A boat of many names

She’s a clinker-built beach boat, easily identified by the presence of the ruffle hole in her keel. She was hauled (ruffled) up the beach by a chain reeved through the ruffle hole. According to David Skardon in his eighth presentation of a personal history of Deal (2020), this is her story:

(left) Fair Chance in her working days, her final resting place in the Museum

Originally the Fair Chance was a Kingsdown boat and berthed on its beach. During a severe storm, she was picked up by the wind, thrown onto a shed and badly damaged. After repair by a  local carpenter  (“not neat’” Dave says), she was given the name Who’d A Thought It,  then bought by Deal boatman Tommy Upton who changed it again to Minni Ha Ha.

Bob Able, another Deal boatman and local boat builder bought the boat and renamed her the Ursula. During the 1950s she came to grief in the groynes through engine failure and was damaged a second time. Bob Able was going to burn her but subsequently sold the boat to Jim Skardon, Dave’s father.

Jim bought her for £5 in a derelict state, loaded her onto a trailer and took her to his farm, Court Marsh, in Albert Road near the old potteries, quite close to the current site of Hutchings Timber merchants. There the boat was rebuilt and renamed Fair Chance.

Dave operated the Fair Chance for commercial fishing and angling parties. She was rigged with a jib, mizzen, standing lug sail and used for trawling down the bay. “She turned a good deal of speed and power under sail”, Dave says. She was sold to a miner at a 1968 auction from her plot opposite the Timeball Tower. 

Few boats are left working from Deal beach. The Fair Chance is a tenuous link with another time. With no records of how she arrived, she now rests in Deal Museum courtyard.