The "Timothy Philip"
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Polperro does not have a long tradition of boat building, unlike some of its neighbouring ports, but the building of the Timothy Phillip was quite an achievement for its owner and builder, Richard ( Dick) Courtis. Dick was not a boat builder but a electrician who's only previous experience at boat building was a small pram dingy. The drawings he used were taken from a magazine, scaled up and altered to suit his needs for a family boat. She was to be 23 feet long with a 7 feet beam, clinker built, mahogany planked on oak frames, and decked in forward with a cabin, in the traditional style.
His choice of workshop added further interest to the project. On the north side of Peak Rock is the old net loft ( now owned and restored by the National Trust). She was to be built in the lower half, not the most accessible site, especially for launching! Also at the time there was no source of power there. The keel was laid in early 1969 and work continued over the next two years mainly by Dick on his own but help by Lawson Puckey for about 6 months on the “two handed” jobs. Lawson remembers that all the mahogany boards were carried from Pearce's car park (where the surgery is now) up to the loft, each board yielding three or four planks. The oak for the frames was soaked in the river for four or five days, before being taken up for steaming and fitting. All the work was carried out using hand tools, light was proved by a hurricane lamp, and a blow torch and primus stove used to provide the heat for the steam box to shape the frames. To keep the weight down for launching, she was decked, but the wheelhouse was fitted after she was afloat. Building the boat was an achievement in itself, launching her was equally interesting!
The door to the loft had to be widened and the launching day had to be calm and on the top of a spring tide. This turned out to be Monday September 6th 1971. Aided by a large launching crew, she was pulled out of the loft with inches to spare on each side. When she was clear she was then turned through 90 degrees and using blocks and tackles she was launched stern first down the rocks ( see the photographs ). Just as she entered the water, Ron Butters lifted the 4 year old Timothy into the boat, Phillip was too young and can be seen in his mother's arms. ( Originally she was to be called the Timothy, but Phillip was born during the building). On completion, she made a fine sight with a white wheelhouse and topsides, an orange hull, white boot topping and red anti-fouling. She served the family well until 1988 when she was sold to Steve Byford, who owned “Chip Ahoy”. He altered the cabin and fitted an enlarged closed wheelhouse, some would say that it spoiled her original lines. In 1998 she was sold on to a new owner in Liverpool and left Polperro. Whilst Dick is no longer with us, his grandsons Tim and Phil still live in Polperro and earn their livings from the sea. Both are now married with children of their own. Lawson still lives and works in the village. O K, so it wasn't the Titanic that Dick built, but it was a triumph of determination and improvisation ------------ and it stayed afloat a lot longer !!
Tony White, October 2003
Tony White & www.polperro.org © 2003