An account of the sinking and recovery of the Maggie May in Calais in 1949. Reprinted from the Kentish Times




1945anchored in outer harbour 16th June.

2030 requested berthing instructions from Hbr. Master who told us to stay where we were until morning.

2130 riding light lit and went ashore for more fleshpots in the shape of eggs,chips and rum.
2300 returned and turned in all standing.


June 17th. 0300hrs. Awakened by crash and impact. Scrambled into cockpit and saw the shape of a trawler's bow passing on our stbd. quarter. "Maggie May" was stove in and making water fast. Called for crew to get on deck but Molly was already doing this. Let go the dinghy painter only to find the dinghy had been cut adrift and was not in sight. The trawler was half a cable astern and standing by.

By the light of the riding light an attempt was made to free the lifebuoy but before this could be done the v/l sank in 5 fathoms, three minutes after being struck.

Answering our calls for help the trawler, "St.Joseph" , slowly approached and flung a lifebuoy, on to which we hung until fished out and led to a small cabin , where generous tots of gin were pressed upon the "survivors"-a proceeding that was frequently repeated during the night. Dry clothing was provided by each member of the crew taking off one of the garments he was wearing. The cabin fire was then lighted and our wet clothes put out to dry. The trawler by this time was now back alongside and made fast.

0700. Our clothes were nearly dry so we put them on and went ashore wearing slippers borrowed from the fishermen and at least two sizes too large. Money and passports being in "Maggie" an early visit to the British Consul was imperative so we shuffled off to report the loss of the ship and procure ready money, as soon as his office opened.

Despite our endeavours to get back to the scene of the accident by low water ( 1000hrs ) we were detained by the Consul until noon.

1230hrs. On eventually arriving at the harbour it was found that the crew of the "St.Joseph" had succeeded in raising "Maggie" and were proceeding to beach her on a sandy beach in the corner of the basin.

High water was 1700hrs. but it was nearly 1900 before was "Maggie" was high and dry. She was bailed out and the sodden gear removed and laid out on the beach. Much gear had been lost including the foresail and personal property, but the passports and money were safe.

By now we had learned that the "St.Joseph" was owned by the Friscourt family, the father, his three sons and various relatives and friends making up the crew of eleven.

Apparently, to ensure that the salvage and repairs were done as reasonably as possible, the family had taken these duties upon themselves and had arranged for a shipwright to fix a felt and plywood tingle over the damage which would enable her to remain afloat long enough to be towed to the repair yard.


Their organisation did not end there. While the shipwrights were busy fixing the tingle, Marie, the wife of the eldest son Charles, arrived and indicated that all the sodden gear, now lying on the beach was to be taken to her house where it could properly dried and attended to. She also insisted that we should stay with her for the rest of our time in Calais, and that the offer was so generously pressed that it would have been churlish to refuse.

2100hrs. A lorry driven by a friend of the family drove up and into it was piled all our gear, Marie,ourselves and some half dozen fishermen and their bicycles. Driven furiously, it took us through the docks and the town to the suburb, where the Café Friscourt , owned by Charles and Marie, was situated.Here , clothes and blankets were rinsed and hung up in the garden and the other gear piled up as tidily as possible until it could properly inspected.

June 18 th. 0900hrs. An independent marine surveyor, the consultant engineer to British Railways cross channel steamers, was called in to make a survey of the damage and to indicate the extent of the necessary repairs. It was agreed that the damage should be chargeable to the "St.Joseph" and the work put in hand by the local boat builders.

A further instance of the Friscourt family's thoughtfulness was observed in that a continous watch had been kept over the "Maggie" by one or more of the "St.Joseph's" crew so that no inquisitive locals could take any liberties with her.

1730.The "St.Joseph" towed "Maggie" into the boatyard. She was lifted out of the water and shored up. There we left her at 1900.

SundayJune 19th. Most of the day was spent looking over the salvaged gear and estimating losses. This done a start was made on converting an old Sharpie mainsail into a foresail to replace the one that was lost, the dancefloor in the salon of the café making an excellent sail loft. Work had to stop eventually to allow the regular Sunday evening dance to take place. Those of the crew who had been at the dance, which ended at 0200 hrs. went straight to their ship for a night's mackerel fishing and Mr.Hilton accompanied them. He relates that approaching the spot where he was sunk his attention was drawn to the blaze of lights from the deck of a cross channel ferry berthed alongside, some two cables ahead. The difficulty of seeing a yacht's riding light against such a background was readily apparent.


The log records the activity the trawler and the happy time spent with Friscourt family and how the "Maggie's" sinking cost them several nights fishing, plus other costs had been such a financial blow to them.

Repairs were completed on Saturday June 25th. A farewell party was held in the café with many Friscourt family and friends present . Much gin and rum were consumed making for a lively and excellent party which went on until the small hours.

"Maggie" cast off on June 26th. at noon anchoring in Dover at 0900hrs. It was decided to sail from Dover for the duration of the season in the channel in clear waters. Several trips to Calais were made at weekends where "Maggie" became quite well known.

In September the weather started to deteriorate and the "Maggie" returned to Erith.

This log was selected by Rear-Commodore Bob Roberts as the best and the Henriette Cup was presented to Mr.Hilton at Erith Yacht Club's Jubilee Dinner.

By the kind permission of the Kentish Times.

The picture of EYC in the bar has , in the foreground, a large cutter under sail which appears to be flying the Commodore's burgee . If this is so the yacht is "Lady Georgiana"of some 18 tons owned by A.I.Gaze the Commodore ( 1900 - 06 ) at the time. He also owned a 2 ton sloop , "Vic",during this period also kept at EYC. 

© Erith Yacht Club