Rainbow brighter

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The boat is a Thames day launch built in 1920 by James Taylor and Bates of Chertsey, 35ft (10.7m) in length and what wecall beaver-tailed-although the builderbrochure describes it as having a stern’, the term now used for what were once called stern’launches, as popularised by the firm of Andrews among others.

Taylor and Bates offered a range of open launches-there were also 27ft (8.2m) and 30ft (9.1m) versions-as well as cabin launches, which started at around the 35ft length; these included Genevieve and Lady Genevieve, both at this yearThames Traditional Boat Rally, as was the 1906 Verity, recently seen in the Sherlock Holmes film and sold in the Turks auction. The company became Bates, makers of the Starcraft cruisers in the postwar decades. It still operates as Bates Wharf, at Chertsey and elsewhere.

The firm is thought to have made no more than half-a-dozen of this particular model. This one, Rainbow, is almost certainly the only surviving example.

Her present owner is Adam Toop, who bought her in the early summer of 2009. seen her some years before, in the distance, making a turn on the Bray reach. Some things just stir the soul. god, look at that,’Isaid. I couldnsee her imperfections at the time.”

In the event, these proved to be many, despite a restoration by Peter Freebody some 12 years ago. was not a loved boat,”says Adam. from her fantastic lines, she looked sad. All the potential in the world, but not exploited.”

Adamapproach is to take an enormous number of photographs at all stages of restoration projects which arc viewed over and over, night and day, until ideas and opinions crystallize. the case of Rainbow, from a visual perspective, the main challenge was to address what I felt was a discernibly hard and anaemic edge that had crept into her personality. At 35ft, with a beam of just over 6ft (1.8m) and no cabin or amenities, she is undoubtedly both an elegant and extravagant entertaining space. Yet despite all the qualities with which her builders blessed her, the Rainbow I first met had a hull that was simply too white and an interior that was hard and frankly uninviting.”

All that is known of the earlier history of Rainbow —her name from launch —is that she was found in a barn in Suffolk in 1997, in a very poor condition and engineless. The engine, now a major feature of the boat, had been loaned to the (now defunct) National Motor Boat Museum at Basildon by her then owner, Neville Darby, who at that time arranged for it to be reunited with the boat. Identified as her original engine, it is a very rare Gardner four-cylinder petrol model, one of only two known about in the UK (a third is in Australia.)

Her restoration —re-restoration if you prefer —was completed just in time for this yearThames Traditional Boat Rally. She was launched on the preceding Thursday, and presented with Adamusual care over accessories and accoutrements (his PA Hayley Drewett was sharply told off when she asked if she could eat one of the apples in the fruit —bowl —selected diem individually that morning and polished them all”). Rainbow won four awards including Best Boat.

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As usual, Adamboatbuilder for the restoration was Alastair Garland, associated with four previous in rally’boats, including two of Adam, Islay, the J-class tender that won in 2008, and the slipper launch Antalya in 2006.

A great trust has built up between the them, based on Adamperfectionist demands and Alastairequally high standards of

craftsmanship and his insistence on being allowed to approach the job as he sees fit. either my way or no way,”he says.

The procedure with Rainbow was their usual formula of, as Adam likes to put it, to bare and beyond”. In this case Alastair found a fair amount of original wood, perhaps 50 per cent. these old boats they always put in big planks, 9 to 10 inches in the bottom, where I would go with five inches. But yougot to leave them.”Nevertheless the mahogany on oak revealed many areas of rot, or poorly filled outlet holes, and photographs of die work show numerous graving pieces let into the planks. Both die stem and, inevitably, the beaver stern needed rebuilding.

Adam decided to introduce some splining (where thin, tapered strips of wood are inserted between the planks and glued in place of caulking) to the aftermost one-third of the hull. strengthens the hull against the pressures of craning and a 3/4-ton engine. It prevents movement and ensures a smooth finish —itexpensive but a big stitch in time,”says Adam.

In addition, all the structural metalwork was removed and replaced with stainless steel and bronze. Visible fittings have been thoroughly burnished and polished.

Once the hull was made sound, as much if not more work went into the trimmings. The upholstery of the bench scats, in the bow and around the stern, is neither patterned nor buttoned —conscious decision not to distract the eye from more important details.”The horseshoe bench seating in the stern may well have been originally fitted, despite the builderbrochure indicating eight individual button-upholstered chairs. would have varied the details to individual customers’wishes,”observes Adam.

Another feature not shown on the brochure is the 6in (15cm)-high rattan (cane-weave) upstand that runs around the stern coamings, conferring additional elegance and an element of protection from the wind It needed restoration and Adam recalls asking Alastair for a quote. The answer was simple. “?1 a hole.”I gave up counting after about 2,000 holes.

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The most distinctive feature of the boat is of course her canvas canopy, with its scalloped valance decorated with 32 tassels. Finding a supplier for these proved problematic but once again Adamsister Annie, who specialises in haberdashery for film companies and the like, came to the rescue. She found a firm with a royal warrant which specialises in them, and was happy to discuss the mix of cotton and other fibres needed to achieve the correct sway.

While the cotton canvas weave of the canopy itself is waterproof, the tassels aren. Theysuspended on cunning quick-release clips behind the valance and in the event of rain it is the duty of every guest aboard to rescue a quota.

Period accessories

Among Adamcollection of accessories, apart from the champagne bucket and the fruit bowl, are a pair World War I army officerbinoculars, leather-cased, a 1920s silver cigarette case, and two parasols. Heparticularly proud of the four hampers which fit under the aft seats and bear a small ’identification tag in brass. tiny details like this that true connoisseurs notice and appreciate.”

Inside the engine compartment, on its forward bulkhead, are ranged a selection of more practical heirlooms: a trigger oilgun, a brass torch made by Winchester, both sourced from the USA, and an Enots greaser which belonged to a 1920s Bentley.

By contrast, the boatelectrical systems, including monitors and shore-power for in situ battery-charging, are bang up-to-date, though strictly concealed.

Adamenthusiasm for this type of boat stems from a deep love of the Thames which began when as an eight or nine-year-old schoolboy he spent happy hours up to his waist in it fishing off Chiswick Mall. happiest and most relaxed when Ion it, near it or in it,”he says, sounding rather like a character from The Wind in the Willows.

His allegiance has shitted to the upper Thames —tides so you can go out in the evenings, and swim in it, and Ideveloped a preference for upper Thames type boats. The smell of the upper Thames is very distinctive, itinfected my soul.”And he pays tribute to the Thames Vintage Boat Club, of which he is now vice-commodore. been an incredible help, and they played a crucial role in the early days by catching me before I fell out of love with old wooden boats.”

Now that Rainbow is launched, it is first time in many years I havenhad a restoration project on the go. It feels odd.”But with the winter snag list heamassed for Rainbow, it wonfeel odd for long.