In 1984 I managed to get a marine mortgage of £7500, guaranteed by my father, to buy a 35′ wooden motor cruiser called Jaslee on a residential mooring on Ash Island, Hampton Court. I couldn’t afford to buy a house at the time and it would be 4 years until I could drive, so I had to catch a bus to and from work each day until then.
Jaslee was previously owned by a Brigadier James Stuart Lee of the British Army of the Rhine in Germany and the sale was brokered by the boatyard on the island called TW Allen & Son to whom I paid rather hefty mooring fees three times a year. The island was connected to the shore by walking across Molesey lock and heavily wooded. I remember when the great storm of 1987 blew across the island when I was asleep & I awoke to find quite a few trees down on the island which fortunately missed the moorings…
Jaslee had a 3500cc diesel engine accessed by a hatch in the wheelhouse floor and it’s hardwood hull was made of Iroko. She was a flat bottomed river boat originally made by Broom in the Norfolk broads and I believe was called a Commander design. I had a wooden mast built by a local craftsman on the island to house a high navigation light for when cruising, alas that snapped off when I hit the bridge at Windsor!
I slept in the forward cabin which originally had two single beds but I converted the starboard side into a desk where I enjoyed a boat office, complete with telephone and telex curtesy of my Sinclair Spectrum computer. The telephone line was connected by a screw on cable with a plug on the port side for disconnection when navigating the Thames! I showered in the cubicle on the starboard side just aft of my “office” and the chemical loo aka the bucket full of Blue Elsan was opposite on the port side.
The supposedly warm shower came from a gas heater located after in the rear cabin with gas bottles located in lockers in the open aft seating area. The aforementioned toilet had the unfortunate habit of filling up just when needed and I had emergency ablutions, sometimes sourced in the dark at night, thanks to the public loos at Hampton Court Palace next to the railway station!
I loved the Jaslee but to be honest it’s reputation as a floating gin palace was only warranted in summer, in winter the cold was brutal and although I had mains electricity thanks to a similar connector to the telephone, it was metered by the boat yard and it was pretty expensive to run fan heater. To try and make amends and reduce the dampness I installed thermotubes used to heat greenhouses that I left permanently on.
That said, in winter things got so bad that Ed Brooks the finance director of Howmedica used to let me evacuate to his family home for a hot shower and a good night’s sleep to say nothing of a feed up from Jan his wife and I’ve always been grateful.
My father came one summer for a week’s holiday and we loved taking her out and we enjoyed many a walk through the grounds including the maze on our way to Kingston and a greasy spoon cafe. “Unfortunately” towards the end of his stay one day as we were navigating the lock at Hampton Court he slipped and strained his leg quite badly.
The next day his leg looked black and blue and so he had to postpone his return to Yorkshire. I don’t think my mother ever believed his excuse over the last minute delay, not helped by using listening to a Test Match ball by ball commentary on radio while watching it on TV, as she had stayed behind in Yorkshire!
Sadly Jaslee gradually deteriorated over the three years I owned her and subsequent events dictated a need to buy a house on dry land, I decided to sell her to a fellow boat owner on the island who came from South Africa. His name was Robert Stone and he was a youngish, bearded GP. He purchased her at a knock down price due to the rather alarming amount of water sloshing around under the floor that required ever increasing activations of the automatic battery driven bilge pump!
A valuable lesson learnt rather painfully was that wooden boats require regular maintenance to keep “ship-shape” and I just couldn’t afford that and buy a house as well so a private sale was agreed. Alas the new purchaser also had cashflow problems when his existing boat failed to sell and I later heard from him that she sank on her mooring and he had to pay the boatyard for her removal and to be cut up. Nutbrown my second boat moored at Penton Hook marina was most definitely of GRP construction as a result!