Why rescue the Gamecock?

The Gamecock is one of the few remaining oyster smacks built in Whitstable as part of a fleet of over 70 vessels that once worked in the Swale. 

What is needed to restore her to working order? 

The Gamecock retains her original features and is representative of the type of vessel built to meet the requirements of oyster dredging in inshore waters. A professional marine survey in 2014 found her to be ‘in quite remarkable condition, considering she has never had a major rebuild’.The vessel has a continuous history from her construction by the Collar Brothers in 1906 on Island Wall. She has been owned by Whitstable fishermen from Albert Stroud to Bill Coleman, and now by the charity, Whitstable Maritime. She has been accepted by National Historic Ships as being of national significance (www.nationalhistoricships.org.uk/register/2858/gamecock).

Whitstable Maritime has already removed the Gamecock’s second skin (a low budget means of repair) and replaced the damaged or decaying timbers in the wooden hull so that she is again seaworthy. In 2020 she was towed in to Whitstable Harbour. 
The remaining tasks are the replacement of the deck and rigging, and the fitting of a new engine, stern and galley. The restoration is being carried out by volunteers using like-for-like materials and traditional techniques under the supervision of a local shipwright. See ‘Conserving Historic Vessels’ Vol.3, NHS 2010.    

How will she earn her keep?

As well as earning her living through commercial activities, the Gamecock will offer sail-training, team building, adventure holidays, education programmes, and therapeutic experiences for medical conditions. Opportunities for disadvantaged groups and local youngsters will be a priority. She will also demonstrate the advantages of environmentally sustainable dredging and support the local economy as part of Whitstable’s new Coastal Trail (www.whitstablecoastaltrail.org.uk). 

How can I help?

Whitstable Maritime is a registered charity (no. 1171563) and we are all volunteers so any assistance with funding or the restoration and operation of the Gamecock will be greatly appreciated. If offering assistance please contact the Chair of Whitstable Maritime at [email protected] or on 07852266006.

Whitstable Maritime regards the Gamecock as a community asset and it would be wonderful if every family and organisation in the town now gave a donation, large or small, to help complete the restoration. Payment can be made by BACS to Sort Code 77-29-18, Account 39716568, marked GAMECOCK RESTORATION. Please make cheques payable to Whitstable Maritime Ltd. Thank you.

Whitstable volunteers build on the town’s maritime heritage

After five years of fund-raising, fun and frustration, the aspirations of the volunteers of Whitstable Maritime are coming to fruition.

There is nothing pretty about the Gamecock. She is a working boat that has been battered by the Swale since she was launched in 1907. She looks even more sad having lost her mast which broke when the volunteers of Whitstable Maritime tried to lift the thick trunk clear of the deck so as to winch the forty-two foot hull in to a boatshed at Conyer. Despite its thickness, the timber mast had rotted through at deck level where the water had collected over the past hundred years.

Under the guidance of a professional shipwright, the volunteers have repaired or replaced the damaged planks in the hull while she was out of the water for eight months. Once returned to the water, the new timbers swelled to seal the hull. It was then possible to tow her round to a creek in Faversham where she is now resting on a mud berth. With each high tide she is lifted off and soaked by the incoming water, so her swollen timbers keep out the sea.

The Gamecock is the last of the Oyster Yawls built on the beach at Whitstable. Owned by local fishermen, the spent her working life dredging for native oysters offshore. Some of the volunteers are direct descendants of the families that built and sailed these vessels up until World War Two. Today she is recognised as being of national historical significance and restoring her to working order requires a great deal of patience, money and skill. 

During her working life the Gamecock had been hit twice by other vessels, while moored off-shore, and repaired by adding a second skin. Her deck has damp rot on the underside where her sails had been stored below, preventing the flow of air through the vessel. Her stern has been weakened by attempts to improve performance. While the engine is from a bus. All measures taken by her former owners to keep down maintenance costs.

Today’s volunteers are all amateurs working to a trained shipwright. However, even they have been beaten by the coronavirus which struck just as the Gamecock was about to be towed round to Whitstable harbour and lifted on to the quay for public display. Once restored the priority will shift to operational issues with the training of crews, the securing of commercial contracts, sail-training for youngsters, social prescribing, racing, adventure holidays, educational visits and annual maintenance.

