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Daimler/ Paul Jones 26 ft Motor Launch c.1895/2012



Daimler/ Paul Jones 26 ft Motor Launch c.1895/2012

Designer John Paterson, Greenock
Builder Paul Jones & Son, Gourock
Date 1895
Length overall 26 ft 0 in / 7.92 m
Length deck 26 ft 0 in / 7.92 m
Length waterline 25 ft 6 in / 7.77 m
Beam 6 ft 0 in / 1.83 m
Draft 2 ft 6 in / 0.76 m
Displacement 0 Tonnes
Construction Yellow pine on Canadian rock elm and oak
Engine Beta Marine 722 3-cyl 20 hp diesel
Location United Kingdom
Price GBP 25,600

These details are provisional and may be amended



It may be hard to understand just how revolutionary SKYE’s original Daimler petroleum internal combustion power plant was when she was new. It’s a remarkable fact that when this beautiful launch was first commissioned - we educatedly guess, in 1895 - there may have been as few as 14 or 15 internal combustion engine powered motor cars on Britain’s roads. Beautifully built by one of the Firth of Clyde’s finest small craft builders, she spent her first 115 years with the same family on the Isle of Skye, about 65 of them laid up in a nicely salty boathouse. SKYE was the find of a lifetime for meticulous and experienced boat restorer Chris Cracknell. Her next owner - only her third - takes on not only a remarkable piece of maritime history, but also a beautiful example of careful restoration.



The vessel is in remarkably good condition for her age but it must be appreciated that she is around 130 years old, even if around half of that was in lay-up in a stone built boathouse at Portree. She had never been modernised during her life, and the only change to her, which is sensible and practical, was the fitting of a modern diesel engine. She is a genuine Victorian launch of a manageable size. Although historically correct with the exception of the engine, she has been restored and so is practical for present day use with the possibility of a long life ahead of her, providing she is carefully maintained.



Although approximately 115 years old at time of restoration, having had only one owning family, and been laid up in the perfect, natural climatic conditions of a Hebridean boathouse since the Second World War, the launch required mostly careful cosmetic restoration of its structure with only about 5% requiring replacement, followed by replication of interior elements, and a new box for the new diesel engine. It sounds easy, but was of course a painstaking labour of love.



"A novelty has just been completed by Messrs Summers & Payne in the shape of a steam launch, the motive power of which is furnished by petroleum. It is claimed that there is absolutely no risk from explosion, such as is found in naptha launches. The engines are known as the Daimler patent, and are turned out at Cannstatt. Mr. Frank Simms has accepted the agency in England. Steam can be got up in two minutes, and the vessel, which is 27 feet long, and was designed by Mr. Arthur Payne, attains a speed of eight knots. The London County Council have purchased a launch of this type, of 10-horse power, for use in connection with dredging operations on the Thames below Blackwall." ~ 'THE YACHTSMAN', 11 May 1893

SKYE's handed down story is that "The Viewfield Launch" (she had no name in her first life) was commissioned by Harry Macdonald Jr (b. c1846 - d.1905) on his return to the family home, Viewfield House, Portree, Isle of Skye, after making his fortune in India from indigo plantations. But there was at least a 15-year gap between Harry’s return c.1880 (he was married on Skye in 1881) and the launch's probable build date of c1895. But what's 15 years in 130... she was definitely Harry Macdonald's launch.

The first recorded UK build of a Daimler petroleum fuelled internal combustion motor powered launch was in 1893 by Summers & Payne of Southampton. This enterprising yacht yard had picked up an early contract from Hamburg-born British engineer Frank Simms, who had in turn secured the rights to import engines from his friend Gottlieb Daimler, and market Daimler powered launches via Simms’s London-based Daimler Motor Syndicate Ltd.

Why not also Daimler-powered automobiles? Well, petrol engine ‘horseless carriages’ were then illegal in Britain, although that would soon change. It’s a remarkable fact that when this originally Daimler petrol engine powered launch was first commissioned in - we educatedly guess - 1895, there may have been as few as 14 or 15 internal combustion engine powered motor cars on Britain’s roads.

