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. From our base in Universal Marina, at the heart of the River Hamble we can head downstream through the riverside villages of Hamble and Warsash or inland to the tranquil waters of the Upper Reaches of the River Hamble.

Perfect to celebrate a birthday, anniversary or just to enjoy a special trip out; choose from our Sparkling Afternoon Tea 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.

Key Information

Sails From Universal Marina, Sarisbury Green, SO31 7ZN

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.

Book your trip online

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

Sparkling Afternoon Tea Cruise

Enjoy afternoon tea on the river accompanied by a glass or two of the locally produced award winning Exton Park Brut Reserve sparking wine

£49 per person

  • The cruise runs from 2:30pm to 4pm
  • Includes an afternoon tea of sandwiches, scones and cake, served on vintage crockery
  • Includes up to two glasses of Exton Park Brut Reserve or non-alcoholic sparkling wine
  • Includes a range of refreshments including tea, coffee and water
  • All participants must be aged over 16. If you wish to drink the sparkling wine you must be over 18 and if you look under 25 we will need to see ID
  • It's no problem to cater for dietary requirements - just ensure you let us know at least 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 2019 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 Mermaids Gin Cruise

Enjoy an evening on the river whilst sampling the locally produced Isle of Wight Distillery Mermaids and Victory Gins accompanied by vintage Jazz from the bakelite radio

£49 per person

  • The cruise runs from 6pm to 7:30pm
  • Includes up to four drinks aboard, with a choice of Mermaids Gin and HMS Victory Navy Strength Gin accompanied by a selection of Fever Tree tonics and a range of non-alcoholic drinks
  • Includes a light nibbles platter
  • 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 2019 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

£300 for 1.5 hour standard river cruise

£400 for 2.5 hour extended river cruise to the Upper Reaches of the River Hamble

Different hire duration and bespoke events available on request

Betsie Jane is crewed by a professional Skipper and Host/ess and you can choose from one of our catering packages (included in the price):
Our sparkling afternoon tea cruise itinerary which includes afternoon tea of sandwiches, scones and cake, served on vintage crockery, two bottles of Exton Park Brut Reserve Sparkling Wine or non-alcoholic sparkling wine, plus tea, coffee and water
or
Our gin cruise itinerary which includes up to four drinks aboard from a choice of Mermaids Gin and HMS Victory Navy Strength Gin accompanied by a selection of Fever Tree tonics and a range of non-alcoholic drinks. Accompanied by a nibbles platter.

Maximum of 8 participants is recommended to sit comfortably around the table. For groups of 9 or 10 participants, we may be able to accommodate you but please contact us before booking. For full boat bookings participants can be any age, but all participants wishing to consume alcohol must be aged over 18.

Standard 1.5 hour River Cruises can be booked by selecting a date from the dropdown box below and clicking book now. For extended River Cruises, alternative dates/times for the Standard River Cruise, Bespoke Events or if you have any questions please give us a call 02380 988966 or email hello@blueboxexperiences.co.uk.

Date:

" 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.  After World War 2 broke out 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