Cruise aboard Betsie Jane - a 1938 Classic Gentleman's Launch

"Built in 1938 in Cowes on the Isle of Wight by Saunders Roe, Betsie Jane has a rich history. Now fully restored she is a time capsule allowing you to take a glimpse back at life aboard a 1930s Gentleman's Launch. From the lustre of the deep varnish to the smell of the teak, Betsie Jane offers you the chance to experience an authentic luxury classic motor boat experience."

Aboard Betsie Jane on a River Cruise .....

Cruising aboard Betsie Jane transports you back to the bygone era of the 1930s and whilst relaxing in her safe and comfortable cockpit, you will feel truly special, as the beautiful lines of this unique and historic vessel turn heads wherever she travels.

There is plenty to see as we gently meander up the majestic River Hamble through the 1000s of yachts moored on this River, which is also a hive of other water craft of all shapes and sizes. Nestled among the boats, the banks of this River are also the home to a wide variety of marine wildlife, with the River often described as a birdwatchers paradise.

As we leave from the mouth of the River we pass through the riverside villages of Hamble and Warsash. Heading inland you will have the best spot to view the numerous Marinas and impressive Riverside houses that line the River Hamble, before the River widens out into the Bursledon Pool by the Jolly Sailor Pub and the Elephant Boatyard. It is here that the 74-Gun, HMS Elephant was built in 1786, a warship chosen by Nelson as his flagship during the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801. More recently the area was made famous during the filming of the classic TV show Howards Way.

Perfect to celebrate a birthday, anniversary or just to enjoy a special trip out; choose from our Lunchtime Cruise, Afternoon Cake Cruise or Evening Gin Cruise. Our professional Skipper and Host or Hostess will be on hand to look after you throughout the experience and will be delighted to share their knowledge of the River Hamble and Betsie Jane with you should you be interested!

All our experiences are fully inclusive, which means all the food and drink on board are included in the price of your cruise. We have free parking on site in front of our coffee shop where you will check in for your experience. If you arrive a little early you are welcome to come and sit in our coffee shop, at the entrance to the River Hamble where we have both inside and outside seating with panoramic views over the River Hamble and out over the Solent towards the Isle of Wight.

Key Information

Sails From Hamble Point Marina, Hamble, SO31 4NB

Minimum age 14, 14-17 year olds must be accompanied by a participating parent or guardian.

There is no upper age limit for Betsie Jane. We welcome participants with disabilities, however to retain the historic nature of Betsie Jane we are limited in the adaptations we are able to make to the vessel. Participants will need to walk down two steep steps to get onto the boat and unfortunately Betsie Jane is not adapted to take wheelchairs aboard. If you would like to discuss mobility requirements for a trip aboard Betsie Jane please do not hesitate to contact us on 02380 988966 and we would be delighted to make an appointment to view the boat before booking.

Cruises aboard Betsie Jane run in most weather conditions - in the event of rain we have a fabric rain cover fitted to the boat to keep the cockpit dry. In the event of extreme weather a cruise may occasionally be postponed - in this event we would contact all participants in advance.

" During the war years Betsie was based at Culver Fort on the Isle of Wight and  had a number of roles including escorting American ships into Portsmouth harbour, as a launch for the Captain Saunders Commander in Chief for the Isle of Wight."

History

Betsie Jane was commissioned by Lord Ebbisham and built by Saunders Roe at Cowes in 1938. Designed specifically to entertain guests she was luxuriously appointed with white leather seats in the cockpit, teak decks and beautiful cabinet work. She was driven by two American 6 cylinder Gray petrol engines with a maximum speed of 17 knots. On launch day the local press were on hand to record the event. However Betsie's launch was noted further afield and attracted the attentions of the celebrated yacht designer Uffa Fox. In his Thoughts on Yachts and Yachting, he notes that 'The lines of Betsie Jane are the result of many years of development, and are those of a fast yet sea-worthy day cruiser' and it is those qualities that were effectively utilised by the Royal Navy during the second world war. In his summing up Fox concludes that ' Betsie Jane is as fine an example as we shall find of the round bilged day cruiser.' Great praise indeed from one of the world's most influential yacht designers.

During peacetime Betsie had a full time skipper, Frank Toogood, and was used by Lord Ebbisham to cruise the French canals and the Solent during the summer months.  In 1942 Frank Toogood was asked to travel to London where he met Lord Ebbisham at his office in Threadneedle Street. He was informed that the Royal Navy had requisitioned Betsie Jane and upon Lord Ebbisham's insistence Frank was to remain skipper. Betsie was then known as HM Motor Launch Betsie Jane and Frank was paid an extra 6 pence a day as he was in charge of a boat. During the war years Betsie was based at Culver Fort on the Isle of Wight and  had a number of roles including escorting American ships into Portsmouth harbour, as a launch for the Captain Saunders Commander in Chief for the Isle of Wight. On one occasion she was ordered to pick up a ditched airman 10 miles south of St Catherine's Point. On this occasion the airman was a badly injured German fighter pilot whom they disarmed and took directly to the Royal Hospital Haslar at Gosport.  Reputedly she was involved in the Dunkirk evacuation as Frank's son Peter recalls his father's stories of his trip to Dunkirk with Betsie Jane being used to tow smaller craft.  Towards the end of the war Betsie was involved in a secret mission carrying surveyors who where laying the PLUTO fuel pipeline to the Normandy beaches.

