Ziska was launched at Arnside on 28th January 1903, eleven months before the first aircraft flight in December. She was built as a yacht for John Aspden of Lytham. Ziska spent her early life in the Irish Sea, before moving to Whitby after the Second World War.
Ziska was built by Crossfield Brothers on Church Hill in Arnside. The lead partner in 1903 was John Crossfield, who moved to Conway in 1906 to set up a boat building business there. John built Pacific Moon (originally Nama) in Conway in 1913. Pacific Moon was sailed to Tahiti by Sidney Howard in 1931/2 featuring in his book “Thames to Tahiti”.
In 1997 after a long period of neglect
Ziska was discovered in Cowes and restored by Ashley Butler, a 19 year old boat builder. In 1999 he sailed her across the Atlantic, spending four years cruising and racing her in the West Indies., before selling her in 2003. During his ownership she was chartered to the explorer Tim Severin who was making a film about different inspirations for Robinson Crusoe.
Ziksa was shipped across America by road in 2006 to Port Townsend, Washington State on the West Coast. Port Townsend is a centre for wooden boat building with a college and festival.
She was purchased by Stanford Siver in 2017 who spent the next two years restoring her helped by a team of shipwrights. In 2019
Ziska took part in the 750 mile long Race2Alaska, which is designed to show case the latest in human and wind powered boat technology, coming 22nd of 35th starter. In 2020 she was shortlisted for the best Classic Boat Restoration under 40 foot and the Gstaad Yacht Club Centenarian of the Year.
The Name Ziska
Ziska is short for the German girl’s name Franziska and similar to the Yiddish girl’s name Ziske meaning “Little Sweet One”. One eyed General Jan Ziska (1360-1424) is a Czech national hero. However it is probable that
Ziska was named after “ Princess Ziska “ a novel published in 1897 by Victorian best-selling author Marie Corelli set in Egypt. The final melodramatic scene takes place in the inner chamber of the Great Pyramid.
There were at least two other yachts called
Ziska built around 1900. Ziska (1898) was a Dublin Bay 25 footer, which was later raced at Royal Cork. Ziska (1904) was a Royal Windermere 17 footer. Ziska Pilsner made by the Bowness Bay Brewing Company is named after the Royal Windermere yacht.
History by Year
1903 Built by Crossfield Brothers in the Top Shop on Church Hill in Arnside for John W.Aspden of Lytham
John Aspden (1855 -1921) was born in Blackburn, an inland mill town. In 1891 census he lived in Fleetwood working as a fisherman. By 1901 Census he was a Sea Fisheries Bailiff living in Lytham. In 1904 he was the General Manger of Lytham Baths, a Victorian leisure complex fed by sea water. The adjacent Assembly Rooms housed the yacht club.
1904 Recorded in Lloyds Register as owned by Arthur Earle-Hunt of Temissary Lodge, Do
Arthur Earle-Hunt (1860 – 1928) was born Arthur Hunt in Dublin. In the 1881 Census he was recorded as a bank clerk. His maternal grandfather was Thomas Earle, a Manchester solicitor.
His first wife Evelyn eloped with her employer James Cooper a Manchester businessman living in secret with him for 7 years. Arthur received £800 damages against Cooper (about £100,000 in today’s money) when his divorce was granted in 1894. James Cooper was tried for murdering his second wife a barmaid in Douglas, Isle of Man in 1892 receiving the lenient sentence of 10 years penal servitude for man slaughter, when the usual punishment for murder would have been hanging. Both the murder trial and divorce were reported in the national press.
In 1894 he married Ellen Stopford of Tremissary Lodge, Douglas Isle of Man, the wealthy widow of a Manchester brewer, 9 years his senior. It is probable that the money to buy Ziska came from her.
Arthur joined the Royal Mersey Yacht Club.
June 1904 Arthur sold Ziska to John Evarard, a Douglas entrepreneur involved with various leisure businesses including Mona Steam Ship Company that offered trips round the bay
1905 April: John Evarard sold Ziska back to Arthur Earle-Hunt
August: Arthur Earle-Hunt sells Ziska to W.J.Ellis, a Dublin solicitor. Ziska kept at Kingstown (Dun Laogharie), Ireland’s leading yachting centre with three Royal Clubs
1908 Lloyds Register records Ziska as being owned by Arthur Holt and partners. In September 1907 the Owner of Ziska was reprimanded by Royal Mersey Yacht Club for flying a club burgee when he was not aboard the yacht. Therefore, Arthur Holt and partners must have acquired Ziska in 1906
Arthur Holt (1876 – 1941) was a Liverpool architect. He was a member of Hoylake Sailing Club and the Royal Mersey. At first, he owned Ziska in partnership with others, then outright from 1925. When he first involved with Ziska, he was only 30 living in a terraced house in Hoylake. By time he sold her in 1935 he was Vice Commodore of the North Wales Cruising Club, living in a large detached house in West Kirby, and could afford to replace her with Halcyone a brand new 30 ton yacht.
