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Celebrating Ireland's Floating Heritage

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Santa Cristina - Pleasure Yacht - Suffolk Broads 1961 PDF Print E-mail
06 February 2009


Santa Cristina on Lough Ree 2005


In July 1998 we acquired Santa Cristina, a 35.5 foot Broads Cruiser built in 1961 by Leo Robinson on Oulton Broad near Lowestoft. The original Certificate of British Registry allowed us to trace the previous six owners and it records her technical details when first launched. Originally named Recama, in February 1965 with the approval of the Board of Trade, the second owner, L.F.W. Lawes, changed her name to Santa Cristina and a poster remains aboard outlining this lady’s gruesome demise.

The pre-purchase survey confirmed the boat's construction as double-diagonal larch with oiled calico interleaving, on an oak keel and frame. The decks are cedar planking on ply and the main superstructure is teak with additional oak finish inside. The two original Perkins reciprocating engines were replaced in 1994 by twin Ford Sabres. Mounted inside teak housings on either side of the rear cockpit they generate 180 horsepower through Borg Warner gearboxes using two Vee-drives.

Prior to launch the hull was sheathed in Cascover finished with a white resin. The last owner claimed all six "Riviera" models built by Robinson's were so treated to protect them from gribbles in the Mediterranean where they were to be sold. As far as we know, none of the Rivieras left England and till it came to the Shannon in July 2005, Recama/Santa Cristina spent her entire life in UK waters mainly on the Thames, though recorded by Lloyds as moored in Chichester for a while during L.F.W. Lawes’ ownership.
Santa Cristina/Recama in 1965 in front of L.A. Robinson's Boatyard Santa Cristina/Recama in 1960s (dinghy on roof of back cabin)
Recama arrived in Thames Ditton in 1961 after a North Sea passage so rough the first owner allegedly never went aboard again! A sister ship also arrived at this time owned for a period by Dr. Emil Savundra, the notorious fraudster and swindler who left a trail of shipping, arms, banking and insurance swindles across Ceylon, Goa, Ghana, Costa Rica and finally London where his FAM motor insurance business imploded in 1968 when he was sentenced to 8 years, dying in 1976. One report said this sister ship may still be on the Medway.
Casual leads from co-boaters along the Thames and especially the Beaulieu Boat Jumble finally spurred us to visit Lowestoft and Oulton in 1999 where we established Jack Robinson had been building boats since the 1920’s. Lowestoft Library had records of Recama and photos which, frustratingly, were missing. We visited the old shipyard and were enchanted to find in 1969 it had become The Maritime Museum of The International Sailing Craft Association. Despite the awkward name they claimed the world’s largest (300+) collection of ethnic man and wind powered sailing craft.
The day of our visit the curator of the museum (now sadly closed) recognised our boat from photos and confirmed a sister ship was in Blake's Hire Fleet on Oulton till the late 1990’s. Two similar boats were in a hire fleet based in Tewkesbury and may be still there though there were reports that one was destroyed by fire. We also learnt the shipyard closed in the 1990’s after Leo Robinson (Jack’s son we assume) retired in his mid sixties.
Following a lead given by the Suffolk Records Office we later wrote to the Port of Lowestoft Research Society who retained copies of the Library’s missing photos and supplied black and white pictures of Santa Cristina on Oulton Broad both before and after the name change of February 1965, including one of her moored outside a large boathouse clearly marked L.A. Robinson. These pictures, despite their rather faded quality, answered some queries but raised a few more.
Recama had no flying bridge which was cleverly retro-fitted given the mechanical linkages involved. Obviously a small dinghy was mounted on the aft cabin roof and handrails currently supporting the dodgers on today's flying bridge were also absent. The main cockpit access, currently a sliding wooden hatch, may have been canvas that folded concertina-wise back from the portside doorway. Our splay legged navigation mast is today mounted further forward and there are also signs that some form of radar was fitted - a feature now absent.
However, the biggest surprise was to find Santa Cristina was on Oulton waters at all after February 1965. Maybe the second owner brought her back to have the flying bridge retro-fitted and the name changed? We have no way of knowing.
Santa Cristina is now moored in Carrick on Shannon Boat Club contrasting with the more modern vessels members use to enjoy the Irish inland waterways, a splendid resource offering superior scope, variety, and peace than the somewhat manic and lock-bound conditions on the Thames.

Technical Details

Names: 1961 Recama
1965 Santa Christina
Built By: L.A.Robinson, Oulton in 1961
Construction: Carvel
Length: 35.5 ft
Beam: 10.5 ft
Engine: 1961 Twin Perkins 6s
1994 Twin Ford Sabres
Home Base: Carrick on Shannon
Oulton Broad, Suffolk Postcard from 1966
Certificate of Registry


Last Updated ( 04 December 2010 )
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