Boleh’s 1949 Launch Recalled!

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Who’d have thought someone would pop up, after 75 years, to recall memories of Boleh’s Singapore launch in October 1949.  We’re thrilled to report that Ann Stefani, 9 at the time, contacted us and did just that!  Her father R S Lemon, an Admiralty civilian who had served in Minesweepers during the war, was a key member of the team facilitating Boleh’s launch at Loyang with the help of Naval Boom Defence vessels.

Ann, whose family lived at Loyang as did Robin Kilroy, remembers the activity around Boleh’s build and the excitement of her launch.  It was an honour therefore to host her, daughter Jane and son Patrick (pictured}, onboard Boleh.  The party were given a guided tour by Boleh Trust Chair, Henry Middleton and former Vice Chair, Chris Austin who were fascinated by Ann’s stories of the Loyang ‘village’ and Boleh’s early days.  Ann and family are keen to sail in Boleh and we hope to make that happen!

Boleh Kicks Off Sailing Season

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A blustery start but we’re delighted to report Boleh is back at work on the Solent with the first of her 4 week-long sails supporting the Recovery Programme for Service personnel –  this time delivering the RN Recovery Pathway (RNRP) for the Royal Marines. Gales kept her in Haslar Marina on day one but there was plenty of theory to cover alongside.  The rest of the week went to plan with the now traditional ‘run ashore’ in Cowes and then steadily improving weather.


All those taking part reacted very positively to the week’s recuperation and instruction, with the official view from their Recovery Manager being ‘the whole experience was fantastic, amazing instruction and great for team building and re-gaining confidence’.  Thanks to our volunteers Bruce Snelling and David Critchley, and to the generosity of the Nuffield Trust for the Forces of the Crown, who all ensured that Boleh could play her part in this important programme.

Boleh Beats Beastly Weather

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We’re pleased to report a happy ending to Boleh’s winter work programme.  Thanks to a magnificent effort by Mark, David, Nigel, Graham and new Trustee Chris Laws, a spic and span Boleh is now safely alongside in Haslar Marina.  A miraculous early morning break in the beastly weather we’ve come to expect allowed the team to put her back in the water in the nick of time.

Picture shows Boleh in the slings at Victoria Quay looking very smart after her scrub and paint.  Moments later she was round the corner and back in her Haslar berth just as the storm broke!  Having secured Boleh alongside, a tot of Rum was offered to all crew but tea and coffee were chosen instead!  As our Chairman said ‘A huge achievement – bravo Team Boleh!

Bottom Scrub For Boleh

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Boleh’s winter work programme is nearing completion as she returns to Victoria Quay for lift out, bottom scrub, patch, paint and a coat of antifouling.  Thanks again to our volunteers as they prepare Boleh for the coming Season while Ops Director, Craig is busy finalising the opening phases of her Sailing Programme.


This starts with an intense  training and refresher period for our volunteer crews, conducted by Lead Skipper and Trustee, Richard Metcalfe.  After that, in mid April, we’re again proud to say that the Season’s first ‘customers’ will be the R N Recovery Programme for wounded, injured and sick Service personnel.  We look forward to reporting this successful programme’s first week of sailing.

Boleh’s Helpers Can-Do The Mast Step And More

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With fingers crossed (standard routine for boats), it’s good to report that Boleh’s winter work package is going to plan.  Thanks to Mark and Steve from ‘Now Marine’ at Victoria Quay, Paul from ‘XW Rigging’, and some nifty work by the crane driver and Boleh’s volunteer support team, a major milestone has been achieved.  Boleh’s re-rigged and beautifully refurbished quadruped mast has been re-stepped – a delicate job as the picture shows.

Boleh is now back at her berth in Haslar Marina being fitted out by our volunteers for the coming Season.  Not that Mark and his volunteers haven’t been busy earlier – a picture of the core team moving the mast at Victoria Quay on ‘dollies’ made by David headed our 8 January News item.  David also repaired and rethreaded the critical cable run to the masthead, and Graham has the running boom– broken last season – under repair at home.   Thank you team from all of us.

New Trustee For Boleh

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We were sad to say goodbye to 3 of our Trustees last year but are now delighted to welcome new Trustee Chris Laws to our Team.  Very much a local man though widely travelled during his academic career, Chris has followed Boleh’s progress for many years.  A keen dinghy sailor and now enjoying sailing in small cruisers, he served for a number of years as Commodore of a local sailing club.

