Thamesa previously Minnehaha

Boat Specification
Boat Name: 
Thamesa previously Minnehaha
Boat Type: 
Motor Yacht
Boat Length: 
40ft 6ins
Boat Beam: 
10ft 3ins
Boat Draft: 
4ft 6ins
Boat Displacement: 
15 tons
Boat Engine: 
2x 60hp Thornycroft
Boat Construction: 
Teak
Boat Builder: 
J Samuel White, Cowes IoW
Boat Year: 
1936
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The Teddington boatyard of Tough Brothers played a prominent part in the story of Dunkirk. Here, some of the hastily requisitioned boats from the upper Thames were collected, and from Teddington they set out in convoy on the first part of their journey. Tough's files record, in Douglas Tough's handwritten notes, the civilian boatmen from around London who were assigned to individual craft and whose names crop up again and again as they served on different boats under naval command. Afterwards, some of the vessels which survived Dunkirk were towed back by Toughs watermen from Ramsgate and Margate harbour and stored, pending either requisition by the Admiralty for auxiliary service or return to the owners, if they could be found! There were some angry owners, whose boats had been used without their knowledge and they sometimes found them but could not take them back until the Admiralty decided on their future. In other cases, Toughs had the problem of tracing the owners of boats which were no longer required by the Navy. And to cap it all, the Admiralty set a deadline after which they would no longer be responsible for storage charges. The owners of Mount's Wharf, where the boats were stored on behalf of Toughs, had to employ a night watchman in case of fire, caused by incendiary bombs and this prompted them to increase their charges. It took months to sort it all out. Toughs also had many damaged vessels to repair.

Nothing is known of Minnehaha's activities at Dunkirk, but after the evacuations, she was found by Douglas in Ramsgate harbour with her wheelhouse badly burnt and the charts used by her crew still in her chart drawer. She was towed to Teddington, where the yard built a new wheelhouse and took off the aft cabin. She was re-named Tigris IlI and was used by the yard as a tug. Douglas Tough bought the boat from the yard in 1944, converted her back to a motor cruiser and re-named her Thamesa. With the necessary Naval clearance obtained , she was one of the first yachts to visit Calais after the war. Just ten years after the evacuation, she returned to Dunkirk for the first reunion ceremony in 1950. Thamesa once helped 'The Beatles' to avoid the crowds at the height of their popularity in 1964 by taking them to Thames Television studios at Teddington on the river. She had a moment in politics in 1975, when she conveyed an anti-VAT petition to Parliament, and has been used in television programmes, including Andrew Marr's History of Britain.

Minnehaha was designed by William McMeek and was built by J. S. White's shipyard in Cowes in 1936. The report of the trials did not use the complimentary adjectives like 'comfortable' and 'spacious', but instead conservative descriptions like 'obvious restraint' and 'sound common sense' and 'every comfort that is really seamanlike and reasonable is provided'. Her owner based her on the Solent and used her for summer cruising.

Douglas' son Bob Tough was Commodore of the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships from 1986 to 1987 and his son John Tough was Commodore from 2008 to 2010. Thamesa led the fleet back to Dunkirk for the 2010 Return.

Source: 21

Updated: 02/01/2015