Yesterday, a flotilla of little ships that had taken part in the evacuation of allied troops from the Dunkirk beaches and Harbour in 1940 set out from Ramsgate to cross the Channel again. TV news footage of the flotilla caused me to recall a rather special little yacht that was once moored at Hullbridge; she was ‘Moonraker’, one of the little Dunkirk ships. When she was at Hullbridge in 1973 she belonged to a member of the Up River Yacht, of which I was also a member. ‘Moonraker’s’ owner was rightly proud of his yacht and kept her in a good state of repair. He would join club members on organised cruises and races. She did not point well, but when free she went like the clappers!
She was designed and built in 1911 by A, Burgoine of Kingston on Thames as a racing and pleasure yacht.
Curiosity led me to Google for ‘Moonraker’, and I came up with the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships with a section that has statistics and photos of her. The article mentions that repairs were expected to take two years, and it was hoped she would participate in this year’s 70th celebration of remembrance of Operation Dynamo.
A good many years after being at Hullbridge during the early 1970s I saw ‘Moonraker’ in a state of disrepair at a Heybridge boatyard. I noticed slight hogging had taken place where her shrouds had exerted pressure on her splined planking. (Splines are thin pieces of wood inserted between the planks instead of caulking to make a boat watertight.) I owned a similar vessel which caused me no end of trouble, because the wood for the splines was different to the wood for the planking, which meant that the expansion and contraction of the woods caused the splines to move, particularly after being subjected to frost during a winter lay-up. Needless to say, she leaked badly, especially in a seaway.
The Independent’s website states that ‘Moonraker’s’ latest owner, Gerald Barlow, has been preparing for 10 years to take part in the 70th anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation. His little yacht has a gallant heart, and memories of her valiant service. She can rightly feel proud of her achievements and be grateful for the tender care that has been lavished upon her. Ninety-nine years young, she lives on.
Association of Dunkirk Little Ships Moonraker Association
Independent Article about Operation Dynamo