A wooden ketch built on Bute almost 90 years ago has been totally destroyed in a devastating fire at the boatyard where she was being rebuilt.
The blaze resulted in the loss of the 17.8 metre Fedoa, which had been nearing the end of an eight-year restoration project.
The yacht was launched from the Bute Slip Dock Company’s yard in Port Bannatyne - now the Ardmaleish Boatbuilding Company - in May 1927.
There were no serious injuries or fatalities as a result of the fire, at the Medina Yard in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, although some 30 vessels, with a total value of around £1 million - ranging from small production yachts to an 1896 steam pinnace and one of the ‘Little Ships’ involved in the Dunkirk evacuation during the Second World War - were lost.
Patrick Moreton of Southampton-based yacht repair specialists Moreton Marine, which had been carrying out the restoration work on the Fedoa, told The Buteman: “We had been restoring her since 2009, although in 2013 we realised we didn’t have the money to complete the restoration ourselves, so we sold her on but continued working on her.
“She had been due to be relaunched this summer, but she was a total loss.
“We’d had a team of six guys working more or less non-stop on her for almost three years, and we watched her burn to the ground. That was devastating.”
The fire, which broke out on the morning of Monday, January 25, was later found to have started by accident in a car repair workshop close to the yard site.
Built in teak to the highest specifications available at the time, the Fedoa was constructed to plans drawn up by the renowned yacht designer Alfred Mylne, who bought the Port Bannatyne yard in 1911 and passed it on to his nephew, also Alfred Mylne, in 1946.
The Fedoa was commissioned by Colonel William Wordie OBE of Greenock, chairman of William Wordie & Co., Scotland’s largest carriers and hauliers in the early part of the 20th century.
Wordie raced and cruised her around the west coast of Scotland until she was sold to Baron Joseph Paton Maclay, chairman of the Glasgow ship-owning firm of Maclay & Macintyre, in 1934.
She spent 40 years in the warmer waters of southern Florida until being sold and shipped back to the UK for restoration.
“Our aim was to bring her back to as close to her original condition as possible,” Mr Moreton continued.
“An elderly couple in Florida had been living on board the yacht, but they couldn’t afford to restore her. Salt water was running through the inside of the bilges, and there were barnacles living on the inside, which gives an idea of the state she was in.
“The wooden keel was new, the frames and ribs were new, and we were using Alfred Mylne’s original drawings as the basis for re-doing the interior - and the drawings are still out there, if anyone wants to build the boat from scratch.”
David Gray, managing director of Mylne Yacht Design, the company Alfred Mylne set up in 1896, said: “Alfred Mylne was one of Scotland’s greatest ever yacht designers, and the Fedoa was one of probably only ten Mylne yachts of that size still around.
“I saw her about eight years ago in a pretty decrepit condition, and Patrick and his team had been doing a fantastic restoration job, so her loss was a real tragedy.”