Wairakei now Brown Owl

Boat Specification
Boat Name: 
Brown Owl previously Wairakei
Boat Type: 
Motor Yacht
Boat Length: 
Boat Beam: 
10ft 8ins
Boat Draft: 
4ft 6ins
Boat Displacement: 
20 grt
Boat Engine: 
2 x Lister-Petter Alpha 40hp Diesels
Boat Construction: 
Pitch pine on oak
Boat Builder: 
J A Silver, Rosneath
Boat Year: 

Brown Owl is a 42ft. ketch-rigged, twin screw motor sailer built by James Silver at Rosneath, on the Clyde in Scotland in 1928. She was a John Bain design, being a handsome boat with a cruiser stern and comfortably fitted out for cruising. She was named Brown Owl on launching and was first of the class named after her and built by the Silver Yard between 1928 and the War. This was a popular design costing ?1,650 new, which was not cheap in 1928.

She is thought to be the Brown Owl that, in November 1929, the famous Captain O.M. Watts navigated all the way from Rosneath through the Forth and Clyde Canal and down the East Coast to Chelsea, on the Thames. He paid compliments to the sea-keeping qualities of the John Bain design in 'Motor Boat' magazine. By the time of Dunkirk, Brown Owl had had a double name change, first to Brisk and then to Wairakei. The only record of her participation in Dunkirk is a list of her crew, which consisted of I. Hassall, P. Mansfield and J. Galway. With a 4ft 6ins draft, her navigator must have been extremely skillful to bring her home undamaged. Later in the War she apparently returned to Scotland for Naval patrol, since she was reported as being in the River Clyde Small Boat Pool, RN 209 up to 1948.

After returning to private ownership her original Kelvin/Ricardo 15hp petrol/paraffin engines were replaced by two powerful Perkins 4-107 Diesels which would have produced her maximum displacement speed of some 9kts with power to spare. On the 1999 re-fit commissioned by the present owner, the Perkins engines have been replaced by two lower-rated Lister Alpha 40hp Diesels. This extensive re-fit, which has had to cope with the damage suffered over a number of years through galvanic corrosion, should see the vessel in sound sea-going condition for the next 25 years or so.

When she left His Majesty's Service in 1948, she was re-named Vivanti and registered in London. In 1991 she reverted to her original name of 'Brown Owl' . Her present owner R.W. Balson, keeps her on the R Thames at Teddington from where she is in regular use and has attended several Commemorative Returns to Dunkirk.

Updated July 2018

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