Saturday 19 September 2009

Wonder - Itchen Ferry for Sale

Wonder is a genuine Itchen Ferry, a Solent boat built by the locally renowned shipwright Dan Hatcher around1860.

She was owned by the Nicholay family for many years and two generations, and in total she has passed through only six owners in her long life. Wonder underwent some major restorations at the Newport Classic Boat Museum on the Isle of Wight a few years ago.

About five years ago, we were able to lend a hand caulking, painting and pumping out for a few days, as the planking took up, while she was in a local boat yard . Sadly we didn’t get to sail her, as before she was rigged, she was moved to a berth at the Dolphin Quay Boatyard in Emsworth.

During her 140 years, Wonder has sailed the Solent, only recently having been fitted with an engine. She is now up for sale for at £14,000, I just hope a new and committed owner can be found.


  1. She looks to be a real gem. Though a bit pricey. Love flush decks, aesthetically at least. What's the size? She looks relatively small.

  2. I owned Gem a 1905 Itchen Ferry in original form with fish deck. She was a alledged to be from the Dan Hatcher stable. Unfortunately she was washed off the hard in Abersoch harbour in Nov 2000 gales anmd wrecked on Llanbedrog headland - a very sad day. She was bought from the insurers by a restoration builder and I would like to know if she is still out there. I may be interested in aquiring Wonder, the price does seem high, I bought Gem for £2,400 and spent around £4,000 but she had no engine. I guess it all depends on the level of restoration.

    She was an amazing boat, so easy to sail single handed, just set her up on reach and shewould really shift, just a touch on the tiller now and again. A very social boat too with good depth and width, my 21' would take 6 in comfort open cockpit, with dog on fish deck. She did suffer on a swinging mooring though breaking rudder, bow sprit and mast step at various times - still, she was nearly a centurion.

    Mike Worthington

  3. Hi, interesting that your centurion suffered from a broken rudder on a swinging mooring, it is obviously a weakness because our GRP Itchen Ferry, Noggin of Bere, a mere youngster built by Drummond Bane in 1974, also suffered the same on a swinging mooring in Poole Harbour. She is now safely tucked up on the River Frome at Wareham.
    We have found her a very sturdy and forgiving first boat and would love to find out more about the breed.
    Liz Mangles

  4. I am curious whether you know what has become of Wonder since then? The Dolphin Quay website indicates that she was sold, and moved to the East coast, but that is the last I have been able to find on the internet.

    I used to sail on Wonder as a child, as a guest of Maj. Nicholay, and my father is the Naval Architect who headed Wonder's restoration at Newport Classic Boat Museum.

    I know that after Maj. Nicholay passed away, Wonder was handed down to his son, but I haven't heard much of her since. I have many fond memories of weekends spent sailing Wonder on the Solent, and would love to hear where she has found a new home.

  5. Hi Mike. Gem is now in Burnham-on Crouch. The owner is Timothy Lymer. She is up for sale.
    Yvonne Gosling

  6. Wonder has turned up in Kent, and she's looking good.


  7. for more about 'gem' contact harry lymer the owner /skipper . on 07736372226

  8. Gem and Wonder have just taken 1st and 2nd prizes respectively in the 2010 Swale Smack and Barge Match held 7 August.

    I will post details to the KSA and Facebook sites soon.

    Jo Walpole
    Kentish Sail Association
    follow us on Facebook

  9. Hiya

    This boat was moored at Eling Quay for many years just in front of my dads boat.

  10. I also sailed on Wonder several times when Chris Hawthorn, a friend of mine kept an eye on her for Maj Nicolay.In those days she was kept at Ocean Village in Southampton, just over the river from Itchen Ferry hard itself. Eling Quay was home to another well known itchen ferry called Nellie for many years.I was involved with Grahame Drummond Bayne in taking a mould from her for the GRP Itchen Ferry back in 1969. She remained in production until Grahame's death in 1983 and I believe sold well over the hundred mark, which is not bad going. They are found all over the UK and I exported quite a few to Holland when I was working with Grahame. There is a fair amount of info about ferries in print if you dig it out. John Leather,Edgar March and Dudley Kemp all feature chapters in their books on the ferries. There is one remaining ferry moored off the hard, SU117 but I forget her name, just right for anyone who wants a project!