The Gamecock will have a permanent mooring in the harbour halfway along the new Coastal Trail being developed by Whitstable Maritime. The Trail will

 help walkers, runners, cyclists and wheel-chair users enjoy and understand the natural environment, wildlife, history and landscape of this unique five kilometre stretch of the Kent coast.

A second team of local volunteers, each with a relevant expertise, have researched the Trail’s accompanying guide which includes information about key themes and features, an illustrated map, and stunning images of eight key observation points. Available initially on-line, there are also plans for a printed version and an APP.  Visitors will be able to discover evidence of former boatyards, spot a rare plant and moth, study satellite images of the changing shore-line, and learn how to dredge for oysters by sail.

Those fortunate enough to be able to visit Whitstable in early August will be able to enjoy the annual Harbour Day & Boat Show. Each year over 10,000 visitors arrive from the South-East and Northern Europe. The event is managed by a third team and on the day over two hundred extra local volunteers help deliver a joyful family occasion.

The harbour fills with boats, both modern and historical, and the quays will be lined with over forty stalls, each with a maritime theme. As well as stall-holders and seafarers, there will be lifeboat crews, coastguards, environmentalists, crafts-folk, modellers, artists, naturalists, historians, archaeologists, shipwrights, shippers, fisher-folk, caterers and musicians. 

Young children are able to scramble over lifeboats, a cargo vessel, and tipper trucks, ride on a model steam railway and navigate large hand-made model boats. Environmentalists can investigate marine pollution, coastal wildlife and the impact of rising sea-levels. Thames barges and smacks race off-shore while those interested in marine archaeology are invited to build a coracle or examine a Bronze Age replica. Foodies will sample the Native Oyster and seaweed products whilst listening to the bands and watching the sailing dinghies compete off-shore. And it is free! 

Whitstable Maritime is a charity formed five years ago to celebrate the towns connections with the sea: past, present and future. The Founder, Gordon Vincent, says: “Our aim is to help residents and visitors enjoy and appreciate the town’s coastal zone in all its complexity. By building on our maritime heritage we can add value to the visitor offer and hopefully make a significant contribution to the regeneration of the local economy following the coronavirus”. 

[email protected]


Whitstable Calendar 2020

A collection of 12 beautiful Whitstable, Tankerton and Seasalter photographs throughout the seasons, presented on premium quality, recycled paper and bound in a sleeve.

The images for each month in the Whitstable Calendar 2020 have been lovingly captured by Alex Hare of Whitstable Photographic Co.
Alex donates 2.5% of his profits to Whitstable Maritime.

Price: £9.99 Order here

Join the Whitstable Maritime Party!

(Including Carols & Mince Pies)

Click the photo to download
a copy (A4) of the poster.

Whatever your voting intentions are this Election Day; why not take a break from all the politicking and join us and fellow supporters for mulled wine and mince pies at the Whitstable Yacht Club?

The Herne Bay Community Singers will be on hand to treat us to a festive mix of carols and other seasonal favourites — and you can sing along if you like!

The cost is £5 per head – payment on the door. Accompanied children free.

Continue reading “Join the Whitstable Maritime Party!”

Harbour Day Report 2019

“A great community event… with A wonderful atmosphere!”

Whitstable Harbour Day 2019 was a great success thanks to the contribution of over 300 volunteers who ran the stalls, sailed the boats, played the music, and kept everyone safe: and we have some very happy traders. Over 10,000 visitors passed through the Harbour in the 6 hours the event was open and we have been inundated with compliments  such as ‘a great community event’ and ‘a wonderful atmosphere’. 

My personal highlight was watching the magnificent Thames barges keeling over as they raced towards the shore using every inch of sail to beat their opponents.

Continue reading “Harbour Day Report 2019”

Harbour Day Preview

With Harbour Day now almost upon us, this coming Saturday, 3rd August, here is a round up of just a few of the many things to look out for.

The Barge Match

The history of Thames Barge matches (or races) goes back a long way. The original Thames barge race between Stanford-le-Hope in Essex and Gravesend in Kent was held in 1863, making it the world’s second oldest organised sailing race after the America’s Cup. It still takes place today, and is now one of a series of nine matches held throughout the Summer months. Whitstable’s own barge match takes place during Harbour Day every year.

