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Type:  Barge Yacht 
Length:  40 ft 
Beam:  11 ft 4 ins 
Draft:  2 ft 
Displacement:  22 tons 
Engine:  Thorneycroft ‘Handy Billy’ 
Construction:  Carvel, oak 
Builder:  Sittingbourne Ship Co 
Boat Year:  1930 

Nancibelle's name appears in several official records of the Little Ships which helped in the evacuation of Dunkirk and is credited with bringing back ninety-seven troops in a single voyage. But no further details are known.

After the heyday of the successful and romantic spritsail working barges in the nineteenth century, around 1890 the new concept of half-sized 'barge yachts' was developed. Compared with the 80ft-90ft length and 22ft beam of the working boats, these 'barge yachts' were 40ft in length, 11ft wide and had only a 2ft draft. In place of the cargo hold they had comfortable and roomy cabins which made them ideal to adapt as house-boats and they were provided with a ketch rig and the traditional lee boards.

Unusually, the Nancibelle was spritsail rigged with her main mast stepped above the coach roof. She was built in 1930 for a Mr F.W. Newman by the Sittingbourne Ship Building Company on the River Swale in Kent. Subsequent owners included Mr E.J.Newell, Dr H. Graham Hodson (a radiologist), Mr A. L. Wilcox and Mr Geoffrey Lambert. She changed hands three times before the war.

In 1948 Nancibelle was purchased by Captain and Mrs C.R.V. Pugh, to serve as a base for their family whilst Captain C.R.V. Pugh CBE, RN completed his final two years in the Royal Navy as Director of Air Accident Prevention at the Admiralty. She was kept her at Bourne End near the Spade Oak Ferry, Maidenhead, from where Capt. Pugh would row ashore (in his naval uniform!) to travel to London and back each day by train. Nancibelle was registered with Lloyds Register of Shipping at that time.

From here Nancibelle returned down the River Thames to Conyers Quay on the River Swale where she was to be re-bottomed (renewing the wooden inner hull) and re-fitted out in preparation for the Pugh family to sail her around the coast, initially to the Solent /Southampton for the 1953 Spithead Coronation Review.

In 1954, following Capt. Pugh's retirement from the Royal Navy, Nancibelle, was sailed to Cornwall, and moored on the Helford River. With just an eighteen inch draft with lee boards raised, the 40’ vessel posed no threat to the nearby oyster beds, which at that time were a vital link to the then thriving Helford oyster industry located further downstream from her mud berth in Polwheveral creek.

Nancibelle’s winter berth was a little mud dock that was dug out alongside Scott’s Quay, once a working granite shipping quay.

Sadly, in 1961 Nancibelle was vandalised at her remote winter berth. Local thieves seeking to extract her valuable lead outlet pipes and skin fittings ensured that she sank at her mooring.

Despite the best efforts of the Pugh family the damage was too much for them to restore in such a remote spot. Early in 1962 Nancibelle was sold to a family from Falmouth, and she was towed round to the Penryn River, where she was lived aboard as a houseboat by a succession of families for nearly thirty years. In the 1970s she had her mast and rigging removed, and also lost her two Thorneycroft ‘Handy Billy’ engines. In early 2000 she was ‘too far gone’ for renovation and towed away for scrappage by Falmouth Harbour Authorities.

Updated June 2014 Source Nicci Pugh.

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