Barnacled boat discovered on harbour bed

The former lifeboat discovered on the bottom of Emsworth Harbour by a fisherman.
The former lifeboat discovered on the bottom of Emsworth Harbour by a fisherman.
The Highfield Campus at the University of Southampton, which is home to the George Thomas Building. Picture: Geograph

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FISHERMEN are used to the odd thing getting caught in their nets.

But Kevin Cross had a shock when he hauled up an entire boat.

Mr Cross, who works for Viviers, in Portsmouth, was dredging for cuttle fish in Emsworth Harbour when he made the discovery.

He brought it up and discovered the wreck was about 30 years old and in shape but completely covered in barnacles.

He released it back and Chichester Harbour Conservancy later removed it to stop it being a hazard to other boats.

Adrian Karn, a harbour patrol officer from the conservancy, said: ‘The boat is an ex-lifeboat, probably from one of the cruise ships or merchant vessels that docked in Southampton port years ago.

‘There used to be a boat yard in Bitterne, Southampton, called Belsize Boat Yard that took all the old wooden lifeboats that were past their best and no longer used on the big ships as new GRP designs were fitted to the ships.

‘This yard was stacked with the lifeboats and the Solent was awash with these 17ft lifeboats that then had a new lease of life as fishing and day boats.

‘Looking at the condition, this one probably sunk in the harbour about 30 years ago.’

He said it’s not unusual for wrecks to be caught up in nets but they are usually bits of broken wood rather than entire boats. 
 Mr Karn said he has no idea how it ended up at the bottom of the harbour.

He went out at low water and tied a lifting line and buoy to the boat and returned at high water.

Then the mooring barge, Regnum, lifted her on deck and cleared the channel as it was a potential navigation hazard.

Although it is in one piece it is far too worn out to be restored and the wood too damaged to be recycled. It will now be broken up and disposed of.

To find out more about the conservancy go to