Whatever Happened to Tarret?

Over the many years of writing this blog, I have received many messages of interest, but none more so than one which arrived recently from Charles Auld regarding the houseboat “Tarret” which used to be moored near the Yacht Club.

1422 Houseboat Tarret (B)

He writes:

Motor Yacht Tarret was built at Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson’s yard in Newcastle in 1938 as an experimental hull shape.  My late uncle was then a director of the company and Tarret was registered as his private yacht (I think to avoid having to have her measured for Lloyd’s Register and thereby revealing the hull shape and dimensions).  At the beginning of WW2 she was commandeered by the Admiralty and her hull shape used in the design of MTBs.  I knew that after the war she had become a houseboat, but I did not know where until, quite by chance, I found your photograph on the internet.

Later correspondence revealed a lot more about the vessel:

  Tarret herself was named after the Tarret Burn, a fast running river in Northumberland (near Otterburn).  I have seen some discussion on-line saying that she was built by Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson [‘SH&WR’] for the Admiralty, but this is not correct.  SH&WR built liners, cargo ships etc – they didn’t built small ships.  My understanding is that they were experimenting with a new hull form for high-speed liners, but the tank tests using normal size models were inconclusive.  Apparently if you built a hull about one-third of the real size it gives much better results, so they built Tarret at 110 feet long to see how it would work out.  As she was not being built for sale, she was built as cheaply as possible.  Some second hand engines were acquired and I understand that she was painted grey because SH&WR were building a number of warships and it was cheapest to ask the supplier simply to send some more grey paint.  As I said earlier, my understanding is that Tarret was registered as my uncle’s private yacht partly to keep the hull details secret and also to avoid the expense of having her registered as a British ship

My uncle was Paulin Denham Christie (his father, John Denham Christie, was chairman of SH&WR from 1930 to 1938).  I remember him as being a kind but somewhat eccentric uncle.  As well as being a director of SH&WR he was also an officer in the RNVR.  He was mobilised in 1939, but then it was discovered that he was a graduate shipbuilder (which was a reserved occupation) and so he was compulsorily demobilised and sent back to shipbuilding.  He always loved the sea, so he then joined the RNLI and became coxswain of Tynemouth lifeboat for a number of years.  He also ran a Sea Scout troop on the Tyne (he had a sailing boat called ‘Gratitude’ which was an old Thames sailing ketch, very similar to the one in your archive photograph 102) and the family reckoned (unkindly!) that the Sea Scout troop gave him a cheap crew!  There is a photo of him with the then Princess Elizabeth at some Sea Scout get-together during the War:


[He got teased about this photo: “Yes, your Royal Highness, this is a sailing boat…”]

1423 Houseboat Tarret(B)

Charles Auld would dearly like to know what happened to Tarret. Was she broken up or was she one of the houseboats which were destroyed by fire? I remember photographing at least two which were on fire when I was just a lad. If anyone can tell me what her fate was I will see that Charles gets to know.

Both of the photographs of Tarret above were taken by Putmans in 1951


Gary Edwards, the former Walton  Lifeboat Coxswain, informed me that “She sank in the Black Deep while undertow to somewhere on the south coast. She was pretty rusty and some of the holes in the hull were repaired with roofing felt! Which washed off under tow!”

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