At Fairlie, on the afternoon of Friday, 6th, The Messrs Fife launched a plumb stemmed, counterless 17 footer. A pretty boat and prettily built she has the appearance of one that will sail well.
This brief paragraph in The Yachtsman dated 12 May 1892 announced the launch of Katydid, a member of the 17/19 Clyde Lugger class. The class was keenly raced on the Clyde between 1887 and the mid 1890s and provided local competition for ‘young men’ of suitable means and (more significantly) a mechanism for GL Watson and William Fife III to try out new racing hull forms on a small scale. No photos of Katydid from this period have come to light but another 17/19 Clyde Lugger was the subject of a photographic supplement from The Yachtsman and gives an impression what it must have been like to race these boats.
Harlequin, Clyde 17/19 Lugger
The Katydid was comissioned from William Fife III by P P Nicholl of Paisley and was keenly raced for a couple of seasons (21 starts in 1892) before he sold her and moved on to his next boat.
Roll forward 115 or so years and Katydid is lying ashore at McKellars Slipway (Kilcreggan) looking a bit the worse for wear but definitely still a pretty boat – having had what is quite clearly a long and varied life.
Her then owner David Willis, who must have a silver tongue, persuades James Gerard (van driver, flying fifteen sailor, proprietor of Damhead Organic Foods etc etc….) to take her on as a restoration project and before he (James) properly realises what he has gotten himself into, she is sitting on his premises outside Edinburgh waiting for TLC.
The Katydid waiting for the TLC to start.
This is where my Katydid story starts, the best and probably hardest job that I have (yet) had. Not many boatbuilders get a chance to restore a boat designed by William Fife III and I think that this is a story that needs to be shared. Some of the daily travails will get published on my marine carpentry blog – and a few key stages/events will get their own proper pages.
Project update in early 2011.
The restoration of Katydid went on hold at a fairly early stage due to the normal economic issues. Work on deconstruction, documentation and the very first stages of re-construction (shaping up a new keel) were undertaken but Katydid is now sitting in a leaky shed waiting for work to restart.
My work on the project is documented in the following posts
Maybe the project will re-start at some point. Maybe not….