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October 2018

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The construction of luxury motor yachts in the 1960's would further enhance the reputation of the Berwick yard.

An advert from 1961 for Fairmile Yachts.
Built at Berwick - designed in Surrey. A 1961 advert for Fairmile ocean-going yachts for which the Berwick yard would later receive accolades from discerning owners in the UK, Europe and the United States.

Motor Yachts built at Berwick upon Tweed by the Fairmile Construction Company Ltd.

TIA 1962 301464 94.66 557 73.5x19.6x7.5 2 x 4SA 6cyl Gardner diesels
GOLDEN HART 1963 305027 63.68 568 65x16.5x7 2x6cyl Ajax diesels
ISLAND WATERS 1963 304628 117.43 570 82x20.3x9.8 2x6cyl Caterpillar diesels
TANIT 1962 304298 94.97 571 73.6x19.6x9.25 2x4SA 6cyl Gardner diesels
ALBACORA 1963 304545 99.08 575 73.5x19.5x9.3 2x6cyl Gardner diesels
BABETTE II 1965 307937 98.94 581 80.1x19.5x8.5 2x8cyl Glennifer diesels
TAVIT 1966 308861 98.72 585 80x19.5x8.6 2x8cyl Glennifer diesels
LANESRA 1968 334272 153.26 635 98.5x22x7.7 2x6cyl Daimler-Benz diesels
THELMA M. III 1972 334278 97.78 666 76.1x19.5x5.7 2x6cyl Gardner diesels

Source: Lloyds Register of Yachts (Thanks to Philip Simons)

Tavit, built by Fairmile Construction at Berwick in 1966 (see below).
Photo: Courtesy Anne Elson.

In the early 1960's demand for fishing vessels that had been the main source of employment since the late 1950's tailed off. The yard was forced to look to other markets for orders. It was during this period that Fairmile would establish a world-wide reputation for the production of steel displacement luxury motor yachts. 

Between 1962 and 1966 Fairmile constructed a total of eight yachts for UK and overseas buyers.  The first of the Berwick luxury yachts was the 73’ Tia built for a Mr. T. Dunk of the charter firm Kilbrannon Marine Ltd., Barrhead.  Powered by two Gardner Marine Engines, Tia left the Tweed in March 1962.

the launch of tavit in 1965.
The launch of Tavit in June 1965. Babette II launched in the previous October can be seen to the left. Photo:© Bill Todd
Golden Hart
General Arrangement drawing of the 65-foot steel-hulled motor sailer Golden Hart built at Berwick but fitted out at Southampton..

The success of this vessel saw more orders quickly follow. Between 1962 and 1965 a further five yachts were constructed in succession. These were Golden Hart, Island Waters, Tanit, Albacora and Babette II. Of these vessels Golden Hart was the odd one out in that she was a twin-masted steel-hulled sailing ketch described in her general arrangement plan as a 'motor sailer'.

Buyers of Fairmile yachts came from Britain, the United States and Europe.  Island Waters, was built for an American owner, businessman and and socialite Gurnee Munn Jr. Albacora was built for a Frenchman a M. de Cheris. The 1962 build Tanit was originally ordered by a Spanish nobleman the Duke of Tamames while a UK customer, Mr. John Bett had two yachts constructed at the yard, Tavit and Lanesra. The motor yacht Babette II, was constructed for a Spanish nobleman, the Maques de Paul and was launched at Berwick in October 1964 by his fiancee Barbara Kalachnikoff, the future Maquesa. For reasons unknown the owner of Golden Hart requested that  the building of  the vessel should not be publicised.  Golden Hart was built to a design by Leslie Bewes and carried 1400 square feet of sail. The hull and superstructure was built at Berwick but fitting out was completed by A.H. Moody and Sons of Southampton. There is a fine picture of the vessel underway in full sail in Frank and Keith Beken's 1964 edition Beauty of Sail, (Georgee G. Harrap and Co, 1964). A general arrangement drawing is shown to the right..

Island Waters built in 1962 for American businessman Gurnee Munn. Photo: D. Redfearn Collection.

