Type: Auxiliary Ketch
Displacement: 19.6 tons
Engine: Perkins 4-236 Diesel
Construction: Pitch pine on oak
Builder: Oliver, Porthleven, Cornwall
Our Lizzie was built at Mounts bay, Porthleven, Cornwall as a fishing lugger. She was towed across the harbour by 'Brewster’s Fairground Steam Engine' then turned and expertly lowered into the water. Oliver-built boats were always launched bow first. These drifters were a hybrid, following the earlier fast sailing luggers which had a tall, dipping lug foresail tacked to the stem-head and a standing lug mizzen sheeted to a longer outrigger.
Our Lizzie was originally rigged for fishing with a small lug-sail forward and a gaff mizzen aft, with principal propulsion from a paraffin engine on the center line and a smaller wing engine on the starboard quarter in case of breakdown or for extra speed. She was recognised as SS55 when moored at St. Ives in the '20's. Then, towards the end of the '30's she was converted into a sailing yacht and then went to Dunkirk. The details of her part were not recorded (save the fact that she went and was finally left lying at Newhaven). Then she was compulsorily purchased by the War Office and went to Rothsea, Isle of Bute in Scotland where she mainly took supplies to anti-aircraft batteries and searchlight positions.
Her home was in the West Country and in 1946/7 Our Lizzie returned to Devon and private ownership. It was at this time that her owner apparently won a large sum of money at the Grand National Horse Race when Freebooter came first. Much of the winnings were lavished on the boat and her name was changed to Freebooter as a celebration of the event. She was to be known by this name for the next 50 years.
Initially Freebooter was used for charter holidays and later for fishing trips, even performing for old sailors their last request to be buried at sea or have their ashes scattered off-shore.
Being such a handsome, rugged boat with such pretty lines has also brought more glamorous roles. In her sailing rig she appeared in the films 'The French Lieutenant's Woman', 'Dracula' and in 'The Apple Tree' filmed at Sidmouth. With her masts removed and a superstructure and funnel added, she appeared in every episode of BBC Television's 'The Onedin Line'.
It was at this point that the owners felt it was appropriate to restore her original name as a tribute to the boat-builder and in recognition of her unique history.
She undertook a complete re-fit in 1993 which included a new deck laid in iroko and a smart deckhouse in teak. Every effort was made to preserve her traditional style and character whilst discreetly installing all the latest navigation equipment in order to make Our Lizzie a very comfortable cruising yacht.
After sailing extensively around the Mediterranean, she was sailed back to Dartmouth and sold. Her new owner lived on her and she spent much of the next seven years on the River Dart.
Her current owner bought her in May 2010 and sailed her to Plymouth where work started to bring her back to a fully seaworthy condition. The restoration included 10 new frames, 14 new planks, a new mizzen mast, all new spars, refastening, recaulking and new sails. She has been sailed on the south coast during 2013, and she is now ready to make the trip to Dunkirk in 2015.
Updated: Sept 2013.