Chris has spent most of his working life in universities, including Southampton and Chichester, and is an emeritus professor of sport, health and exercise sciences. He has served on Government advisory panels for promoting physical activity for young people and is a former trustee of the YMCA and the Vocational Training Charitable Trust. With a strong interest in the development and education of young people, Chris welcomes the opportunity to further these interests with the Boleh Trust.

Boleh Dreams Of Year Ahead

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At this time of year Ops Director Craig begins to firm up Boleh’s programme for the Season ahead.  Boleh herself is in the care of our volunteer technical team delivering the Winter Work Programme.  A refit of her masts (picture) – being refurbished thanks to the generosity of the Hedley Foundation – Boleh can only dream of fair winds, Solent harbours, Western shores, smiling children and lives rebuilt.  We are happy to reassure Boleh that a full 2024 programme is already shaping up well and will keep her busy until at least November!

After a post maintenance ‘shakedown’ and volunteer crew training, Boleh starts work mid April with the first of 4 week-long recovery sails for Service personnel.  May sees her at the Royal Engineers Lymington Yacht Rally and then, after hosting Pompey Military Kids and Gosport schoolchildren, Boleh’s off to Portland in June for the popular Dorset ‘Sail-for-a-Fiver’ schools programme. Next aboard in July and August will be successive Southwest Army Cadet Force crews before Boleh provides respite for Wiltshire young carers.  Autumn will be equally full, include veterans, the ASTO Small Ships Race, and possibly the Southampton Boat Show.

Our thanks to all those who make Boleh’s charitable work and this exciting programme possible.

Boleh’s Programme For Service Children And Families Secured. 

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We’re delighted to report that, thanks to the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Charity, Boleh will again provide sailing for children of active Service personnel and their families.  Last year Boleh sailed just short of 100 Service schoolchildren and this year, with the funding so generously provided, we hope this popular and successful programme could reach 150.  These young people come from Gosport and Fareham Multi-Academy Trust schools and the aptly named organisation ‘Pompey Military Kids’ which covers Portsmouth and Southsea.
The children’s benefit from the day at sea in Boleh is tangible.  As the local Families Engagement Officer put it “Apart from thoroughly enjoying themselves, they share experiences and express their feelings with those who understand their way of life, helping inform school staff about the Military lifestyle and its challenges, so enabling them to support the children better at school.”  Our picture shows Service children and teachers from Wimborne Primary School describing their Boleh adventure to HRH the Princess Royal, the RN&RM Charity’s Patron, on the occasion of her re-commissioning of Boleh in 2022.

‘Mast-ers’ of Boleh

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Boleh has started her important Winter Work Programme.   Much of the work will be done by our volunteers with a significant element carried out at Victoria Quay.  This recently developed marine services facility is on the historic site of the Royal Clarence Yard and just round the corner from Boleh’s Haslar berth.  Shortly before Christmas Boleh used the mobile crane there to lift off her quadruped mast for refurbishment and the renewal of her standing rigging.  Picture shows the off-loaded mast with the 4 volunteers who completed this ‘scary evolution’ and are truly the ‘mast-ers’ of Boleh.

Their experience and skill-set ensure this unique and complex vessel designed by Robin Kilroy in 1948 is, and remains, fit for purpose.  They are shown left to right: Mark Minshull, Chartered Engineer and Project Manager, responsible overall for Boleh’s maintenance and material state; Graham Westbrook, Project Naval Architect and our guide since 2009 on Boleh’s restoration, partial re-design and MCA compliance; David Hadfield, Nuclear Submarine Engineer with particular expertise on Boleh’s hybrid electric propulsion system; and Nigel Craine, Offshore Yachtmaster with a career in the marine electronics required to operate Boleh effectively and safely.

Christmas Greetings From Boleh And Her Team

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We make no excuse for using this lovely design by Carole Westbrook Designs from 2018 for a second time.  It’s based on the photo at page 160 of Robin Kilroy’s book ‘Boleh’, showing the vessel in ‘Trade Wind Rig’ half way between Singapore and Salcombe on their epic voyage in 1950.

We wish all our friends A Very Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year, and thank you for all your support.