Type: Medina Class Motor Yacht
Length: 45 Feet
Beam: 11 Feet
Draft: 5ft 6inch
Displacement: 13.78 Tons (21 Tons Thames measurement)
Engine: Beta 75hp x 2
Construction: Burmese Teak on English Oak and Canadian Rock Elm
Builder: Saunders Roe, Cowes, Isle of Wight
Maimonde (which apparently means “Moonlight” in Friesian) was built in 1937 by Saunders Roe in Cowes on the Isle of Wight. Although the company is better known these days for its flying boats and the invention and development of the hovercraft, Saunders Roe has a distinguished pre-war boatbuilding history. As well as river launches, lifeboats and speedboats (including record-breaking Miss America II and Donald Campbell’s Bluebird), Saunders Roe built more than 70 motor yachts ranging from 30ft to over 100ft in length.
Maimonde is a 45ft Medina Class motor yacht, of which 8 were built between 1935 and 1939. Her first owner was Mr Raymond Gough of Birmingham. She has a teak hull, deck and superstructure and is built on oak and rock elm timbers, beams and keel. The extensive use of teak is no doubt why 5 of the 8 built are still afloat today after 80-85 years. The original specification for the Medina class yachts lists limed Austrian oak and pine for the interior fit out; however, little of Maimonde’s internal detail remains.
Maimonde received a fair degree of attention from the yachting press pre-war with articles such as “To Paris with Maimonde” and “Maimonde: The First of the Saunders Roe 1937 45ft Cruisers” appearing in The Motorboat magazine.
Like many other Dunkirk Little Ships, official records show that she was commandeered by the Navy in June 1940. Although several past owners had suspected that she might have been at Dunkirk, sufficient research to establish the fact was not undertaken until 2018/19, so Maimonde is a very newly discovered Little Ship. Research is ongoing, but to-date, no specific details of her service during the evacuation have been found. It is understood that the Navy held onto her for the rest of the war and copies of the frequently published “Red List” (ADM208: Minor War Vessels in Home Waters) show her as operating as a naval auxiliary (with Lewis gun(s)!) out of Ramsgate, Holehaven and at Cliffe on the Thames Estuary. A postcard dated 1987 from a Mr J R Pearce OBE to the previous owner discloses that he and an old school friend (Frank Cowdry?) served aboard Maimonde in 1940, doing “convoy barrage balloon work”.
It appears that Mr Gough retained ownership of Maimonde after the war as her British Register, or “Blue Book”, shows ownership first changed in 1948. She then passed through a series of owners (to date, she has had only 12) and was renamed Norbar in 1959, returning to her original name in, it is thought, 1963 when ownership changed again.
In the early 1970s, Maimonde was chartered by BP Oil for 12 months for the making of the film “The Wonderful Shores of Britain”.
The previous owner kept Maimonde for 30 years. However, as is so often the case with old wooden boats, rainwater ingress through the teak deck caulking eventually took its toll on the supporting oak structure and the interior fittings. She was therefore acquired by the current owner in 2018 with the intent of renewing the deck and refitting the interior. Although the interior has been much-changed over the years, it appears that this is the first time Maimonde has had any structural work done, such is the quality of the teak. Needless to say, however, the extent of the remedial work has proved more extensive than first envisioned! Discovery that Maimonde is a Dunkirk Little Ship and the impending 80th Return to Dunkirk in May 2020 has added some urgency to this work.
It is particularly telling of the role that Maimonde has played in peoples’ lives that, since the restoration work began, the (now adult) children of three former owners have made contact and are following progress. Several have visited the boatyard to reacquaint themselves with the yacht and recount fond memories of childhood holidays aboard.