the Allchorn Boats...

What's Happened?

Last Season For the Allchorns - 1994

Eastbourne Herald, June 4, 1994


Allchorn Vessells Gets Local Lifeline

Allchorn Boats’ two craft, the Southern Queen and William Allchorn, have run seafront pleasure trips for the last 140 years.
They were on the brink of being lost after former owner Ron Keyte decided to sell the business.
In November the Herald received a letter from the sailors who run the short voyages from the beach near the pier to Beachy Head and the lighthouse.
It explained it was the end of the road — the much-loved boats were up for sale.
Several bids were floated during the winter including one from Spain and two from other parts of England.
But a shock 11th-hour offer has secured their future in Eastbourne.
The two large, Sussex-timber tubs were spotted by a Spanish buyer who wanted them on full steam ahead to the Med. But luckily the bid fell through.
Now a pair of water-loving entrepreneurs from Sussex have thrown Allchorn Boats a lifeline.
Douglas Murdoch and Christopher Laycock spotted the potential during the winter and approached Mr Keyte.

The offer meant he could turn down a Dover bid and sell the whole business as a going concern.
Buoyant Mr Murdoch said they were planning a few ‘extras’ for the coming season but confirmed the excursions would largely stay the same.
He said, ‘We are hoping to work with businesses at the marina and begin trips from there. And we have also fitted navigation lights which will mean we can run sunset trips to Beachy Head, sailing back at dusk.’
The duo have already spent thousands on a sparkling re-fit and coat of paint — and the beautiful boats look better than ever.
Mr Keyte said, ‘I am, of course, sad to sell the business but I am also looking forward to retiring in the sun.’
Tours will begin this Bank Holiday weekend from the usual spot near the pier.

Eastbourne Herald, May 5 1999

Allchorn Boats In Winter

You might think that Chris Laycock, owner of Allchorn Boats, can put his feet up at the end of October, but the winter is his busiest time.

Working in the boatshed next to Southern Head Fisheries, alongside workshop manager James Keyte (below), it is a continuing programme of repairs and restoration.
At the moment it is only possible to get one of the two Allchorn boats in the boatshed at one time, so the other has to remain afloat in Sovereign Harbour.
'That adds to the expense, but we can no longer leave one on the beach because of continuing vandalism,' Chris said.
Allchorn Boats is allowed to operate from the first week in April to the last week in October, but business does not really start to pick up until the third or fourth week of April.
'We don't usually run as far as the very end of October,' he said. 'There aren't enough passengers and the weather starts to turn.'
The 55ft William Allchorn, which seats 100, operates all season and the 50ft Southern Queen, seating 72, is brought into service in July and August.
Both boats are 52 years old and are all wood. 'They are as solid and staunch as the day they were built,' Chris said.

Chris, James and their part-time assistant, former lifeboatman Peter Hurt, have already done quite a bit of work on the Southern Queen.
Now she is back in the harbour and it is William Allchorn's turn.
Her mast is hoisted high in the roof, her seats sit on the side of the boatshed, and she looks nothing like the proud vessel that will grace the waters in a few months' time.
'Contrary to belief, everything doesn't stop in the winter,' Chris said. 'In the coldest, wettest of weather we are hard at it.'
It will be possible to get both boats in the boatshed eventually, first the shed needs to be re-organised and machinery moved.
It would also take a lot of manoevering as it is impossible to get both boats through the door at the same time.
'In an ideal world we would bring both boats in as they survive better under cover,' Chris said.
It takes from the time they stop to the beginning of the new season to get both boats in shape.
James is coming up to his ninth summer and loves the work.
'We are heavily regulated by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency,' he said.
'We can't operate until we get a safety certificate from them. They come and do a hull survey out of the water and a safety check in the water. It is a very costly exercise.'
The business was started in 1851 and four generations of Allchorns ran it until Brian decided to give up in 1995 after 45 years.
He managed to find a buyer but in May 2001, the family decided they had had enough.
It looked as if Eastbourne was going to lose one of its historic tourist attractions until Eastbourne resident and master mariner Chris Laycock stepped in.
As well as the daily pleasure cruises from the seafront the Beachy Head, they also run a number of special cruises including a Summer Solstice Sunrise Cruise, leaving at 3.45am.
The pleasure boats operate from the beach just west of the pier daily from 10.30am, with evening cruise run from Sovereign Harbour.

Eastbourne Herald, January 27 2003


Allchorn Boats Pick Up Award

ALLCHORN Pleasure Boats of Eastbourne has picked up a prestigious restoration award from HRH Prince Michael of Kent.

The Royal Patron handed over the Highly Commended award on behalf of the Transport Trust, in recognition of the extensive restoration work Allchorn Pleasure Boats has undertaken throughout 2003. The presentation took place at HMS President in London, and was attended by Allchorn Pleasure Boats co-directors Chris Laycock and Richard Baker. The company has an ongoing restoration and preservation programme for the
William Allchorn and Southern Queen, which run pleasure boat trips to Beachy Head from their jetty near the Pier.
The company also recently launched its new recruit The Robert, an ex-RNLI Lifeboat, which will be running cruises from Sovereign Harbour to Beachy Head.
They intend to restore her to an 'as built' condition and layout over the coming years, so that she can operate as a true tribute to the professional dedication of Eastbourne's lifeboat coxswains and crews, past and present.
Christopher Laycock, co-director of Allchorn Pleasure Boats, said, 'Naturally, we are extremely pleased and honoured to receive such an award. 'However, although there is still a long way to go in our restoration programme, this award reflects more on the high level of commitment, and the continued enthusiasm of our dedicated staff, who work tirelessly, winter and summer alike, to ensure this unique Eastbourne attraction continues an historic tradition which started in 1861.'


Eastbourne Herald, June 9 2004



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