Forums: Whisstock Built Boats: Deben 4-Tonners New Topic Post Reply
Author Post
Posted: Jun 11th, 2009 at 22:19   |   Subject: Deben 4-Tonners
Whisstocks built these splendid little yachts from 1937-1939 and then again from 1945-1951 (with one - 'Too-Too' - being built in 1953 as a replacement for the original).

I regularly get emails from owners trying to establish if their boat is a Deben or not. One problem is that the boat's name has often changed and I can only trace boats by their original name or by their builder's number (usually on a brass plate on the aft cockpit coaming). I can't trace them from the Official No. carved on a main beam.

I can identify a Deben (as a Deben – or not) if the owner sends me a photo of the boat, specifically a profile view where the 'rocker' on the ballast keel is clear and also a photo of the very aft end of the ballast keel/rudder/sternpost.

I hate it when they turn out not to be Deben 4-tonners, as has been the case with the last three requests I have had. I wish I could be of more help than just in a negative sense. Most of the photos I get show boats in a pretty poor state and the owners are starting out on a restoration project.

I do have the original tracings of the Deben 4-tonner as designed by Blake, with a few of my father's amendments pencilled in! When time permits, I intend to redraw these (they are too fragile to copy) and make them freely available on the website. I hope that these will be useful to anyone contemplating a restoration project.

I am always happy to help anyone restoring or repairing a Deben.

Posted: Dec 3rd, 2010 at 21:54   |   Subject: Variations in design
I currently am restoring Wren built in 1947. She should be going back in the water in 2011. Removed and replaced several cracked timbers. Planking perfect. Lower 5 planks OAK above that Larch. I have had to replace all the fastenings under the water. The copper nails had corroded very badly with some having no heads left at all. Not sure why really. Iffy copeer nails?

Having been about and sailed on several deben 4 tonners i have noticed that they are not quite the same. Notably the amount of freeboard seems to have been increased when production started in 1946. About 4" seems to have been added. Is this correct?
I have a couple of the old original broshures of the deben with pictures of them lined up out side the building shed. The photos were taken in 1946 I believe and show some with the full width coach roof and elongated portholes(non opening).May be you knowwhich boats they were? Do you have any pictures of the early ones with the dog house added? I don't think Wren was built with a dog house but I am not sure. My father owned Avena(1953) which was built with one.

Any detais regarding the interior would be usefull and helpfull.

Regards Pete Thomas
Posted: Dec 5th, 2010 at 15:05   |   Subject: Wren
Hi Pete

It's really good to hear that you are putting Wren back in order. I would love some photos if you can manage it sometime.

Like you, I can't think why the heads of the copper nails should have corroded. They are over 60 years old, so I doubt it's really down to "iffy" copper. They most probably would have been Davey's Copper Boat Nails, which were traditional high quality, pure copper.

Copper is pretty high up the Galvanic Table so is not easily corroded – 316 Stainless Steel, Silver, Titanium, Graphite, Zirconium, Gold and Platinum are higher in the table and could cause corrosion. Stainless Steel however, normally forms protective film on itself, which tends to inhibit the corrosive effect and it's quite close to copper anyway. So, I guess it remains a mystery. Refastening is quite a big job!

The Deben 4-tonners were indeed not all the same. After the first few boats, my father increased the freeboard, which essentially meant that the "Top of Beams at Side" moved up to "Top of Rail", giving, as you say, about 4" more freeboard. And several were built with the coachroof extended out to the topsides and also with a variety of doghouses.

Wren was built for Mr. Percy Woodcock; she was launched on 17 July 1947; she is Yard No.346; and she was rigged as a bermudian sloop. I don't have any photographs of her unfortunately, though I do have her original launching bottle (well the top end of it!).

I think the 4-tonners in the photograph are Ettrick, Blue Moon, Levana, Merlin, Lapwing and Snark. All were launched in 1947 and 1948. At that time they were built for stock, and then sold as the orders came in. So the the photo (if it is the same one) is perhaps mid-1947, rather than 1946.

I will be putting the original construction plans on the website; these do include a very basic interior layout plan, emphasis on very basic, with a bucket toilet in the fo'c'sle!

We are in Woodbridge from mid-December, through to May 2011. I would love to see how you are doing if that were possible?

Is Avena the original name of your father's boat? I can't seem to trace it at the moment.

Best regards


Posted: Feb 11th, 2011 at 20:44   |   Subject: Wren
Have stumbled across this discussion of rebuilding Percy Woodcocks "Wren" with considerable interest. I own a 4 Ton ."type" currently rigged gaff ketch ex Falmouth, and was looking to see if I could Google Wren to see some idea of her sail plan.
I wondered if mr Thomas was aware of Woodcocks description of how Wren differed from a Debenture 4T in his book "Looking Astern" published Fredick Muller 1950.
Also apparently Woodcock, a bit of a self publicist, also wrote an article with a description of her published in yachting Monthly January 1948.
it was actually his description of how He asked Mr Whisstock , to change the "standard" D4T to give more headroom below, by having "built-up topsides" but by also disguising this by incorporating "imitation bulwarks". There is a paragraph of further description about this, but my inability to understand fully what had been built made me try to search for a photo that led me here..
I would be very grateful to see photos of the current owners boat, and if he would like to email me I'll take a scan of the relevant pages of the books description