First published in the OGA East Coast Newsletter, 'Eastcoaster', August 2012
In 1935, banker Ernest Richards commissioned the famous Scottish naval architects GL Watson & Co. to design a capable and seaworthy motor sailer. Design no. 561 was built by the Fraserburgh yard of J Noble & Co. and launched later that year. Named 'Sheemaun', she was about 45 ft overall, 14 ft beam and drew 5 ft, giving a displacement of 25 tons; a substantial craft, built to last, of pitch pine on oak with a mahogany wheelhouse.
Unfortunately, Mr Richards didn’t enjoy his new boat for very long as 'Sheemaun' was placed under the command of Lt Cmdr Calvert-Link in July 1939. She was formally drafted into the Royal Navy in August 1941, and in her new role as Thames Estuary Defence Patrol Boat, based at Cliffe Fort on the Isle of Grain, was armed with twin Hotchkiss heavy machine guns with an effective anti-aircraft ceiling of almost 8000 ft. It is not known if 'Sheemaun' saw any serious action during her formal navy service, but luckily escaped the fate of her fellow patrol boat 'Aisha' which was mined in the Thames estuary in October 1940.
Eventually the war came to an end and 'Sheemaun' was decommissioned in November 1945, but spent two years with the Department of Naval Transport before returning to her peacetime role as a comfortable gentleman’s cruiser. She had several illustrious owners, mainly naval officers, before serving as a training ship from 1982 to 1987 at the Pangbourne Nautical College, taking many scores cadets on substantial off-shore voyages including UK South coast, French North and West coasts, Seine to Paris and Channel Islands.
Then in 1987 she was fortunate to be discovered and purchased by Dr Rodney Pell, who with a great deal of support from Mrs Maura Pell, has been extensively restored, researched and is fully seaworthy. With her twin diesels she has a range of some 800 miles but given a fair wind is quite capable of sailing and 'Sheemaun' has probably seen in excess of 75,000 miles pass under her keel.
In 2003, another distinction was added to her pedigree when she was identified by Admiral of The Fleet Sir Julian Oswald GCB as ‘. . . meriting inclusion in the National Register of Historic Vessels.’ The ultimate accolade was awarded in 2012 when 'Sheemaun' was invited to take part in the ‘Avenue of Sail’ at the Queen’s Jubilee Thames Pageant on 3 June and when, as their Flagship, she represented the Little Ship Club.