A project to restore an historic oyster yawl at its original home on the Kent coast is progressing well, thanks to sponsorship from local businesses including Shepherd Neame.
Shipwright Morgan Lewis gets to work on the Gamecock
The 43ft craft, which was built at Island Wall, Whitstable, in 1907, was acquired by charity Whitstable Maritime after falling into a state of disrepair. Volunteers have been working hard to give her a new lease of life since 2019.
It is hoped that, once fully restored, the vessel, which is now registered as a National Historic Ship, will have a second working life of 60 to 80 years as a community asset, thanks to the high quality of the workmanship.
Whitstable Maritime also aims for the craft to be a key part of the 5K Whitstable Maritime Coastal Trail, which explores the town’s heritage and coastline.
At a recent reception at the East Quay, supporters were able to see the progress being made for themselves, with full-time shipwright Morgan Lewis on hand to explain the work.
“We are working with all local oak and replacing old wood with new — she is getting stronger and stronger by the day,” he said. “She is a lot stronger than she was! But we have to be a bit careful, as she is also old and very weak in places.”
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One significant step forward has been the replacement of the stern post, which Morgan described as a “major piece of work”.
The Gamecock spent her time dredging oysters in the Swale and today is one of only three oyster yawls left intact. She has a special connection to Faversham-based Shepherd Neame, as this type of oyster yawl inspired the design for its award-winning Whitstable Bay beer range.
Shepherd Neame has also named each of the boutique rooms at its newly reopened Duke of Cumberland pub in Whitstable after the town’s historic oyster fishing vessels, including the Gamecock.
Susannah Gooch, who has recently been appointed chair of Whitstable Maritime, said: “I can’t believe how much work has been done on the boat since the last time I saw it! We are really pleased with the progress being made, and expect to see the Gamecock starting her second working life by the end of 2025.”
Susannah, who is a keen sailor herself, added: “We would like to thank all the local businesses and volunteers for their support with this unique project. It is great to see the community working together to preserve our Kent heritage.”