The Daimler agency for the West of Scotland was awarded to the young and energetic yacht design and marine engineering partnership of J. & H.M. Paterson of Greenock, with naval architect John Paterson designing the launches, and principally, but not exclusively, Paul Jones & Son of Gourock building them and installing the motors under Paterson supervision.

Lloyd’s Register of Yachts records perhaps only a fraction of Daimler powered launch production as many were sold for commercial or semi-commercial use. But builds by Paul Jones for many highland estates, and much further afield, were often recorded in the yachting press.

Macdonald family albums record leisure use of The Viewfield Launch by three generations through the first half of the 20th Century. Then for some reason, from about 1945, she became permanently laid up in her own boathouse on the shore of Loch Portree below Viewfield, until purchase by the late Chris Cracknell in 2009.

Extraction from the boathouse to a slip with road access where she could be loaded to her trailer was something of an archaeological epic, the boat being floated across the loch wrapped in heavy plastic to connect with her new custom trailer.

Her restoration and rejuvenation as SKYE was also inevitably an epic, but Chris Cracknell was very experienced, having previously restored the Fife Clyde 30 Rater bermudan cutter MIKADO, and the Dickies of Tarbert motorsailer TUNNAG. Chris had a fine eye for a yacht, and the most careful and empathetic hand at the tools, typical of a precision engineer. At the 2019 Thames Traditional Boat Festival, Chris and SKYE were awarded the Freebody Best Amateur Restoration trophy

SKYE’s next owner - only her third - takes on not only a remarkable piece of maritime history, but also a beautiful example of careful restoration.

©2024 Iain McAllister/ Sandeman Yacht Company Ltd.



The structure is c 95% original
- Carvel, full length, believed yellow pine (Pinus strobus) planking
- Teak sheerstrake and side deck/ covering board
- Copper clench and bronze screw fastened
- Canadian rock elm frames
- Oak centreline
- Teak transom
- Teak laid on marine ply fore and aft decks
- Narrow side decks
- Canadian rock elm coaming (original); radiused aft; semi-circular forward
- Teak thwarts
- Oak thwart knees



- Transom hung rudder
- Bronze tiller - wire steering from wheel at port gunwale
- Raw teak aft laid deck; locker and diesel tank under
- Varnished king plank
- 2 x Bronze steering cable sheaves
- Diesel tank deck filler
- Bronze mooring cleats port & starboard
- Teak sternsheets thwart
- Teak fore and aft benches port & starboard
- Boat hook stowage under port bench
- Teak thwarts aft & forward of engine and battery box
- 2 x Rowlocks positions at each of these thwarts
- Bronze plunger bilge pump at after thwart; original builder's plate
- Teak and teak veneered marine plywood engine box with hinged, cambered lid
- Beta Marine panel and Garmin sounder aft
- Bronze and teak launch steering wheel at port gunwale
- Throttle control forward
- Marine plywood battery and services box forward of engine box
- Fore and aft teak benches port and starboard in forward section
- Forward teak lining bulkhead with removable door to forepeak stowage
- Raw teak laid foredeck with varnished king plank and covering boards
- Bronze mooring cleat
- 2 x Bronze mooring fairleads
- Bronze stemhead fitting with bow roller to starboard



- Beta Marine BD722 3-cyl 20 hp diesel (2012)
- 1.25 in diameter stainless steel shaft, water lubricated
- Bronze stern tube
- 3-Bladed right hand turning 16 x 11 bronze propeller
- Maximum speed 9 knots
- Stainless steer wire wheel steering
- Diesel tank under aft deck



- John Buoy Inflatable Horseshoe under helm thwart
- Vintage manual bilge pump



- Sestrel steering compass
- Garmin Echo 550c sonar



- 2 x Axle braked road trailer with spare wheel/ tyre
- Oars
- 4 x Bronze rowlocks
- All over cover
- Removable sprung cover slats with bronze end fittings
- Forward cockpit sprayhood with frame


These particulars have been prepared from information provided by the vendors and are intended as a general guide. The purchaser should confirm details of concern to them by survey or engineers inspection. The purchaser should also ensure that the purchase contract properly reflects their concerns and specifies details on which they wish to rely.


Sandeman Yacht Company

Brokerage Of Classic & Vintage Yachts