Bid to get Eastbourne pleasure boats back on the water

Lloyd Stebbings (L) and Jason Foster (R) with the former Allchorn pleasure boats. They are raising funds to renovate and recommision them February 19th 2014 E07201Q.
Lloyd Stebbings (L) and Jason Foster (R) with the former Allchorn pleasure boats. They are raising funds to renovate and recommision them February 19th 2014 E07201Q.

A campaign has been launched to save Eastbourne’s Allchorn pleasure boats.

The Southern Queen and William Allchorn were once a familiar sight sailing along the coast off Eastbourne to Beachy Head and back but in the last couple of years and due to the economic crisis, have fallen into a state of disrepair and are now moored on the beach near the lifeboat station.

The next plan is to obtain some form of charitable status so grants can be applied for and the long task of getting the boats back on the water can begin.

“Time is starting to run out for these wonderful old ladies of the sea and Eastbourne is all set to lose yet another piece of its fantastic history and something that has been part of it for the last 65 years. We live in a throwaway society and are in danger in losing our values, identity and our history.

“Both boats were built locally. It’s so important we save these beautiful craft for future generations.

The William Allchorn was a purpose built pleasure boat, commissioned by the Allchorn Brothers of Newhaven, in 1950 and funded by the Ministry of Defence Compensation Fund as recompense for Enchantress, which was lost during the Dunkirk evacuation.

“This is a very rare opportunity to help or become part of a restoration project to return the boats to the sea and restore some of Eastbourne’s pride as a top UK holiday resort.

“We understand this is a long term project but we need to be able to buy and store these boats soon before they get sold as projects and wind up rotting on that mud berth from hell.”

The boats’ owner Jason Foster together with mariners Lloyd Stebbings and Daniel Goldsmith are trying to save the boats and the campaign is gathering momentum with support from Eastbourne Borough Council, other local authorities and marine and historic organisations.

Lloyd, who lives in Pevensey Bay and runs Pevensey Bay Marine, said, “One big mistake that we are about to make is to let the Southern Queen and the William Allchorn pleasure boats decay and die on the beach in Eastbourne.

The Southern Queen was built in a barn at Westham Village not far from Pevensey Castle and taken almost two miles by road to her launching site in Norman’s Bay.

Lloyd said, “Time is getting short now and a year or so down the road they will become so much fire wood and yet more local history will go up in smoke and be lost for ever.

Nearly all of the fixtures and fittings including life rafts, some of which are handmade and are dated 1921, all the masts and rigging are still in existence, in good condition undercover and in one place near the boats but maybe not for much longer.

“Long term these boats would need to earn the own keep and pay their own way for their survival so, the initial thought is to run day shopping trips’ from Eastbourne to Brighton weather permitting and day cruises to the Isle of Wight and back through the summer months.

Further details about the campaign will be released later this month.