Type: Passenger Launch
Displacement: 7.5 tons
Engine: 1 x 80hp Mermaid Diesel
Boat Construction: Pitch pine on oak
Builder: Davis Boatyard, Poole
Picturesque Brownsea Island, in Poole harbour, provided a refuge in 1940 for Dutch and Belgian refugees, who camped there after German armies began to invade their home-land. The Davis family owned a boat yard in Poole and used their 60--passenger ferry Felicity to take them food and blankets and to provide a link with the mainland.
Like many of her kind, the Felicity was an open fishing boat, used for catching sprats in winter, and in summer she took holiday makers for trips round the bay. Mr. Davis, the head of the well-known local family, recalled the day at the end of May 1940, when they received the call for all available boats to report to the Admiralty. He and his brother Jimmy took Felicity and another boat, the Island Queen, to Dover where they were told that naval crews would take over. They were not sorry, because they had enough to do at Brownsea Island. It was some time before they had any news of their boats, although they knew what was happening when banner headlines in the press told the story of Dunkirk.
In due course, Felicity came back to them, in need of a good clean-up but other-wise none the worse for her experience. Island Queen was never heard of again. The story was that she had been bombed. They were sorry to lose her, but proud that she had done her bit. After the war they sold Felicity and for a time lost touch until she was renamed Wight Rose and used by Sean Crane to run a passenger service in the Solent.
In 1991, after a serious fire, her insurers declared Felicity a total loss. Sean Crane asked Julian Aldridge to use his JCB digger to break up the remains and burn them at his Keyhaven farm. By coincidence Julian is a time-served boatbuilder with a keen interest in traditional boats. It was agreed that in lieu of payment, the remains would be removed from Keyhaven in exchange for title to ownership.
Over the next few years the vessel was rebuilt using traditional materials and techniques throughout. Two pitch-pine beams 28 feet long and weighing over 1? tons each were located from a demolished cotton mill in Lancashire and these were re-sawn to become planking. Locally grown oak became new steamed timbers and she was finally re-launched in June 1998 in her 70th year.
Now her days as a commercial vessel are over, a cabin has been constructed to provide shelter from the elements with large open cockpits fore and aft. This was designed to be true to period and is essentially open plan so as to be able to carry many people on day trips, although it is possible to sleep aboard in comfort.
This is great to read as Tom Davis was my Grandfather. It's lovely to read about Felicity.
I became Felicity's part-time deckhand during summer at the age of 12 when I started work for the Davis brothers in my holidays and at weekends. At that time David Davis was her skipper and he was a freelance yachting photographer as well as local news stringer for the Echo and the then new ITV station of Southern TV.
I fished with them occasionally in winter which was a real endurance test, her number was PE 353. In 1965/66 David Davis left to go full time as cameraman for Southern and I became her skipper on an off for the next 8 years working her for Jim Davis in the summer when I could get time off from college and my work at the BBC as I followed David as a cameraman.
Felicity had a 3 cylinder Lister Freedom engine of 27HP then and tiller steering, she was quite a handful in the strong tides at the entrance of Poole Harbour where it can reach 5 knots with eddies along the shore that could turn you 180 degrees in a moment. This was due to the low speed pick up of the diesel engine and the closeness of the propeller to the unbalanced rudder. I once lost the rudder blade not when turning but in a dead straight line, we got back using an oar either side of the remaining rudder stock!
I used to run her on trips to Wareham, Poole, Shell Bay/Studland ferry, Round the Islands, Brownsea Island and Private hire. My favourite was acting as the deep end of the swimming pool by mooring up near the Sandbanks Hotel where the local Girls School, Uplands, had a big beach hut. I knew many of the girls anyway as the lived on Sandbanks and some were the sisters of school chums, but I learnt how it feels to be ogled!!
A good friend Mike Worth was my crew for many years and we had some of the happiest days of our lives working Davis's boats at a time that old money was on Sandbanks alongside many of us who worked in the marine industry.
Mike became her part time skipper and full time for a period then a spell in the Navy saw him return in 1976/7 when Jim and Tom Davis retired. The business was bought by a friend of ours, but he sold Felicity onto Steve Crane about that time, not just after the war. She ran the Keyhaven to Hurst ferry for a period then.
I am most fortunate to have also occasionally crewed and driven Harvey's Ferry Nymph too, so that makes 2 little ships and at the time of my 'ticket' I was the youngest Skipper in the UK with my licence number of 0036. VERY happy days. Chris Harnett
This is great to read as Tom Davis was my grandfather.
Lovely to read about Felicity as I remember hearing stories as a child.