Babette II - built for a Spanish nobleman the Maques de Paul.
Babette II - built for a Spanish nobleman the Maques de Paul.
Photo: D. Redfearn Collection.

Tavit - Colour Photo
Another picture of the 1966-build Tavit that was later to feature on the big screen (see below).
Photo: © Bill Todd .

Lanesra, the biggest of the Fairmile yachts alongside at the Tweed Dock in 1968. Photo: D. Redfearn Collection.

Charter Brochure 1969
Lnesra 1969 charter brochure
Click on the image above..

In August 1967  the biggest yacht to be built at Berwick took to the Tweed.  Lanesra, measuring  98’ 6 and powered by twin 240 horse power Mercedes-Benz engines was built for a Maltese-registered company, Bahhar Marine (Malta) Ltd..  Lanesra had the distinction of being the first yacht to be built at Berwick with twin rudders. The observant reader will note that Lanesra is ‘Arsenal’, spelt backwards.  The vessel’s name was attributed to the owner being a fan of the club.  Lanesra was one of two yachts built for John Torre Bett, an Oxford-educated solicitor and businessman who founded Earnley School, Chichester. Lanesra was distinct from other yachts built at Berwickhad in that the hull was painted pale green hull rather than the traditional white. A year after leaving the Tweed the yacht was made available for charter and a brochure from this period can be viewed by clicking on the image to the right.

Lanesra would be the penultimate yacht to be built at Berwick, the final vessel being Thelma M. III in 1971.

Yachts built for American owners were fitted with what were known as 'flopper stoppers'. These were a type of stabilising device comprising of a metal plate suspended and lowered into the water on the port and starboard sides by davits or poles. They were effective in reducing the amount of roll in a swell when underway or at anchor. Other vessels notably Lanesra were fitted with fixed stabilisers or were engineered in a way that would allow them to be fitted later.

Witness testimony from former yard workers who sailed on the yachts during trials and delivery trips (including down the North Sea, through the English Channel and Bay of Biscay to the Mediterranean) confirms that the Fairmile yachts had excellent sea-keeping qualities. This is no surprise as their hulls were derived from the successful 'Fair Isle' trawler design.

It is known that at least one yacht built to a Fairmile design was constructed at the Gideon Shipyards, Groningen, Netherlands. 

The ocean going heavy steel displacement yacht Lanesra pictured on the River Thames in 1971.
A rare photo of the steel displacement yacht Lanesra. Originally registered in Berwick upon Tweed, the vessel is seen here at Tower Pier on the Thames in 1971. Photo: Richard Cox Collection

Yacht Histories

The first of the Fairmile yachts, Tia, was to have a sad end.  Only eighteen months after leaving the Tweed Tia caught fire and sank after an engine room explosion 100 miles off Lisbon while returning to the UK from charter work in the Mediterranean.

Virginia G Ex-Tavit
Built in Berwick in 1966 as Tavit, the fine lines of Virginia G, since re-named Atrevida.
Photo: Courtesy of Rigo Yachts International.

In 2006 the yacht Virginia G was listed on the Rigo Yachts International website as having been built at Berwick in 1966.  From the build list this vessel can be identified as Tavit which was launched in 1965 but not completed until 1966. The vessel can be positively identified as the former Tavit by comparing features of the hull (including the position of the portholes, hawsepipe on the bows and rubbing strake) with those shown in the 1966 colour photos above and below. 

Yacht in Dock
Tavit as she was in 1966
Photo: D. Redfearn Collection

Tavit was also to feature in the 1971 film adaptation of the Alistair Maclean novel When Eight Bells Toll that starred Anthony Hopkins, Nathalie Delon, Robert Morely, Jack Hawkins and Corin Regrave. For the movie Tavit was renamed Firecrest, and acted as the base for secret agent Philip Calvert (played by Anthony Hopkins).

The vessel was extensively overhauled and refitted in winter 2001.  External modifications to the yacht have included the construction of a cowl behind the bridge and a remodelled upper deck and superstructure. The vessel appears to have been re-engined at some point with Gardner engines.  In 2006 Virginia G was based in Viareggio, Tuscany and was available for charter. The former Tavit underwent a further name change and in October 2010 was spotted as Atrevida at the new marina, Lido Di Ostia, Rome (see below).