After the war she was returned to Lord Ebbisham and remained in the family until his death in 1953. Since then there have been a number of owners and modifications made including, in the 1960s, an aft cabin and centre wheelhouse.

Restoration was started in 1991 by retired boatbuilder Ron Bailey. Ron spent many hours undertaking essential structural work with the intention of rebuilding her with a similar centre wheelhouse and aft cabin. Unfortunately ill health meant Ron could not continue the project and so he offered her for sale in 2007.  From here the project was taken over by Paul Rainbird who undertook a major rebuild which was completed in 2012. Fortunately many of the fixtures and fittings have survived and have been incorporated into the restoration enabling Paul to rebuild Betsie to nearly exactly as she was originally back in 1938.

Paul's 2,500 man hour restoration gained recognition by Classic Boat's Restoration of the Year Award 2013. She is also listed on the National Register of Historic Vessels and as such flies the National Historic Ships UK Defaced Ensign.

In September 2016, Blue Box Sailing became custodians of Betsie Jane after a long search for the right boat to buy to add to our fleet. Bringing Betsie Jane home to Solent waters from the Norfolk Broads, she is once again a Solent boat, where she started out all those many years ago.

We must extend very special thanks to Paul Rainbird for all the time and effort he spent researching the history of Betsie Jane, along with the Ebbisham, Dick and Toogood families, who have provided us with so much information about and photos of Betsie Jane over the years. As the new custodians we will continue to research the history of Betsie Jane to piece together her journey and if you have any further information on her history we would be delighted to hear from you.

Betsie Jane's Statistics

Designer Saunders Roe of Cowes
Builder Saunders Roe of Cowes
Date 1938
Length overall 40 ft 0 in /12.2 m
Beam 9 ft 6 in /2.9 m
Draft 2 ft 6 in / 0.76 m
Displacement 7 Tonnes
Construction Carvel teak planking on oak frames

Book your trip online

Buying a gift? Our open dated vouchers can be used for any of our three cruises giving the recipient maximum choice!

Lunchtime Cruise

£49 per person

Book 2 or more places and save 20%

Discount is automatically applied in the cart

  • The cruise runs from 12pm to 1:30pm
  • Includes an afternoon tea style buffet lunch served on vintage crockery
  • Includes a range of refreshments including tea, coffee and a selection of soft drinks
  • It's no problem to cater for any dietary requirements - just let us know seven days in advance of your trip
  • You will be taken care of by our professional Skipper and Host/ess

To book a trip select the number of participants and then choose either an open dated voucher or specific date from the drop down box. Open dated vouchers are valid until 30 September 2018 and come presented in a presentation gift card by post or as a printable pdf voucher. If you need any help please don't hesitate to give us a call on 02380 988966. Remember our open dated vouchers can be used on any Betsie Cruise.

Date:

Afternoon Cake Cruise

£49 per person

Book 2 or more places and save 20%

Discount is automatically applied in the cart

  • The cruise runs from 2:30pm to 4pm
  • Includes a selection of homemade cakes served on vintage crockery
  • Includes a range of refreshments including tea, coffee and a selection of soft drinks
  • It's no problem to cater for any dietary requirements - just let us know seven days in advance of your trip
  • You will be taken care of by our professional Skipper and Host/ess

To book a trip select the number of participants and then choose either an open dated voucher or specific date from the drop down box. Open dated vouchers are valid until 30 September 2018 and come presented in a presentation gift card by post or as a printable pdf voucher. If you need any help please don't hesitate to give us a call on 02380 988966. Remember our open dated vouchers can be used on any Betsie Cruise.

Date:

Evening Gin Cruise

£49 per person

Book 2 or more places and save 20%

Discount is automatically applied in the cart

  • The cruise runs from 6pm to 7:30pm
  • Includes up to four drinks aboard, with a choice of Wight Mermaids Gin, HMS Victory Navy Strength Gin and Rock Sea Vodka accompanied by a selection of Fever Tree tonics and a range of non-alcoholic drinks
  • The cruise is accompanied by vintage jazz from our traditional bakerlite radio
  • All participants must be aged over 18 - if you look under 25 we will need to see ID before you board
  • You will be taken care of by our professional Skipper and Host/ess

To book a trip select the number of participants and then choose either an open dated voucher or specific date from the drop down box. Open dated vouchers are valid until 30 September 2018 and come presented in a presentation gift card by post or as a printable pdf voucher. If you need any help please don't hesitate to give us a call on 02380 988966. Remember our open dated vouchers can be used on any Betsie Cruise.

Date:

Exclusive hire of Betsie Jane

From £100/hour

  • Choose from a selection of drinks or catering packages
  • Maximum of 10 participants
  • Ideal for staff reward, birthday celebration or family event

Call us on 02380 988966 or email hello@blueboxexperiences.co.uk for further information.