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BROWN OWL: Pro Gallery



1940 Wairakei 
Type:  Motor Yacht 
Length:  42ft 
Beam:  10ft 8ins 
Draft:  4ft 6ins 
Displacement:  20 grt 
Engine:  2 x Lister-Petter Alpha 40hp Diesels 
Builder:  J A Silver, Rosneath 
Year:  1928


Brown Owl is a 42ft. ketch-rigged, twin screw motor yacht built by James Silver at Rosneath, on the Clyde to the order of Captain RJ Sillars in 1928. She was a John Bain design, being a handsome craft, with a cruiser stern and comfortably fitted out for cruising the Western Isles. 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 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 skilful 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.


In 1948 Dame Vera Laughton-Matthews, Commandant of the Wrens, brought her from the Admiralty and renamed her Vivanti (registered London).


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 8 kts with power to spare. On the 1999 re-fit commissioned by the present owner, the Perkins engines were replaced by two lower-rated Lister Alpha 40hp Diesels. This extensive re-fit, in which the entire hull was re-fastened, should see the vessel in sound sea-going condition for many years to come.


In 1991 she reverted to her original name of 'Brown Owl’. Her present owners Mr and Mrs Balson keep her on the R Thames at Teddington from where she is in regular use. She has attended all Commemorative Returns to Dunkirk since 1980.

BROWN OWL: TeamMember


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