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Alchemy’s Irish Classic Boat Magic is Being Worked Again

24th January 2018
Magic from above. A re-creation (above and below) of the classic Kinsale Colleen class is emerging from an Elizabethan 29 hull at Alchemy Marine’s workshop deep in the heart of North Cork. Magic from above. A re-creation (above and below) of the classic Kinsale Colleen class is emerging from an Elizabethan 29 hull at Alchemy Marine’s workshop deep in the heart of North Cork.

When Bill Trafford chose the business name Alchemy Marine for his extremely individualistic combination of skills in transforming vintage fibreglass hulls into a new take on classic designs of yesteryear, he made the perfect brand-name choice writes W M Nixon.

In his hidden workshop near Skenakilla Crossroads in the depths of very rural North County Cork somewhere west of Mitchelstown, Bill creates something which really is beyond magic. It’s beyond magic because, while it may seem well into the realms of fantasy, the outcome is practical, seaworthy and elegant craft that sail swiftly and can take their place with pride in the most stylish company. They look at home in any anchorage and particularly in a beautiful Irish natural harbour, where the setting and the boat complement each other.

Having in recent years transformed an Elizabethan 23 and an Etchells 22, Bill is now working his considerable talents in meeting a very special request from a client who seeks a glassfibre-hulled version re-creating the spirit of the Alan Buchanan-designed Colleen.

Alchemy colleen2When this photo was taken, it was still possible to see traces of the original Elizabethan 29, but as the work progresses, she becomes a classic Colleen.alchemy colleen3From the earliest stages, the highest standards of boat-building skill have been allied with an experienced eye to assess what is possible.

alchemy colleen4The new transom stern now looks to be part of the boat

At least three of these pretty 24ft transom-sterned sloops were wooden-built by John Thuillier of Kinsale in 1950. However, finding an old but well-built fibreglass hull which could be transformed into something with that unmistakable Buchanan look required more than a little lateral thinking. But Bill did a spot of brooding, and once again came up with the solution.

The Elizabethan 29 was designed by Kim Holman in 1960 and series-built by Peter Webster in GRP at Lymington. A pretty boat, she was a race winner in her day. But as she has quite a long counter and the complete early-Holman look, most of us wouldn’t see a Buchanan Colleen anywhere in there at all.

alchemy colleen5Before and after. The Elizabethan 29 (above) looked like this before becoming the “donor hull” to provide the basis for a reborn Colleen (below)

alchemy colleen6 But Bill Trafford saw the Elizabethan 29 as his “donor hull”. And now the transformation is proceeding apace at Skenakilla. The counter has gone, and there’s a new transom stern in place. With all the old GRP deck and coachroof long since removed, the sheerline has been given a completely new tweak to give her that authentic Buchanan look, and soon one of Bills peerless teak-laid decks will be in place, with a new coachroof to match.

As ever with Alchemy Marine, it’s all in a league of its own. The workmanship is invariably of top craftsmanship level, and all Bill’s skills as a highly-trained boatbuilder working in many materials are much in evidence. In an ideal world, it might be happening somewhere near a sailing centre that would make it all slightly more accessible for classic boat enthusiasts. But in fact, for true devotees, this is something that merits a pilgrimage.

Elizabethan 23 by alchemy7Classic craftsmanship. Bill Trafford’s award-winning transformation two years ago with this Elizabethan 23 indicates the standard being achieved with the re-born Colleen.

Published in Historic Boats Team

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