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ELSA II

Type:  Motor Cruiser

Length:  32ft

Beam:  8ft 6ins

Draft:  3ft 9ins

Displacement:  9.5 tons

 Builder:  Thornycroft

Year:  1929

Life has gone full circle for Elsa II, which was built at Thornycroft's in 1929. She was owned by a former Thornycroft apprentice, Fred Bourne together with his wife Sheila, who was the secretary of The Thames Vintage Boat Club.

Elsa II is one of the many ships whose presence at Dunkirk is well documented, but no detailed records of her achievements survive. However, she has one of the oldest brass commemorative plaques given to Little Ships even before the A.D.L.S. came into being. She took part in the 1975 and 1980 returns to Dunkirk and, on the earlier occasion the owner, John Bailey and his wife rather cheekily asked the Mayor of Dunkirk if he would come aboard for tea. When the Mayor arrived with his entire entourage, he found that Elsa II was only 32ft. long and there was hardly room for himself and the owners inside the cabin!


From 1967-1988 Elsa II was owned by a syndicate - all friends - who used their own efforts and skills to maintain her in perfect order without professional help. Many of those who own Dunkirk Little Ships have to rely on their own resources, otherwise maintenance and overhauls on classic wooden boats can run away with many thousands of pounds a year.


Elsa II has survived particularly well and has hardly been changed since she was built. Of course, there have been moments of peril, like the time when she got stuck on a sandbank eight miles off the Dutch coast. Everyone expected her to break up under the relentless pounding of the waves. Then, suddenly, she was lifted clear and floated away to safety.


During the next three years, she helped to conduct sea trials of new life-saving radio beacons in the Channel for Kelvin Hughes and International Marine Radio. Her 'Handy Billy' petrol engines were converted to paraffin but paraffin is no longer freely available at marine filling stations. So they had to resort to pushing supermarket trolleys laden with 5-gallon drums across cobbled streets in Holland to where she lay in the harbour.


Under Fred Bourne's ownership at Weybridge, Elsa II was in good hands. He was a yacht chandler and kept her at the bottom of his garden.


Chris Brightman and Shelley Price purchased Elsa II from Dennett's Boatyard in 2013. When she was purchased Elsa II was just bare timbers with no floors, in other words she was in need of total restoration. One good thing is that she came with two Yanmar engines about 25 years old that had never been used. Michael and Steve Dennett had their work cut out for them to get this restoration complete for the 2015 Return to Dunkirk trip, something she has not done since 1980. Dennett's Boatyard were severely affected by the 2014 winter floods which delayed the restoration by several months, however , we are pleased to say that the restoration was completed in time and Elsa II has never looked so good. She debuted at Dunkirk 2015 and was a stunning sight on the sea, a credit to Chris and Shelley having the courage to  take on a restoration of this magnitude and to the skills and workmanship of Dennett’s.


Elsa II is now a regular at most Dunkirk events and lives on the River Thames at Chertsey.