June 1908 – 2nd in Royal Mersey Race from Rock Ferry to Llandudno beating two other Crossfield’s boats Wallaroo and Armistice.
1909 Engine added – 2 cylinder made by Webbs of Stockport
Came second in Horbury Challenge Cup on May 28th organised by Hoylake Sailing Club from Hoylake to Llandudno 26 miles completing course in 8 hours 44 minutes in moderate winds. 1910
1911 Came last in Liverpool of Isle of Man Midnight Race won by Maymon with Wallaroo, another John Crossfield boat second. Ziska completed the windless 80 miles in 31 hours.
1925 New engine fitted – 4 cyclinder Ailsa Craig Motor Company
1932 Arthur becomes Vice Commodore of North Wales Cruising Club, which is based in Conway. John Crossfield her builder moved from Arnside to Conway in 1906 setting up a boat building business there. John Crossfield died in 1944
1934 Took part in Royal Clyde Regatta in June coming last
1935 Recorded in Lloyds Register of Yachts as being owned by H.B.Newall, Liverpool
1939 Recorded in Lloyds Register of Yachts as being owned by Frederick.C.Smart, Liverpool. Frederick Smart lived in a house on Waterloo Seafront, Crosby once owned by Thomas Ismay of the White Star Line, owners of Titanic. Frederick was a Wholesale Newspaper Distribution Manager with W.H.Smiths. New American engine fitted – 4 cyclinder made by Gray
1946 Moved to Whitby. Rescued by Lowestoft Lifeboat in late August and saved from drifting into Newcome Sands when engine failed in a gale on voyage from Ostend to Whitby. Four men and three women were on the boat. They were the owner Major W.McApline Jackson from Burley-in-Wharfedale (a Bradford architect who was in the Royal Artillery during World War II) his wife, his sailing master Mr W.Hewson from Whitby, two men and two unmarried women.
1951 Recorded in Lloyds Register of Yachts as being owned by Graham Sherratt registered at Whitby. Graham Sherratt was the Cheshire Public Analyist and President of the Society of Public Analysts from 1959 to 1960. He was a member of the Whitby and Royal Mersey Yacht Clubs and lived near Chester.
1958 Not recorded in Llloyds Register between 1958 and 1967, presumably still kept at Whitby
1967 Recorded as owned by Chris Rutherford in Llloyds Register. Chris Rutherford lived in a semi in Allerton Grange, Leeds and was a member of Whitby Yacht Club. Older members recall that he sailed Ziska with his son.
1970 Not recorded in Llloyds Register after 1970. Presumably sold to T.Godfrey the next recorded owner and moved to Plymouth. Jon Wainwright, owner of Deva, a Royal Mersey Rivers Class boat made by Crossfields records that he and his father nearly brought Ziska in 1970, which was then in Plymouth in his book about Deva “Only so Many Tides”.
1973 Broke lose from moorings in River Tamar in gale, drifted, suffering severe damage. Put up for sale for £950 (£11,500 in 2020 prices) as boat is uninsured and owner T.Godfrey can not afford to repair boat.
OGA Newsletter had the below advert
Though in very good condition earlier this year, 'Ziska' broke loose and drifted during a gale. She suffered damage as follows: bowsprit broken at stem, main boom broken 5' from stern, counter stern damaged above waterline, Samson post and side planks damaged on port bow, gunwales distorted and handrailing damaged, engine waterlogged, side rubbed. Hull sound below waterline. Fine old craft with hand carved tiller, very fast. Owner unfortunately uninsured and cannot meet expense of repairs. Would sell for £950. T.J. Godfrey, Plymouth, Devon
1974 Purchased by Robert Cundall in May, who was trading up from a smaller boat. Ziska was kept at Hoo Lake lying against a stone wall, which meant she only floated at high tide. Sailed back to Cowes in a perilous condition with water coming in, the boom held together by metal rods, the sail patched with a tea cloth and the Seagull engine not working. Hauled up on the beach opposite the Folly Inn on the River Medina above Cowes. Work started in restoring her.
1977 Recorded in OGA Newsletter as being restored on the beach at the Folly Inn above Cowes. Article below.
NOTES FROM THE SOLENT AREA Bob Cundall of Chough, and Ken Harris of Vigilance are fitting out the 38' Morecombe Bay Prawner ' Ziska' on the beach at the Folly Inn. Over the winter 54 new frames have been nailed in, and new top planks added; the counter has been rebuilt and a new stem is being fitted.
