Type: Motor Cruiser
Beam: 8ft 3ins
Draft: 1ft 9ins
Displacement: Not known
Engine: Mitsubishi 4-cyl Diesel (1980)
Builder: Salter Bros., Oxford
In August 1975 Michael and Vicky Cowles hired a rowing boat on the river Medway in Kent and there, stranded on the bank, was a decaying motor cruiser. The wooden superstructure seemed past repair, but the fine lines of the steel hull aroused in Michael the desire to save her. He made enquiries and traced the owner who told him she was the River Princess. After £27.50 changed hands the saga of her restoration began.
The super-structure was only fit for burning and the engine (originally a Morris Vedette) had long gone. Some of her plates had rusted through where the iron ballast had rested against the hull. They effected temporary repairs and with the help of friends towed her to a covered slipway downstream. There they removed the worst of her iron plates and took them as templates to a local steelyard for replacements to be cut in steel. Then, armed with two heavy hammers and 500 mild steel rivets they learned the art of plating. Michael, Vicky and their daughters, were using a blowlamp and scrapers to remove the grime and old paint from the hull when the name Wayfarer began to emerge near the bows. They assumed this must have been her original name, which they preferred and adopted.
In May 1976 Wayfarer seemed fit to go into the water. Cheered by a group of friends Vicky smashed a bottle of home-brewed beer over her bows and they launched her to be towed to her new moorings at Tonbridge in Kent . There work began to design and build the superstructure from reclaimed hardwood, some from a discarded BBC musicians' rostrum. They now felt ready to tow Wayfarer to Tonbridge Town Lock to fit the engine. But on the way a sudden gust caused her to crash into some overhanging trees which demolished the new stern cabin frames. Undaunted they fitted the engine and started to repair the damage. During this time, they tried to learn something of the history of Wayfarer.
The Thames Conservancy knew that the name had belonged to Salter Brothers who produced the original specifications. The boat had been built by them in 1928 for £250. Michael pays tribute to the enormous contribution by his wife Vicky in the 3,000 hours of work on her restoration, completed in 1982. Much later, in 1990, an older chapter of Wayfarer's history was discovered in the book 'The Little Ships of Dunkirk'. Wayfarer was on the list of boats requisitioned and made ready to take part in the evacuation of Dunkirk by Tough Brothers. Another lost Little Ship had been found and is now a member of the Association.