  11. Steve Parsons.Yarmouth I.W26 April 2011 at 19:33

    I saw and fell in love with "Wonder" SU120.In 1988 whilst she was moored in Southampton.I was in touch with Major Nicolay, the long time owner,reference the possible purchase of this lovely craft. He asked me to name a price but I was starting a business at the time and unfortunately I let the opportunity pass.I have often thought of her and saw her last summer at Yarmouth Gaffers festival on the I.O.W

  12. Hi Mike, I own Mermaid, she is not for sale,and is slowly being rebuilt.Thanks for the comments.

  13. Mike,
    At the Royal Yorkshire Yacht Club there are six Yorkshire One Design boats built in 1898 at Field & Co Itchen Ferry designed by John Shaw Helyer(yard manager and architect). I know the area where the boat yard was has been totaly changed due to the supamarine factory being built and the attention of the Luftwaffe. I have also found Helyer was contemplating moving across the river to (Northam). I believe he later emmigrated to Vancouver and designed some of that cities Iconic buldings as wellas working on the replacement of buildings destroyed by the californian earthquake.
    I have found references to other boats built or repaired at Fields Yard. I would be interested to know if anyone can pinpoint the yard. It would be near to the railway as the original 8 boats were popped on a train to Bridlington. Unfortunately over the last 115 years we have misplaced two of the boats but we still race them regularly and 4 of them are in magnificent condition and the other two are under restoration.

  14. As a lad I spent many happy hours sailing in this boat, my dad owned her for about 10 years either side of 1950, at that time she was called the Wonder 1, I am fairly certain that there was also a Wonder 2. My memory may be playing tricks, but dad always said that it was the oldest registered boat in the port of Southampton. I also read recently that it had just been fitted with an engine for the first time, this is not the case, as before my dads ownership it had been fitted with a converted car engine from a Morris 8. He kept it either on the hard next to the Supermarine building in Woolston or moored in the river nearby.
    At that time it was perfectly safe to leave it on the hard, in fact there were probably upwards of 30 boats on the hard at that time, how times have changed. We used it mainly for pleasure, but occasional we would use it for fishing either with rod & line, or sometimes we used a trawl net, only at night or very early morning though, as it was completely illegal, this continued until we were caught & threatened with prosecution, so stopping, as Del boy would say, a nice little earner. Again my memory may be playing tricks, but I believe dad purchased the boat from a blacksmith who use to ply his trade from a smithy about 50 yards from Itchen ferry hard.
    It was an extremely stable boat, in fact, I remember on one occasion when we were sailing across to the Isle of White for Cowes week, there was a bad storm (are there any good storms), when even after being warned by the coastguard, dad decided to carry on, he was a stubborn old devil, I meanwhile with absolutely no idea of the danger, fell asleep at the stern, upon waking, I noticed that the dingy we had been towing was sinking, so we had to cut it loose. Arriving in Cowes we learnt that two J class yachts had capsized, this made dad realize the danger he had put us in & he was very subdued for the next few days. Having no dingy meant we could not get ashore in Cowes, so as we had no provisions on board, my dad was not the best planner, he decided to sail, or at least motor up the Medina to find a mooring, we eventually moored against a barge in Newport quite late at night. We were awoken in the morning by thousands of flies, as we had moored alongside a barge that was used for carrying beer, so we prepared to make a hasty retreat, only to discover that the tide had gone out & we were high & dry, did I mention that my dad was not the best planner.
    A few years later dad, reluctantly, decided to sell her as he was not in the best of health, he was very careful who he sold it to, as he was aware that the boat had a lot of historic value, in fact he sold it for a lot less than it was worth to make sure it went to a good home. Just like you would if you were selling a puppy, in fact he thought of Wonder 1 more like a living thing than a boat. I mentioned earlier that I had spent many happy hours sailing in her, we also spent many, not so happy hours, painting, scraping, caulking & all the other things that are necessary to keep a boat of this age afloat. Whilst it was not pristine, it was after all a fishing smack, it was never the less in reasonable condition, So it came as a real shock, a few years later to read in the Daily Echo, that the new owner had purchased the boat (in a very dilapidated condition), I don't think I had ever seen my dad as angry as he was then, in fact I remember him ringing the new owner demanding an apology.
    I hope my reminisces are not to boring, if they are, I don't really care as they have reminded me of happy times F Alan Bass

  15. I was wondering where Wonder was berthed now and came across this thread. Mike Stanley mentioned Chris Hawthorne (my husband). I used to paint the numbers on the hull when he worked on the hull. We had some pleasant little sails in it in Southampton Water. It was indeed at Ocean Village in Southampton (now full of plastic motorboats and yachts) but also at Shamrock Quay. A guy who lived in Eastleigh, a model maker, got in touch with us about making a full scale model of Wonder. He was loaned the drawings and the model was displayed for a long time in the Maritime Museum in the Wool House. Major Nicolay wanted the boat to stay in the Solent as it was an original itchen ferry and used to drive down from Cromer occasionally even when quite elderly. Martyn Jenkins was also involved with its upkeep for some time


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