TANTALUS (1940 JOVIAL)
Type: Motor Cruiser
Length: 35 ft
Beam: 9 ft 6ins
Draft: 3 ft 6 ins
Displacement: 10 tons approx.
Engine: Ford 4 cyl Diesel
Construction: Mahogany on oak
Builder: Richardson, New York
Boat Year: 1937
The Richardson Boat Company of North Tonowanda, New York State, America, was world renowned for its fast cruisers and when Frank Norrington, the sole distributor in Britain, delivered Jovial to his customer, Captain MacMullen at Dartmouth on 12th April 1937, they decided to put her to the test. She went into the water at 5pm having just arrived as deck cargo from America, started up her twin 51hp Gray engines an hour later and arrived in Torquay at 7.30. Capt. MacMullen kept her at Newton Ferrers but did not enjoy her for long. Soon after the outbreak of World War II she was requisitioned for mine-sweeping duties with HMS Wildfire at Sheerness in Kent and later that year took part in Operation Dynamo.
She continued to serve there through the War until 1944 when she was re-fitted and allocated to the War Department for 'a Special Mission' -too secret to disclose, but probably connected with the D-Day landings.
In 1946 Jovial was returned to Frank Norrington who sold her to Mrs. L.K. Foley, who found the boat too powerful to use on the Thames. She kept Jovial tied up in front of her riverside restaurant at Staines where her film star customers from the nearby studios used to finish their evenings drinking by the water. Occasionally Jovial was used in films and got a new coat of paint for a fee.
In 1951 Mrs. Foley sold her to W. Bates & Son of Chertsey for use in their hire fleet with her twin Gray engines stripped out and replaced with a more manageable Chrysler Crown engine. Re-named Canopus Star she remained as a hire boat till the late 60's when an accident caused her to be laid up ashore. With the introduction of fibre-glass boats into the hire fleet she was left ashore, unwanted and uncared-for, with many cracked ribs and showing daylight through her planks.
In 1972 she was spotted by Ken Humphrey who bought her as she was due to be burnt on the slip and re-named her Tantalus not knowing her original name. Then began many years of hard work by Ken and his family to restore her to her present prize winning condition.
It was not until 1990 that her illustrious past became known with barely enough time to make her ready for the 50th Anniversary Return to Dunkirk. Her Chrysler engine failed several times on this arduous voyage, consuming ?500-worth (250 gals) of petrol. It was in 1991 that the Chrysler was replaced with a Ford 4.1 litre 4-cyl. Diesel with spares easily available and more economical to run. Ken's and his family's work was recognised in 1994 at the Traditional Boat Rally at Henley, where he was awarded the prize for the best amateur reconstruction at the event. Also that year Tantalus made the long sea voyage to Portsmouth to be at the D-Day celebration. Ken, despite ill health took Tantalus back to Dunkirk for the 60th Anniversary Return in 2000.
On Wednesday, June 13th 2012 Tantalus, in new ownership, suffered an accident at Teddington Lock and was lost. Fortunately the crew escaped without injury.
Photo and accurate report:
Also, a report and photos (taken by RNLI) is on http://www.riverthamesnews.com/News64
Updated: April 2018
The attached article refers to the incident at Teddington Weir on the 13th June 2012.