E. Is for boat.

The misnamed ‘E’ boat.

The E. Boat international one design.

Many of my regular blog visitors will know that home is the Tamar valley on the Devon/Cornwall border and that my home cruising ground is the beautiful south-west coast of the UK which i maintain is the best cruising ground in the UK.  To my west i have the ports and rivers of Fowey, Falmouth and on to the Helford, the Lizard and then the dark blue water of the Atlantic itself.  To the east i have the Yealm, then some smaller inlets before Salcombe , the Dart and then the Exe ; i kind-of think that everything changes there because Lyme bay and the Bill form a difficult tidal barrier that needs some thinking about.

To the east, just beyond Salcombe and Start head is a short section of coast before the entrance to Dartmouth that includes Slapton sands and the wetland of Slapton Ley.  I’ll quote directly from the Wiki page and then give a further explanation of the boats and what happened there :

The nearby beach is a coastal bar (see below), known as Slapton Sands. In 1944, during World War II, it was part of the site of Exercise Tiger, a rehearsal for the Invasion of Normandy which was attacked by German E-Boats and also saw a large number of friendly fire deaths. A Sherman tank that was sunk in this action has been recovered and now stands on the road behind the beach at nearby Torcross. Part of Exercise Fabius took place a week after Exercise Tiger on Slapton Sands. “

The ‘E’ boats as misnamed here are properly known as ‘S’ boats in their original German naval designation and where the S stands for Schnellboot where Schnell means ‘fast’ and of course ‘boot’ is boat….thus fast-boat.   The ‘S’ boats then were fast (45 knots plus) well armed and very seaworthy diesel engine powered patrol/fast attack boats of about 115 feet in length and capable of a cruising range of 700-750 miles.   While not as well represented historically as the more widely know ‘U’ boat (Submarine) the Schnellboot fleet was credited with sinking some 100 allied ships…mainly merchant ships.


The south-west connection continues with an unusual happenstance….

A few years back i was exploring the upper reaches of the Lynher and St Germans rivers when i first got WABI”’ on the water.  Previously i’d been up to the quay at St Germans in my Frances 26 but i’d never tried to go further up the river from there.  One day, with the shoal draft capability i pushed further up the river to an old boatyard (boating world) and against the pontoon there found what i thought was the hull of an ‘S’ boat….it actually wasn’t a wartime S boat but a later, post war design but which had the same engines and a lot of the same gear.   What i didn’t know is that the gear was stripped out for the actual S boat, the only one still in existence, that is being rebuilt down at Millbrook.

S 130. (Photographer not known)


The ‘E’ boat.

One day at Dickies yard when i worked there as a rigger, a very odd little boat turned up on a trailer and i was tasked with getting it’s mast up after which we man-hauled the boat and trailer around to the slipway and popped it in the water.  Once on the water it looked even more strange even to my IOR accustomed eye ; the boat seemed either too wide for it’s length or just not long enough for it’s length.  Aside from that it seemed to have a huge central hatch and be a very ‘flat’ boat with no coachroof…..i had to get inside at one point and i almost had to fold myself to get in there.

The boat was the new at that time ‘E’ boat International Offshore one Design so called although there was no way, i thought, that this could be counted alongside the other Offshore one Designs…..like for example the OOD34 which i crewed on.

I was told one anecdotal story about one of the local E boats shortly after that….that the E boat in question was running down the Menai straits in brisk wind against tide conditions with it’s central hatch open.  According to one of the crew it surfed down a wave straight down into the back of the next wave, went ‘down the mine’ and the wave poured over the low topsides and straight into the open hatch.  The boat went straight down with it’s spinnaker still pulling !.

The opposite side is that i know of at least 2 ‘E’ boats that have sailed across the Atlantic in the Mini Transat race ; in fact i sailed with one of those skippers for quite some time.  His opinion was that he didn’t like that boat as much as the other boat that he’d kicked off the whole Mini Transat idea with : he of course being the late Bob Salmon who instigated the race.

Years later i did almost buy an E boat myself although not the standard, flush decked version ; there were a few built that had a small coachroof added and that did remarkably improve the inside space and the functionality of the little E boat as a cruising boat.  What actually happened is that one came up on Ebay, but locally, at a reasonable price : i bid on it but was pipped to the post by £50 or so !.  I think that then i could have used the E boat for what i do now with my Hunter Liberty, the boats aren’t too dissimilar in size although they are very different boats.  The E boat has a lifting keel rather than my centerboard, the rudder lifts which is fine, the big difference is that the E boat has the worst rig going ; an IOR style, genoa dominated sailplan which either needs good roller furling gear or lots of separate headsails.

Ethelred 08

Update 22/02/2020.

An ‘E’ boat that knew in my Hamble days (Jabberwocky) s currently up for grabs on Ebay.



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