deutsche Sprache

„Here are the seas, the winds, and the waves of all the world. Here is ferocious environment. And here is difficult adjustment, the achievement of which is a delight to the small quivering vanity that is I.“ Jack London

Betty in Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands, Summer 2012


Betty on the canals in the Netherlands, Alphen aan den Rijn, summer voyage 2012
click to the photographs of the restoration

One topic you will read quite a lot about on these pages is fishing and the men, who were in that trade for a living. Of their boats, the sails and nets, their methods of fishing and the fruits of their labour. Also an important role fishermen played for more than two centuries, was as mediators across borders, cultures and languages for developments in boat building and yacht construction. This function of nation binding seafaring is one historically interesting example of the transfer of technology between distant coasts - of which the Essex oyster smack Betty CK145 is a very good representation.

In 1906 the Essex oyster smack Betty CK145 was built at Aldous in Brightlingsea in the southeast of England for Mr. French from Mersea for one hundred pound sterling. Essex smacks are cutter rigged fishing vessels with varying kinds of deployment. The smaller sized smacks of up to 35 feet length were mainly employed in the coastal waters of the Thames Estuary - tidal shallows comprised of mud-flats, sandbanks and narrow creeks. There Betty with her shallow draught was predominantly used for oyster dredging. The construction of the Essex smacks was strongly influenced by the yacht design of Victorian times, since their owners and crews sailed the large racing yachts of the wealthy aristocrats and industrial barons on a regular basis during the summer months. Surely the relatively complex gaff rig with its large sail area and the slender topmast comes from this tradition. This was not the only reason though, that the pretty transom stern with its far overhanging counter was popular, but also for the additional work space on the small ships.

CK145 is the original fishery registration number of Betty for her home port Colchester (CK), England.

map of southeast of England Betty fishing oysters
Betty CK145 (background left) dredging oysters in 1935

Overfishing and water pollution resulting from the growing industrialization lead to a drastic reduction of the local oyster population. Today the 40 or so remaining Essex smacks are solely sailed as traditional working boats or as pleasure crafts - very popular are the numerous races during the summer months.

Conversion to a Yacht

Up to the early 1960s Betty is used for cockling by Mr. Roy Leslie, a shellfish merchant from Southend - now with an engine and without mast or sails - until the boat is laid up in the mud of Barling Creek, where she is destined to be forgotten, like countless other fishing boats in those years. Here in 1965 Mr. Ray Riley from Wivenhoe finds the dilapidated hull and purchases it for 165 pounds. Over the next three years he rebuilds Betty to a cruising smack in the style of the 1920s, following a tradition of the years before the war to convert former working boats to pleasure yachts.

half model of the smack

In Germany

In 1979 Betty is sold to a German owner. Again a lot has to be restored and repaired. There remains enough time though, to win a few trophies besides. After a change in ownership in September of 2002 Betty goes on a year-long journey to England by way of the Netherlands, for an enthusiastic homecoming in the Thames Estuary. Betty is kept in the water all year round: During the winter months the ship was berthed at the Gaff Consortium in Hamburg Finkenwerder, she was sailed on the river Elbe and the Baltic Sea during the summer and has her berth at the museum port of Lübeck.

Voyage to Holland and England

In the spring of 2009 Betty again sets out to a longer journey: in the first year to Tholen, Zeeland in the South of Holland. Then in 2010 across the Channel to the Thames Estuary, where she has a mudberth for the second winter. Betty stays in the water all year round: During the winter months of 2011-2012 the ship is berthed at the Buurthaven de Levant in Amsterdam, in the spring she will sail in dutch waters..

> extended version



Type of ship: Essex oyster smack

Yard: Aldous, Brightlingsea, Essex, England

Year of construction: 1906

Materials: Pitch-pine on oak frames

Restorations: 1965 -1968,1979 -1980, 1999, 2010 -

Length: 34' 8''

LOA: 45'

Beam: 9' 7''

Draught: 4' 6''

Displacement: 9,7 to

Type of rigging: Gaff cutter

Sail area: 1.020 sq. feet

Engine: 35 hp Volvo Diesel

Home port: Colchester

lines drawing of BETTY CK145


top | homepage | log | photos | crew | site map | links

© Jan Holthusen 2012 | Webmaster


BETTY smacks cruising the Estuary janholthusen