Shipwright Morgan, next to the Gamecock Oyster Yawl
Restoring the Gamecock, a 19th Century oyster dredging boat originally made in Whitstable's boat building yards, offers unique opportunities for all ages and backgrounds to experience and learn from Whitstable's maritime history.
The restoration is currently taking place in picturesque Whitstable Harbour on the East coast of Kent. It is being managed by Whitstable Maritime, a charity formed 6 years ago to celebrate the town's connections with the sea - past, present and future. The restoration will be completed by a team of volunteers under the watchful eye of master shipwright, Morgan Lewis.
Restoring this historic boat to working order will allow us to offer experiences to develop leadership and teamwork in youngsters including local apprentices and school children. Through the boat's restoration, volunteers are developing practical skills and knowledge that can transfer to Construction and other industries.
Once restored, the Gamecock will facilitate the training of crews in collaboration with local yacht and sailing clubs and NHS physical and mental therapeutic social prescribing through unforgettable sailing experiences.
Local volunteers getting started on the restoration
What will the Gamecock be used for once it's fully restored?
We've got a journey in front of us first as it's a long term project to restore the boat to its full sailing glory. But thinking about once it's back on the water - this is the exciting part! This beautiful heritage boat will be used for:-
- Sail training for all ages, stretching their abilities mentally and physically;
- Team building and wellbeing experiences that are exciting, challenging and outdoors;
- Unique and unforgettable adventure holidays for families;
- Personal and skills development for disadvantaged youngsters enabling the development of practical, social and emotional skills in the context of group learning, team building and leadership;
- Environmentally sound oyster dredging;
- Match racing - as a working boat she enjoyed much success in races with similar craft. With her stream-lined hull and beautiful lines we hope to see her race again;
- Marine research;
- Educational programmes with school children and apprentices from the local area and nearby communities;
- Traditional boat maintenance craft skills that are transferrable into the Construction industry and beyond;
- Heritage and maritime events;
- Local employment opportunities;
- Enabling social prescribing, supporting a wide range of social, emotional and practical needs by improving mental health and physical wellbeing.
The Gamecock restoration is taking place in the heart of Whitstable harbour
Why is this project important?
The Gamecock is the last of the sailing yawls built in Whitstable that were used to sustainably dredge for oysters. Despite being over 100 years old, unbelieveably she still contains her original features and is now registered as a vessel of national significance. She lay in dock for many years, unused but protected by a small band of enthusiasts, without who's intervention she would have been lost.
Now is the time to restore and rebuild the boat to bring her back to her full glory; including the addition of a few moden day improvements such as a motor on board and a galley kitchen.
The Gamecock will enable volunteers with Whitstable Maritime charity to explore significant environmental issues such as climate change, marine pollution, coastal erosion, and the preservation of wildlife.
During the restoration and once the boat is sailing again, we shall be able to help local families improve their life chances through meeting challenges, developing skills and gaining self-confidence.
Gordon Vincent, Whitstable Maritime charity chair
How will the Gamecock's restoration build a sense of community?
The Gamecock is an icon of the local community and will enable young and old to take pride in their common maritime heritage. Our charity is dependent on volunteers and rely on them working co-operatively, sharing skills and experiences.
From the wonderful photography and videography you see on this page, created by nationally acclaimed local photographer Alex Hare, to the expert shipwright, Morgan, who will lead a team of volunteers to rebuild the Gamecock and get her sailing again; to local business owner Vicki Crwys-Williams, who has devised and delivered this crowdfunder campaign to bring this project to the attention of the wider community.
The process of restoration depends on a strong partnership with over two-dozen local organisations across the voluntary, commercial and public sectors, and numerous individuals - including, we hope, you!
Through your donation and your support we invite you to join our Whitstable community today.
F76 - Gamecock's original commercial sailing number
What makes this project great?
This exciting initiative offers a unique opportunity for local people to restore this boat to working order and thereby build resilience and a more connected community. The boat is in a state of pretty poor repair and needs extensive work - but her bones are solid and with a little work and sensitive restoration she'll be sailing the high seas again. She was built in a local Whitstable boat building yard, Collars boat yard on Island Wall, and the restoration will use traditional skills and materials to patch her up and get her sailing again.
As much of the original materials on the boat will be maintained in order to keep her character and authenticity
What will the money be spent on?
Over £120,000 will be required to complete the restoration of the Gamecock, of which £60,000 has already been raised through small grants, private donations and growing commercial sponsorship by local companies.
The crowdfunder money will be used for:
- A reliable engine for the boat that will allow the boat to be used safely to take children out to sea for decades to come.
- Materials for decking, sails, rigging and fittings - all using traditional materials and techniques.
- Specialist tools and equipment for volunteers within the workshop so that this sensitive restoration can keep as much of the original parts of the boat as possible while making her seaworthy again.
- Supervision time with local shipwrights, trained by one of the few remaining craftsmen that worked in the local yard in Whitstable that originally built this and other oyster dredging yawls.
Please support our crowdfunder today and become part of our Whitstable maritime community.
This photograph of the Gamecock in full sail was taken by Chris Davey who has kindly given permission for its use by the charity
“As a direct descendant of the Gamecock’s first owner, I am proud that the vessel is being restored to working order and look forward to seeing Whitstable folk of all ages enjoy sailing her on the Swale.”
- Carole Terry, Whitstable resident
"What a fantastic initiative! As a local business I'm delighted to be part of Whitstable Maritime charity and support this totally unique project."
- Jon and Vicki Crwys-Williams, Nomad Pizza Whitstable
Volunteer Liz Bryant ‘caulking’ the hull - filling the gaps with waterproofing; photograph by Richard Saunders
For regular updates on the project, please follow our Social Media pages:
Please note: All photography and videography on this page, except where separately indicated, is used by the charity with kind permission of Alex Hare. All images are copyright and not to be reproduced without permission.