SHETLAND FINE CRAFT

The restoration of ST 1500 Seaplane Tender

Shetland Fine Craft- Wheelhouse and curved fore deck of ST 1500
Shetland Fine Craft- Wheelhouse and curved fore deck of ST 1500.

In 1997 Andrew and Sarah Selman started restoration on an ST 1500 Seaplane Tenderboat. With plans in hand, they envisaged returning her to the water.

The origins of this boat were born out of the ideas of Hubert Scott-Paine, the designer of the water speed record holding boats "Miss Britain" and "Miss England", and T.E. Lawrence - "Lawrence Of Arabia" - who after witnessing a flying boat crash in the Solent and was appalled by the needless loss of life due to the slow boats attending the incident. A boat was designed that sped over the water instead of pushing through it, which meant that it could reach incidents much quicker and T.E. Lawrence sea trialed it. The 200 class Seaplane Tender as it became known, later evolved into MK1 and the Motor Torpedo Classes.

Shetland Fine Craft- Wheelhouse and curved fore deck of ST 1500
Shetland Fine Craft- Wheelhouse of ST 1500.
Shetland Fine Craft- Wheelhouse and curved fore deck of ST 1500
Shetland Fine Craft- Close up of the side of the wheelhouse and cabin.

ST 1500 Seaplane Tender MK1 was built in 1942 by the British Power Boat Co Ltd, Hythe to a design by their chief designer George Selman (Andrew Selman's Grandfather). The boat was propelled by twin Perkins S6M diesel engines each with 130bhp with a maximum speed of 23 knots. It was 41½ ft long and 11¾ ft at the beam, and the hull designed on the hard chine principle with single diagonal side planking and double diagonal planked mahogany for the bottom ,

Shetland Fine Craft- Wheelhouse and curved fore deck of ST 1500
Shetland Fine Craft- ST1500 showing cabin sides, curved roof supports and bulkhead dividers.
Shetland Fine Craft- Wheelhouse and curved fore deck of ST 1500
Shetland Fine Craft- Polished wheelhouse and cabin.

I was specially commissioned for this unusual project to help in the restoration of this very special boat. Sarah joined me in my old Lincolnshire workshop, and I began making up the parts for the wheelhouse and cabin from 15 ft by 3ft boards of Kayah Ivorensis (African Mahogany). The construction of the wheelhouse and cabin was made faithfully to the original boat as we had the original drawings to work from. The frame work was mortised and tenoned throughout by hand and glued up and finished into sections before being transported to site. The roof beams of the cabin, due to the shape of the cabin, needed to be made individually as no two beams had the same curvature. This was achieved by making a specialised jig that could be altered for each beam to be used on the spindle moulder so that when assembled the roof had the correct curvature along its length. This part of the process took a mere 3 weeks to complete.

Shetland Fine Craft- Wheelhouse and curved fore deck of ST 1500
Shetland Fine Craft- ST 1500 being moved."

I brought the structure north to Dumbarton in Scotland, which ironically was the boats first placement after she was made in 1942. Once here Sarah andI fitted the Bruynzeel plywood to the deck and superstructure of the boat. Followed by the bulk heads, wheelhouse, cabin, and roof beams to the boat's superstructure. This was not an easy process due to the fact the boat was now 55 years old and had seen service in World War 2, and with a cambered deck had no straight line datum points. String lines had to be used down the length of the boat to achieve the correct heights and symmetry of the wheelhouse and cabin. This again was finished within 3 weeks.

As you can see and appreciate the incredible amount of attention to detail which makes this a truly beautiful boat and in Sarah's own words:

"Alex has an amazing ability to visualise and overcome complex problems associated with construction in timber and as an accomplished cabinet-maker his craftsmanship is second to none" - Sarah Selman, 1997.

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