft was a Dell Quay Dory in delicate shades of blue, connected to a fearsome 7.5 HP (Seven point Five) Mercury outboard. This normally ran well until the guys who got the fuel forgot the actual 2-stroke mixture ratio, something that happened quite frequently. So some days it started and on others it was just surrounded in a blue haze!
To get away from this problem we invested in a 10 HP Honda 4 stroke. The Honda ran well until the bearings went and we then upgraded to a 15 HP engine. You may by now have guessed that I was at the back of this insidious increase in horsepower. The result of this power increase was that the transom (almost) fell out of the dory. The large crack in the transom, in conjunction with the holes in each corner of the boat, (due to inept parking) meant another boat was needed!
To make things easier for the driver we went for a dory with centre steering this time. With this new dory we realised that we had got a short shaft engine on the old dory but needed a long shaft for the new one. Not too much of a problem since at that time we hadn't actually paid for the first engine which was on (very) long loan from Honda. It took about six months' use before the corners of this dory matched those of its predecessor.
It should also be noted that certain club members deemed this combination of dory and engine too powerful.
Not long after this, with all engines running well, the 10HP was rebuilt as a standby and whilst standing by, was stolen, along with the 15HP, which at the time was bolted to the dory and stored in the boatshed. The police were amazed that we still had an intact boat as the standard way of obtaining/removing such an engine was with the use of a chain saw where engine and transom were taken as a unit.
Simultaneously with all this excitement came the replacement for the Gallop, which by this time suffered from a rotting bottom (common disease) and much leaking. (Peter Waine actually replaced the bottom of the boat and sold it to a fisherman. Thus proving that he is without doubt the best salesman the club has ever had.)
The new craft, an ex-fishing boat Plymouth Pilot, was originally called Gallop 11. The background to this boat was that the original owner had led a bunch of like-minded fisherman into a live firing range to protest that they (the Army) were disturbing the fishing. Protest failed and we got the boat undamaged.
Later we added a support boat for the Juniors. Prior to this time it had been common practice to let the junior training have the safety boat in the mornings. This was a 12-foot Dory called Little Shrimp. We fitted this out with the 15HP short shaft Honda (the one that we used some paragraphs earlier - keep up!). A neat little boat that came under criticism as not being very good for rescue, a job for which it was not intended. Little Shrimp was replaced by the Janneau, which was never officially named. In line with its predecessor the Janneau has also come under criticism for its capability as a safety boat. In this instance it is more than capable.
Once again the dory ran out of life - holes in corners etc etc and was replaced with the current dory. Initially this was equipped with a 25HP engine (remember the insidious increase in power.) Later this was upgraded (purely for cost reasons) to a 40HP when Honda became unreliable.

Recently we have the use of a RIB plus 40HP engine (I had no opportunity of increasing the power on this one!)
By any standards our fleet of safety craft is as good as you will find anywhere and with due care will remain so. As and when they are replaced, doubtless something appropriate will be selected - I'm currently thinking in terms of a water jet power unit with an indecently large V8 to drive it!

Good to have dreams.