Felixstowe Ferry and Flyingboats

By Phil Boak

Between the years 1913-1962, Felixstowe was a major flyingboat base, with the aircraft operating from the River Orwell on the site now occupied by the Docks. Operating during WW1, flyingboats partook in anti-submarine patrols of the North Sea. In the interwar years, the focus switched to research and development, with the performance of the seaplanes and flyinboats carefully evaluated through tests and trials. On completion of their operational lives, several of the larger flyingboat hulls were taken to the hamlet of Felixstowe Ferry and repurposed as houseboats, providing picturesque, if not cramped accommodation. This short article brings together before-and-after images of six such flyingboats, with a summary about what is currently known about them. Continue reading

Protecting the Lady

By Julia Jones and Charles Payton

On August 9th 2023 Historic England put out the following press release:

The iron hulk of the Lady Alice Kenlis, designed by the same shipwright as the Cutty Sark, has been granted protection by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on the advice of Historic England. 

The Lady Alice Kenlis was an iron steamship designed by Hercules Linton in 1867. He is the designer of the internationally renowned Cutty Sark, launched two years later in 1869. The Cutty Sark (now at Royal Museums Greenwich) was a state-of-the-art Victorian tea clipper. It was one of the fastest of its time, making the journey from Sydney to London by sail in 73 days.

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George On the Quay

By Robert Simper

George Collins (from The Deben River: an enchanted waterway by Robert Simper)

I suppose the first time I remember meeting George Collins was in about 1948. This was first time I first went afloat and at young age I found nighttime trawling very exciting. We were in the open boat Lassie, built in 1924 and sadly shortly after this her owner died. Jack Garrard bought the boat and was one of first people to have a boat mooring at Ramsholt. Continue reading

Michael Rines, Annie Leech, Stephen Lines

with thanks for their enduring contributions to the Nancy Blackett Trust, Maritime Woodbridge, the Longshed, River Deben Association & Woodbridge Cruising Club

Micheal Rines (1933–2023)

Mike Rines restoring Nancy Blackett.

Peter Willis writes…

Mike Rines, rescuer and restorer of Nancy Blackett, has died, at the age of 89. He first discovered Arthur Ransome’s boat virtually derelict in Scarborough Harbour in the early 1980s. Initially unaware that she was the inspiration for We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea, and the original of the Goblin in that book, he simply saw a boat that, as he said, ‘was too pretty to die’. He eventually persuaded her owner to part with her, and had her transported back to the River Orwell in Suffolk, where the opening of the book is set, and where he himself then lived, as it happened only a few hundred yards from where Ransome had lived when writing the book. Continue reading

Who owns the River Deben?

By Sarah Zins

Few people, busy tacking their boat round a buoy or walking along the river path, stop to consider who owns the river, but once the seed of the question is sown, it becomes a source of fascination.

And the main answer is an easy one, but the little issues round the edges (sometimes literally) are knottier. So to the Easier One – the river is owned by the reigning monarch “in right of the Crown”, which means for the duration of their reign. It is not, however, the monarch’s private property and cannot be sold by them, nor are its revenues theirs. As you might imagine, the monarch is not rolling up their sleeves to discuss matters estuarine on a daily basis, so The Crown Estate is tasked with managing rivers and much other property in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. There is a separate Scottish Crown Estate which manages seabed and coastline around the Scottish coast. Continue reading

News from the Noughties, Part II

by Bertie Wheen

This is the second part of the second post in a series (in which I’ve been sharing a few of the things I’ve been finding while I’ve been going through our magazine archives). The first post was Once Upon a Time… (which covered the 1990s), and the first part of this post was News from the Noughties, Part I (which included roughly the first half of the 2000s). I’d recommend reading those before this (which, unsurprisingly, will feature the rest of the 2000s), but much more than reading any of these, I’d like to recommend going directly to the source, and having a leaf through some of the old editions (available on our magazine page).

