Restoration of Knight Errant
A major restoration has commenced at the Clewer boatyard, Windsor. The subject of the renovation is Knight Errant, one of only two remaining 50 feet slipper stern launches. The project is going to take approximately 18 months and the restored craft is expected to be of the highest standards.
The 1934 Slipper Launch Knight Errant built by Meakes of Marlow is unusual and unique in that it was constructed with a near full length cabin. The style of the cabin with its curved roof and half-opening framed arched windows is reminiscent of railway carriages of the time. Original drawings show the cabin roofline continuing to the tip of the stern. The cabin was constructed short of the drawing design allowing some access to the stern and a characteristic sloping stern deck. The original cabin was open plan with gull wing hatches, an L-shaped settee, a galley, a toilet compartment and settee bunks that could sleep four. The design of the cabin together with the original light fittings exemplifies the Art Deco styling of the launch. The front navigation lamp includes the pennant staff and the stern light is designed to hold the ensign staff, both are embossed SL by the makers Simpson Lawrence. Knight Errant use to reside at Whitchurch Mill, Oxfordshire and appeared on chocolate boxes lids, biscuit tin lids (believed to be Huntley and Palmer) and on a jigsaw. We would be most interested to hear from anyone who knows the where about of examples of any these items.
Although the length of the front deck is not in the same proportion to the overall length as most slipper launches and the cabin initially a little distracting, the hull and sheer line is 100% slipper launch. The hull sides are near to vertical, which is very typical of Meakes slipper launches. Knight Errant is one of only the few 50 feet slipper launches built and at 49 feet 9 inches would have avoid the increased Thames Conservancy fee for boat above 50 feet in length.
In October 2000 Knight Errant was taken to the boat yard at Clewer, Winsor for a total restoration. The bottom of the boat and the decks are to be replaced. A lot of strengthening will be needed to the 50 feet length of the launch, as a combination of its length and the construction materials and method means currently there is too much flex along the length. The plan is to provide enough strength so that navigation to the tidal Thames is possible for events such as the boat race. Strengthening is also required to the central sections of the hull, as they would currently be vulnerable to any sideways damage
The engine compartment is to be re-sited, the current engine is not the original and is housed in the doorway leading to the front cockpit area. This is unlikely to be the original position as you would need to clamber over the engine housing to get to the front cockpit. There is room under the front deck to position a new engine. The intention is to replace the current engine with a 5 cylinder diesel, the propulsion would be is would be via a 100% sealed hydraulic drive system. The proposed positioning of the new engine should have little effect on the angle of the hull to the water as the leverage of the overall length of the boat will more than compensate for the 6 feet shift forward in the engine position. Fuel and water tanks are to be housed centrally in newly formed compartments in the bilge between the keel and floor.
Steering positions are planned both in the front cockpit area and within the cabin. The current plan is to keep the cabin clear of fitted furniture, this will allow the new owners to become acquainted with the launch and accommodation with flexibility for seating and sleeping arrangements. In time furniture can then be fitted to meet the required needs.
For more information see Restoration of Knight Errant- Progress Update
The restoration project will continue throughout 2001. The Slipper Launch Collection will track progress of the project on this website. Visitors are also welcome to visit the Clewer Boatyard to see the work in progress, please call Colin Messer (0468-456058) to arrange a suitable time.
Photograph courtesy of Phillips Auctions 1986 This picture shows a small mast and twin air horns above the front cockpit area. Canvas covers are being used over the two side roof hatches that are halfway along the cabin. A later addition to the lunch would be the car type wing mirrors that can be seen either side of the cockpit, these appear to be the style found on the 1960s MG/BGTs.
Knight Errant in the 'Restoration Tunnel'
Many thanks to Colin Messer, John Llewellyn, The Boater (TVBC) and Phillips Auctions for certain information provided in this article.
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