However, the boat is sold on to another owner when enthusiasm wanes circa 1980.
1987 Ziska is brought half restored by another owner. Moved to Shepherd’s Wharf, Cowes
1997 In November Ashley Butler, a 19 year old shipwright called in at Cowes in his 23 foot gaff rigged yacht. He came across Ziska lying on a wharf under a torn covers with a For Sale sign held on by a rusty nail. Ashley was looking for a larger classic boat which he could take to the West Indies. Next morning by chance he met the owner and exchanged his yacht for Ziska.
Taking out a bank loan to transport her back to Essex, Ashley spent the next two years restoring Ziska whilst living aboard her, working on her in the evening after finishing his day job working as the foreman at Arthur Holt’s boat yard at Heybridge. (no relation to Arthur Holt who owned Ziska from 1908 to 1934). Since Ashley’s restoration Ziska has not had an engine.
1998 Ziska takes part in the Solent Old Gaffers Race at Cowes, along with Bonita (188) Maryll (1937), two other Crossfield boats. Maryll skippered by Jon Wainwright beats Ziska and Bonita. The race is recounted by Jon Wainwright in his book “Only Some Many Tides” about Deva, a Royal Mersey Rivers Class Yacht built by Crossfields in 1912.
1999 Ashley, aged 21, takes her across the Atlantic and spends the next 4 years racing and cruising her in West Indies. Crossing the Atlantic he averages 140 miles a day. He sails her double handed across the Altantic and then single handed in the West Indies.
2000 Chartered by the explorer Tim Severin who was researching different inspirations for Robinson Crusoe, including Henry Pitman a surgeon in the Duke of Monmouth’s army who was sentenced to ten years slave labour in the West Indies by Judge Jeffries. Henry Pitman escaping from captivity in Barbados was left marooned along with 11 companions by pirates on the uninhabited Isla La Tortuga (Island of Turtles) off the Venezuelan coast.
Ziska’s voyage is eloquently recorded by Tim Severin in his book “In Search of Robinson Crusoe”. There is a DVD of the book. Tim describes raising the mainsail as follows “There was the piercing high pitched squeak of the wooden jaws of the gaff sliding ponderously up the mast, followed by the erratic flap and clatter of heavy canvas. ..... When the sheets were hauled in and the mainsail exerted pressure, Ziska groaned with the effort, then groaned again.”
With Tim Severin and Ashley on Ziska was Trondur Patursson, a Faroese artist, who had crossed the Atlantic in 1976 with Tim in a currach to prove that it was possible for St Brendan to have discovered America from Ireland in the sixth century AD
2003 Takes part in Antigua Classics on her hundredth birthday winning multiple races.
Sold to an American who wanted to use her for long distance cruising. Unfortunately, his job meant he did not have time to sail her. Ziska is kept at Annapolis on Chesapeake Bay. Unfortunately, his job meant he did not have time to sail her. Ashley now runs Butler & Co one of the country’s leading wooden boat builders at Penpol Creek, near Falmouth
2005 Sold to tall ship sailor and shipwright, Clint Thompson who moves her to Port Townsend, Washington State on West Coast of America by truck. Clint and his young family live aboard Ziska for 6 years, cruising locally. Clint is a friend of Ashley Butler.
Port Townsend is a centre for boating and maritime life with a skilled workforce. There is a wooden boat building college nearby. Events include an annual wooden boat festival. Port Townsend grew up as a Victorian port that went into decline as the railway never reached
2013 Clint sells Ziska as she is too small for his family. Brought by another Ports Townsend Owner
2017 Bought by Stanford Siver of Port Townsend. Stanford’s involvement with boats started when he left his job on the East Coast of USA and enrolled in the North West Academy of Wooden Boatbuilding, near Port Townsend. With the help of a team of local shipwrights, Stanford spent two years restoring Ziska, before entering her to the Race2Alaska. Work included an upgraded salon, a new mast, rigging and sails.
2019 Takes part in the Race2Alaska from Port Townsend to Ketchikan in Alaska up the Canadian Coast in June. The Race is designed to showcase the latest in sail and wind powered technology. Ziska is by far the oldest and heaviest boat to take part. She completes the race in 16 days, 12 days behind the winning boat coming 22nd out of 35 starters (only 25 finished). To complete the 750-mile distance, Ziska had to sail 1282 miles having to tack against north westerly winds. When the wind dropped the crew had to row her 12 tonnes. The general conclusion was that Ziska performed well in strong winds, but less well in light winds having to be rowed at times.
2020 Short listed for the Classic Boat Restoration (under 40 foot) of the Year Award and the Gstaad Yacht Club Centenarian of the Year