The start of this year’s Whitstable match is scheduled for 12.45. A briefing will be given to all participants on the quayside at Whitstable Harbour beforehand. The course will start and finish off the harbour and be set around familiar navigation marks including the Pollard Spit, Columbine Spit and Whitstable Street Buoy.

Prize giving will take place at approx. 16.30 aboard the Greta in Whitstable Harbour basin, with prizes and refreshments provided by Whitstable Harbour. Prizes are awarded for the first barge, first gaffer, first smack/yawl and the Harbourmaster’s prize for the most notable performance.

Craft to look out for

Here’s a small taster of just four of the variety of craft to look out for in and around the harbour on Harbour Day.

Continue reading “Harbour Day Preview”

Thames Sailing Barge Repertor

The barge match, which takes place as part of Whitstable Harbour Day is joined this year (3rd August 2019) by Repertor, an historic, traditional Thames sailing barge

Repertor. Photo credit Peter Phillips

Repertor was built in 1924 by Horlocks of Mistley, on the River Stour in Essex. She worked in trade until the late 1960s, at first under sail alone, later with auxiliary engines.  Carrying general cargo, typically grain, fertiliser, feeds and timber, she could load up to 140 tons, equivalent to 4 HGVs.  She ended her trading days as a motor tanker, carrying acid for manufacture of plastics; nowadays she carries people instead.

Continue reading “Thames Sailing Barge Repertor”

The Chieftain comes to town

Whitstable residents Sue and Richard Judge have recently acquired ex-RNLI lifeboat The Chieftain. Richard has a lifelong connection with Whitstable Harbour through being crew on the RNLI lifeboat for nearly 40 years.

The Chieftain is a 35 ½ foot, Liverpool class lifeboat built by Groves and Gutteridge in Cowes, Isle of Wight in 1948 for the RNLI. She is twin-engined and built of double diagonal mahogany planking on oak frames with a two ton iron keel and lead ballast to provide stability.

In many ways this class of boat was very similar to the earlier pulling and sailing boats in appearance with just the addition of a cuddy for the engines.

Continue reading “The Chieftain comes to town”

Summer Magic

THREE Dates for your diary this summer

We have got a little magic lined up – literally! -for our supporters this summer, starting on Midsummer evening with the Whitstable Maritime Midsummer Ball and Charity Fundraiser. Then, in early July, Gamecock gets her first outing of the year at the Faversham Nautical Festival. And then there’s the high spot of our summer calendar – Whitstable Harbour Day on 3rd August. We are expecting up to 10,000 visitors this year, admission is free – what’s not to like?

The Whitstable Maritime Midsummer Ball

Friday 21st June 2019

Stay cool on the longest evening of the year and enjoy champagne, canapés and Whitstable oysters with us in the company of Goosebumps swing band. Entertainer and Magic Circle member, Guy Wade, will be on hand to sprinkle a little magic over the proceedings… “Jus’ like that!

Join us at the Marine Hotel, Whitstable on Friday 21st June from 7.30pm until 11.30pm. Tickets are still available at £45 per person.

More details are on our Midsummer Ball page.

Gamecock Sails into Faversham

Sat/Sun 6th-7th July 2019

Whitstable Maritime’s historic 1907 oyster yawl Gamecock is appearing at the Faversham Nautical Festival on the weekend of 6th/7th July 2019, her first outing of the season, having over-wintered at Iron Wharf nearby.

So, if you are looking for a great day out, plus an insight into the life and times – and challenges – of restoring this historic working vessel, we will be delighted to welcome you!

More details can be found on our Faversham Nautical Festival page.

Whitstable Harbour Day

Saturday 3rd August 2019

The lineup for the day’s live entertainment has been published and is available via the link below.

Over 40 organisations are taking part and it is all free –

bands • boat trips • marine environment • coracle building • lifeboats • coastguards • boating pool • frontier force • inshore-fisheries • model boats • steam train rides • beach gardens • rope making • tipper trucks • traditional & modern boats • marine archaeology • coastal birds • children’s theatre • food stalls • gifts • crafts

Please note that events and times are subject to change. Latest details can be found on our Whitstable Harbour Day page.

LATEST – SOUVENIR PROGRAMME free download (16 pages):

Harbour Day Programme 2019