Gay Venture

Boat Specification
Boat Name: 
Gay Venture
Boat Type: 
Motor Yacht
Boat Length: 
45 ft
Boat Beam: 
12 ft
Boat Draft: 
4 ft
Boat Displacement: 
23 tons
Boat Engine: 
2x BMC Diesel
Boat Construction: 
Pitch pine on oak
Boat Builder: 
Watercraft of Molesey
Boat Year: 

In the 1920s and '30s when boats and often motor car bodies were hand-built, private yacht designs were often based on ships' tenders and life-boats. The Gay Venture, a 45ft Watercraft cruiser was built for ex-Brooklands racing driver, Douglas Briault. He took up the more leisurely sport of yachting and wanted a boat that he could use as a floating home.

Gay Venture's design was based on the hull of a naval pinnace. She was rigged as a ketch, but her two short masts only carried 267 square feet of sail. Despite her 2-ton iron keel, she had a mere 4ft draft which would not have given her much of a perfor-mance to windward. Gay Venture's machinery below decks was more impressive. Her two 58 hp 6-cylinder Gray engines with reduction gears gave a cruising speed of 9? knots at only three-quarters of her available power. Her well-insulated engine room beneath the bridge deck, lined with asbestos and perforated zinc, was built for almost silent running.

Gay Venture was the largest boat ever built by Watercraft at Molesey, and her 12ft beam (wide for those days) provided space for a comfortable interior. Forward of the bridge, one stepped down into the state room which led into a comfortable bathroom. Behind the wheelhouse was a large saloon with access to the spacious galley. The ship was built for two; any professional crew would have to sleep on the settee in the wheelhouse.

The Briaults planned her as a floating home, first to be moored at Bosham, near Chichester on the South Coast and then to cruise the French canals from Brittany and the Garonne down to the Mediterranean Riviera. Against the British climate, she had a coal-fired stove and central heating system. This could have been the cause of a serious fire which troops returning from Dunkirk were thought to have started by accident. However, her solidly built hull, with 1?inch pitch pine planks on oak and decks of teak with grooved pine survived. The low, well pro-portioned wheelhouse was made of mahogany and teak. The panelling and the floors of the saloon and state-room were of American oak. She cost her first owner ?2,100 in August 1938.

The Briaults had every reason to be proud of Gay Venture and sold their home to pay for her. But just a year after they launched her on the Thames, war broke out. She was requisitioned to become His Majesty's Yacht Gay Venture - a Royal Navy Patrol Ship in the Thames Estuary, flying the White Ensign. Her owner joined the Royal Navy and three years later took part in the raid on St Nazaire as skipper of a Naval mine-laying craft.

For the last 25 years Gay Venture was owned by Don Waddleton and his wife Joan. For fifteen years they lived on board and cruised extensively.

Once owned by the late Ken Stocks, Gay Venture is now treasured by Heather Dennett wife of renowned boat builder and restorer Steve Dennett of Dennett's Boat Yard, Laleham. She is a regular participant in ADLS events.

Source: 2, 3, 4, 5, 11 & 19

Updated: Sept 2016