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Overview of the Boat

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  1. Introduction  (current page)

Introduction

The Alfred Corry is a Norfolk and Suffolk type lifeboat. She was designed by the RNLI surveyors to satisfy the requirements of the local Southwold men and built by Beeching Brothers of Great Yarmouth in 1892/1893 and bears the builders number “B6” on her bow. The total cost of construction was some £490 7s and 4d. The cost of fitting out and provision of equipment is estimated to have been as much as the construction cost. These costs, and more, were covered by a donation of some £1,500 from the will of Alfred James Corry of Putney, London.

 

Her external planking was Honduras Mahogany which was laid over North American Rock Elm ribs. She is 44 feet 1 inch (13.44m) in length, has a beam of 13 feet (3.96m), a depth of 4 feet 10 inches (1.47m), and a light (i.e. without crew, ballast and equipment)  displacement of 8 tons 6 cwt 3 qtr 2lbs (8.15 metric tonnes). With the “wale” (floatation device) fitted her beam dimension rises to 15 feet 2 inches (4.62m).

 

At the request of her original Coxswain and crew she resembled their own commercial fishing vessels as closely as possible and utilised a clinker design to be fast, relatively dry in stormy seas but not self- righting. In her original and present form she was powered by a dipping lug rigged sail fixed to her foremast and a standing lug rigged sail fixed to her mizzen mast, and carried sixteen oars. The use of lug rigged sails lead to the installation of mast stays (shrouds) on one side only.

 

The RNLI gave her the registration number 353. In her RNLI days, her crew usually comprised of a Coxswain, a Second Coxswain, a Bowman and a maximum of fifteen further men and was housed and launched from Southwold beach until coastal erosion changed the nature of the launching site. She was then relocated to a slipway on Southwold Harbour, close to the ferry which crosses the river Blythe estuary, until 1918 when she was deemed by the RNLI to be uneconomic to repair and maintain.

 

During her 25 year RNLI career she was launched 41 times and she and her crew are credited with saving 47 lives.

 

After her RNLI retirement she was sold to Lord Albermarle  at a cost of £40 who renamed her Alba and had her converted to a “gentleman’s yacht” (Gaff Ketch) changing both the sail plan adding a superstructure and living quarters sufficient for himself, his guests and at least two paid hands. He mainly sailed her along the South Coast of England during the summer months but returned her each winter to be laid up in Chamber’s Yard in Lowestoft. About 1922 he had an engine and propeller fitted but sold her shortly afterwards.

 

She then passed through the hands of 14 private owners. In 1949 her name was changed again to Thorfin by her owner (Mr L. Macintyre-Smith) and was then used mainly as a house boat at various locations, including Ipswich, Richmond-Upon-Thames, Rochester, Burnham and, finally, Maldon. In 1976 she was purchased by John Cragie (the great grandson and namesake of the original Coxswain) and his wife Doreen.  She was then towed to Ian Brown’s yard at Rowhedge and over the next 4 years re-converted to a fully seaworthy yacht with new sails, engine, rigging and rebuilt interior. At the same time, and with the permission of the RNLI, she was given her original name, Alfred Corry, back again. Once the conversion was completed she was extensively sailed, as a family yacht, around the East and South coasts of Britain and even made the occasional foray to continental Europe.

 

However, by the 1990’s it became apparent that the demands of constant maintenance and running costs were proving to be more than one family could justify. So, after much heart searching, John and Doreen Cragie took the decision to relocate the Alfred Corry back to Southwold and set up a Charitable Trust to which the vessel could be donated. The next tasks were the restoration of the Alfred Cory to her original, 1893, form and the provision of a museum in which the public might enjoy this unique vessel.

 

The Alfred Corry is now owned by the Trust. The Trustees, Volunteer Restorers and Stewards of which, all of whom are unpaid, contribute in their own ways to management, ongoing maintenance, and running of the museum housed in the Cromer Lifeboat Shed which is located on the shore of Southwold Harbour. In Victoria times the car park in which the Museum is sited was known as "The Courtyard" and used as a salvage area.

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