First Build Your Shed

When Hicks & Sons first contemplated building a traditional wooden boat as their new passenger craft, they were aware that they would need a large shed.  So as there was nothing available, permission to build a temporary structure was obtained.  The shed which according to the manifest weighed in at 11.04 tons, was duly erected on land at Porthloo which was on a temporary lease from the Duchy of Cornwall.
Planning permission had been requested to cover 2 years, but this was denied and a 1 year granted.  This led to problems, as the project was not completed in the year allocated and a request for a years extension met with some opposition.
The shed was a wooden structure and arrived during December 1994.  So it was not until February 1995 that the keel was laid and work on the boat building project could really get underway.

A Sea Horse from Hearts of Oak

The new vessel, built of larch on oak frames and timbers with iroko decks, at a cost in excess of £200,000, is partly funded by the Rural Development Commission.  It will carry a maximum of 100 passengers during the summer months and 50 during the winter period.  At a length of 58 feet it is believed to be the largest vessel built in the Islands this century.
Even before coming into service "Sea Horse" attracted the attention of BBC Television's Spotlight during May 1996, and Prince Charles made an informal visit on 2nd July 1996 as a result of which on 18th July, "Country Life" showed Prince Charles inspecting the construction.
Much of the work force has been provided by the Hicks family themselves, with Fraser Hicks having played a prominent role, and the craft was designed by Steve Hicks.
The project called for the skill of an experienced shipwright, a position ably filled by Peter Martin who's earlier success, Alfred Hick's "Pettifox," has given  pleasure to many islanders and visitors alike.
February 1995, the shed was up and the keel had been laid. The lofting out of all the main frames had been done by Peter Martin, assisted by Ralph Bird of Devoran, during October of '94. 
May '95 saw all the main frames in place, these are composites of sawn oak bolted together to provide the skeleton of the boat. By September the timbers (or ribs) were in place and it was time to measure and fit the garboard plank to the keel. 
November and there were hundreds of nail holes waiting for wooden plugs. These are glued in and then planed flush with the planking. 
February 1996 saw the sutter plank in place and the bulwarks (or top sides) were next in line. These were completed during April and the boat was taking shape. 
The fitting of deck beams, stern tube blocks, rudder blocks and bulkheads were finished by the end of May, and the engines had arrived. 
Time to get busy with the caulking mallet, sealing the gaps between the timbers with oakum (traditionally old tarred rope). 

June, July, August and September - knees, belting and decking were on the agenda.  Meanwhile the aluminium deck housing and bridge had been under construction at W.R. Richard's, Falmouth and it was time to inspect the result. 
October 1996 and yet another building project was under way.  Ted and Gerald Langdon of Bryher were busy constructing a launching trolley to support the eventual 26 tons of Hicks & Sons' new flagship. 
February 1997 and it was time to put the vessel on the trolley.  Fuel tanks and bilge pipes were being fitted.  The paint brush had been working overtime and a coat of gloss red paint appeared on the hull. 
7th March: the deck has been sealed, the painting was finished and deck hatches, Samson posts, etc., fitted.  The whole end of the shed was removed and it was time for the vessel to emerge like a butterfly from its chrysalis.  The engines were swung aboard and lowered into place ready to be installed. 
6.00a.m. on 8th March and the wheelhouse was waiting to be unloaded from the Gry Maritha.  The passenger cabin and engine house arrived on the 10th and presented a slight problem as it was too wide to leave the quay by the normal route and had to be switched to another lorry waiting on Town Beach. 
During the 10th and 11th March the component parts of the bridge and deck housing were put in place and the shape of the new vessel was there for 
all to see. 
April, May and June were occupied with installing the electrical wiring, V.H.F. Radio, Navigation equipment, Radar, and all the other last minute finishing touches, such as the fire retardant lining in the engine room, etc. were completed. 
The shed has been removed to be assembled again on the opposite side of the boat houses. 
19th July and "Sea Horse" was on its way to take its first drink of water.  At between 2 and 3p.m. mission was accomplished and with a blast on the horn Mike Hicks took charge of his new steed as it slipped effortlessly through the water away from Porthloo Bay. 

We are grateful to Julie Hicks for providing all the photographs.

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