This is what the RDA Newsletter cover looked like between 2004-2010. The font choice is a bit questionable, but I’m a fan of the drawing – though I’m not honestly sure which stretch of the Deben it is… looking upriver from the Rocks, or perhaps the Tips? [I have since been informed that it is likely looking downriver from Kyson, and I not only agree, but feel a bit stupid as that is probably the bit of river I know best…] Anyway, I do know that it was drawn by Ron Wragg, thanks to Nick Wright’s inaugural editorial in Spring 2004 (#28, the last issue mentioned in the previous part of this post):

“I would like to make a special mention of Ron Wragg who has donated the art-work which decorates the cover and punctuates this Newsletter. I hope that contributors will forgive me for occasionally replacing their excellent photographs (which do not reproduce well) with his sketches, some of which are based upon them. This represents a lot of work for Ron. I appreciate it very much.”
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News from the Noughties, Part I

by Bertie Wheen

If you haven’t read the first post in this series, may I direct you to Once Upon a Time…? What follows will make much more sense with its context, but the TL;DR is that I’ve been improving the accessibility of our Magazine page (which hosts digital versions of our biannual magazine, née newsletter) by indexing the old editions – or, more accurately, contentsing, but that somehow doesn’t have the same ring to it. Last time I had indexed the 1990s, and I’ve now done the same for the 2000s. I’d like to recommend that, better than reading these accompanying posts, you read the magazines/newsletters themselves. (I promise it’s a more interesting thing to do than you might imagine!)

To the uninitiated, The Deben might appear to be an unassuming little publication, but it has been consistently produced since 1990 (which was, though I’m sure you won’t want to hear it, over 30 years ago), and from the start it has been filled with articles that were not only interesting to contemporary readers, but – as I have been discovering by going through the back catalogue – still are today! Many are presciently relevant, and others are historically significant; there are contributions from then that read like they were written now, and there are others that could only have been written then, including reminiscences from those who had known the Deben the longest, and who shared some of their memories of it from deep time – from times that now few, if any, are old enough to remember. I’m incredibly glad that the latter are preserved in our archives, and I think the former speaks to the environmental consciousness that we have as a community, which we have had since long before the recent general awareness of such issues. I should add that there are still more articles that don’t necessarily fit into either of these categories, but that are worth a modern reader’s time. One of the joys of The Deben, or the RDA Newsletter as it was then, is the strange, quirky pieces that appear in it. Perhaps they might not be everyone’s style, but they don’t need to be. They are the variety and flavour that turned what could otherwise have been a dry document containing nothing but committee meeting minutes and end-of-year accounts (both of which were included in the Newsletter days) into something rather charming. There are some wonderful weirdos on this river, and it would be worse without them.
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You Too Can Go To Sea: River Deben support for Suffolk and the Sea Day

by Julia Jones

I was sitting on a bench overlooking Suffolk Yacht Harbour at Levington and the River Orwell beyond. It was a lovely afternoon with a breeze just getting up and some classic sailing vessels on the river, contrasting with the more modern yachts moored near me and the towering cranes of Port of Felixstowe downriver. I was trying to explain to a friendly cameraman the ways in which I felt there had been such a profound shift in Britain’s attitude to her maritime heritage during my lifetime. His name’s Jon Swallow and he’s volunteered to come and record some of the sessions at the forthcoming Suffolk and the Sea Day (Felixstowe Book Festival ‘fringe’ sessions at Trimley St Mary, June 25th). We had met to discuss developing the 5th session, entitled You Too Can Go To Sea, into a film which the organisations supporting Suffolk and the Sea day could send out to schools, youth organisations, clubs, support groups. It would aim to explain that sailing and sea faring is not an exclusive activity but can be enjoyed at many levels. We want to kindle an interest and excitement in sea-going opportunities, remind people that we are not only land dwellers.

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Suffolk and The Sea – Sailors, Artists And Anglo-Saxons

by Claudia Myatt

Every spring and early summer there is a conversation between River Deben sailors that goes something like this:

‘Have you been over the bar yet?’
‘No, but I’ve got the chartlet, hoping to go round to the Orwell next weekend’
‘What’s it like this year?’
‘Shifted a bit in that storm I hear – quite narrow now.  Wouldn’t risk it until after half tide with my draft’
‘Deepest water is usually close to the beach but the tide runs hard there….’

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One Man’s Life: Another Man’s Memory

By Julia Jones

Gunboats at dawn, painted by Peter Scott.

I’ve recently completed a study of some of the yachtsmen who volunteered to serve ‘in an emergency’ in the years before the second World War. From December 1936 the Admiralty issued an invitation to ‘Gentlemen interested in yachting or similar pursuits’ to put their names forward for ‘executive’ service. These men formed the RNVSR, the Royal Naval Volunteer Supplementary Reserve. In the process of research, I have been fortunate to have met some of the descendants of these men. I’ve been glad of their help and have also found that they share my feelings of respect and heartfelt gratitude for the way in which their fathers, uncles, grandfathers chose to put their normal lives, pleasures, careers on hold, committing themselves to serve wherever they were sent. Sometimes the jobs they were assigned to do were tedious, more often they were terrifying. Continue reading