Classic Boat Museum

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The Classic Boat Museum

The Classic Boat Museum is a museum of boats and of the history of yachting and boating. It is located on the Isle of Wight at two separate sites on either side of the River Medina; The Boat Collection in Cowes, and The Gallery in East Cowes, it is a working museum featuring restoration. Work takes place all year round. In addition to classic boats, the museum contains tools, artefacts, books, photographs, film and archival items that relate to the history of boat building, sailing, yachting, cruising and racing over the last century.

The Boat Collection[edit]

The Boat Shed beside the historic Hammerhead Crane

The collection includes varied types of boat, most made from wood, that have now been restored. In addition to the main exhibits, there are also smaller boats on display including dinghies, canoes and rowing boats.[1]

  • Flying Spray - A now restored 1920's river launch. It was found holed and rotting in a Thames backwater. Since restoration the boat has attended several rallies in France, Germany and Switzerland and recently won the Concours d'Elegance at a French regatta in Aix-les-Bains.
  • Airborne Lifeboat - A Mark 1 version of Uffa Fox's 1943 Air/Sea Rescue design. The Mark 1 was carried and dropped by parachute from a Lockheed Hudson aircraft. Mark 1A boats used the larger Vickers Warwick. Later and larger versions used Lancasters and B17s; these boats were dropped to airmen who had ditched in the English Channel and the North Sea during World War II. It is estimated that these boats saved around 200-300 lives; the boat carried sufficient stores of food, water, fuel and clothing for a month at sea. A rescued crew was able to sail, motor or row home; this early example underwent a two-year restoration programme to restore it to its original specification after being dug out from a garden in Colchester. Airborne lifeboats were eventually replaced by helicopters in the 1950s.
  • Sopranino - This is the famous first example of an offshore mini cruiser/racer and was the foundation of the present day Junior Offshore Group fleet. In 1952 she was sailed across the Atlantic by Patrick Ellam and Colin Mudie and was later found in a poor state in the USA, she was purchased for $1 and returned home for restoration.
  • Kestrel - An early Bembridge Redwing. In 1934 Lord Brabazon of Tara fitted a rotating aerofoil rig, swivelling mast and a brake at the masthead, its design is unique.
  • Rosabelle - A launch (restored 2011) from which Frank William Beken took famous sailing photos that can be seen worldwide today.
  • Vigia - This historic Una Catboat awaiting restoration is the latest acquisition by the museum and was donated by the family whose care she has been under for over 70 years. She was built in Cowes in 1872 and is thought to be the oldest English registered pleasure yacht to be still sailing.
  • Black Bess - An 1870 Itchen ferry. The boat carries the name of the museum on her sail to many regattas during the summer.

The Gallery Exhibition[edit]

Entrance to Classic Boat Museum Gallery

The Classic Boat Museum's Gallery, based in the former Saunders Roe 1935 building, houses a number of photographic and artefact items, including:

  • Photographs and other items and events associated with Uffa Fox, including 14 ft dinghies, sailing canoes, transatlantic voyages etc.
  • Photographs, papers and test tank models relating to the Thornycroft family's working and sailing life on the Isle of Wight
  • Photographs of yachts in the Solent and East Coast from the 1920s onwards, named and dated
  • Jo Carstairs' collection – press cuttings and photographs relating to her motorboat racing career in the 1920s
  • Models of power boats and working craft
  • Library of 2,000 maritime books
  • Gipsy Moth IV Connection — The museum's Gallery features some of the original equipment from the boat and clothing worn by Francis Chichester during his journey.
  • Other displays relating to Ellen MacArthur, Trinity House, Fleet Reviews, Princess Flying Boat, Hovercraft and J-Class yachts.


  1. ^ "Isle of Wight Classic Boat Museum — Collection". Classic Boat Museum.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°45′37″N 1°17′21″W / 50.76035°N 1.289048°W / 50.76035; -1.289048