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.
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).
What is needed to restore her to working order?
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.