Pictured at the new marina
The former Fairmile 1966 build Tavit, pictured here in October 2010 at the new marina, Lido Di Ostia, Rome, The yacht is now registered as Atrevida. Photo:© Luigi Gaetano La Farina.

In December 2010 the former 1962-build Tanit (Yard Number 571) was offered for sale through a Spanish yachtbroker having undergone an extensive refit. As can be seen in the picture below, modifcations have been made to the original upper deck and superstructure but the vessel retains the characteristic high bow and stern.

The 1962-build Tanit, was originally built for the duke of Tamames.
The 1962-build Tanit pictured here in 2010, was originally ordered for the Duke of Tamames.
Photo: Courtesy of

The former Fairmile yacht Albacora was fitted with a new wheelhouse by a Dutch shipyard in May 2009.
Yard No. 575, the 73' Fairmile yacht originally built as Albacora. The vessel, pictured here with a new wheelhouse was offered for sale in 2009.
Photo: Orange Nautical Services

Another Berwick-built yacht still in service is the former 73’ Albacora.   Originally built for a French owner, a M. de Cheris, Albacora was launched on14th November 1962 and completed the following May. The vessel then underwent several changes of ownership and was later known as Taora (left) and then Dersou.

In 2006 as Dersou the vessel sustained serious fire damage and later underwent major external and internal modifications including the fitting of a new wheelhouse at a shipyard in the Netherlands.

In 2011 another fire broke out while the vessel was moving berths again causing serious damage. The yacht has again changed hands and the new owner is planning a two-year restoration project.

The 1965 build, Babette II remains in service having undergone an extenstive refit in 1999. In 2007 the vessel was based in Majorca and advertised for sale. It has subsequently changed hands.

The final yacht to be built at Berwick was Thelma M. III constructed for an American businessman Mr. L.G.F Di Varmo who planned to use the vessel as a floating home for him and his wife.  Although launched in May 1971 a contractual dispute that was eventually resolved through an out of court settlement meant that the yacht did not leave Berwick for the United States until the following July.  In 2006 the former Thelma M III was still based in the United States and registered as Steel Magnolia having undergone a seven-year complete restoration and overhaul (see photos below).

Thelma M. IV Steel Magnolia

Thelma M. IV (left) underway on trials in 1971. In 2006 the vessel was still based in the United States having been re-named Steel Magnolia (right).
Photo: (left) © Ward-Philipson, Photo: (right), Courtesy of Carol Dayton.

In 2008 another United Staes-based yacht, the classic 82' 1963 build Island Waters, was listed for sale under it's original name. The vessel was originally based in Florida before transferring to the West Coast. During the vessel's lifetime it has had five owners including the Los Angeles-based organisation 'Recovery at Sea', a rehabilitation project providing counselling and career development opportunites to people in need.

Island Waters
The classic 1963 build Island Waters (Yard No. 570) was listed for sale in 2008 having been operated by the same owners since 1988. Photo:©

The biggest of the Fairmile yachts, Lanesra, was at one point owned by an American businessman and based on the West Coast of the United States. Since leaving Berwick the vessel has underwent three major refits involving a complete remodelling of the stern, interior and superstructure. The first of the three refits was carried out in Long Beach, California in 1975 which saw the yacht converted for use as as an oceanographic research vessel. Ten years a second major refit was carried out in Savannah, Georgia and the vessel reverted to it's original use. An interesting change at this time was work on the upper deck to allow the ship to carry a helicopter.

In 2008 Tiffara was based in Chile, South America and employed as a luxury cruise vessel providing bespoke cruises combining the natural beauty of Patagonia with fine food and wines. In January 2010 it was listed for sale on a number of yacht broker websites.

Tiffara Tiffara

The Motor Yacht Tiffara (ex Lanesra). In 2008 the vessel was employed as a cruise ship and based in Chile. As can be seen by comparing these pictures with the 1968 and 1971 pictures above,, the vessel has undergone significant modification during her lifetime. Photos: © Max Morales, Courtesy Andes Wines.











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