by Amy Trevail
Volunteers at Hayle based community group the Dos Amigos Project got stuck in to some early work on their 93 year old flagship at the weekend.
Penzancers Mark Quinn and Jayne Clayton stepped up to haul a vital repairs cradle donated by Cornish Lugger the Happy Return from Gweek Boatyard to Treeve Yard in Hayle, where the project is based.
The Happy Return offered their dismantled steel cradle to the Dos Amigos after members of the Mounts Bay Luggers Association read about the boats salvage in the local press.
Happy Return skipper Mark Mitchell explained: “We replaced the Happy Returns 100 year old keel, along with the adjacent garboard planks, at Gweek over the winter; it was a major task and required the ordering of a purpose-built steel cradle.
“The cradle was expensive but one of those things that once used, we would have had to sell on and take a chance, or sell for scrap.
“So when we read about the salvage of the Dos Amigos, we thought it best to hand over the cradle to another local community organisation at scrap value.”
He went on: “The Dos Amigos Project have a real challenge ahead of them – but we’d love to see them succeed. She does appear to be the last St Ives Carvel Gig, and it would be marvellous to have this unique, original boat once again sail alongside our restored Cornish Luggers.”
Volunteer Jayne recalled: “It was great fun spending a day at the Dos Amigos; I really enjoy getting my hands dirty on restoration work and everyone made me feel really welcome.
“I got to master Land Rover driving and was treated to a slap up meal at the end of the day so all in all it was very rewarding.
“I’ll certainly be back for more!”
Project overseer Robb Lello, who runs Treeve Boatyard, said: “It was very generous of the Happy Return to sell us their cradle at its scrap price.
“We’re finding there’s a real will locally to support this project and we are all very positive. The cradle was always going to be vital, and the next step is getting it put up safely and securely. That done – and it’s a fair old job to do properly – we’ll be set to start looking inside her hull.
“We know a lot of the boat is absolutely sound – much more so than with some of the other Lugger restorations. We’re realistic that there’ll be serious work to be done nonetheless. But this is Cornwall, there’s a strong community, and we’re finding lots of people are up for doing it.”
The local councillor went on: “Hayle is looking at some really exciting changes over the next few years, and schemes like the Dos Amigos Project are geared to ensuring that developers don’t lose sight of local people, and local heritage when those changes take place.”
As we reported back in January, Dos Amigos was salvaged from Looe Harbour just after New Year.
Although in private hands, the owners have requested the 13.8 tonne, 38 ft historic vessel be managed by a community group.
Her restoration, and, once restored, her operation, will be a community initiative, aimed at engaging local people from all walks of life, and educating the wider populace about Cornwall’s Maritime History.
The boat is the sole surviving St Ives Carvel Gig, and one of the very few remaining intact craft built by Thomas Paynter, the legendary St Ives boatbuilder who constructed vessels at a boatyard on the beach.
Originally named Our Francis and constructed for a local family, at the time of Dos Amigos launch in 1920, she was one of the early engined Gigs, fitted with a main and auxiliary motor, as well as mizzen and fore lugsail.
Gigs mainly went after herring, and fished inshore Cornish waters.
She was renamed ‘Dos Amigos’ by an enigmatic Newlyn fisherman known locally as ‘Tony the Spaniard’. Tony arrived in Newlyn during the Spanish Civil War, and fished the boat with a first mate nicknamed ‘Portuguese Joe’.
In the 1980s Dos Amigos was restored by Mike and Sue Darlington, sailed cross Channel and chartered as a pleasure boat under the name ‘Deu Kerens’ – the Cornish translation of her Spanish name.
Sadly she fell into disrepair due to the ill health of a subsequent owner, and lay deteriorating in Looe Harbour for almost a decade. The current owners lifted her from the water and low-loaded her to safety in Hayle on January 27th this year.
She now forms the core of the community project which takes her name.
pix show left to right Mark Quinn, boatbuilder Andy Kershaw and Jane Clayton