Llys Helig on the water

2 images

Credit: @LlysHelig via Twitter

100-year-old sunken yacht Llys Helig salvaged in England

26 January 2023• Written by Katia Damborsky

The 32.7-metre motor yacht Llys Helig has been raised from her former resting place on the riverbed in Essex, England and is now being transported to a nearby boatyard for repair works.

Known locally as the "Burnham Titanic", the yacht capsized in 2017 while still attached to her mooring in the town of Burnham-on-Crouch. According to her website, a combination of poor mooring conditions and prior refit works which made her “top-heavy” contributed to the sinking.

The yacht, which is now registered as a National Historic Ship, was listed for sale as a restoration project and purchased by a UK-based businessman in 2018. Speaking to a local news outlet, the yacht’s owner Howard Dawber said he plans to “restore the 1922 lines and features".

“Once I knew that the boat was a 1922 Thornycroft yacht built for ocean voyages, I couldn’t stand by and let her rust away in the mud in Essex," he commented.  "She’s one of the last of her kind.”

Credit: Mark Elliott

Efforts to raise her from the river initially began in 2020. On January 20 2023, the yacht was moved into a floodable dry dock and settled into a cradle. She began the journey to the nearby town of Rochford a few days later and Mike’s Boatyard is understood to also be carrying out the initial surveillance and repair work.

The yacht was launched in 1922 by British shipyard Vosper Thornycroft as a gentleman’s cruiser. She had a colourful life, cruising across Scotland, Ireland and the Mediterranean in her early years. She was extensively photographed when cruising in Conwy, Wales, and had her 15 minutes of fame appearing in a number of Welsh postcards.

She was later used as a tender for a pirate radio station, and then as a houseboat. The yacht is thought to be one of the oldest Vosper Thornycroft yachts still in existence. The yard ceased building under its name in 2000 and most recently its former transatlantic record holder Gentry Eagle was scrapped in California.

“We’ll now restore her piece by piece to ensure that this elegant boat from the jazz age is brought back to her original lines and is ready to cruise the world again," said the yacht's owner.

There have been a number of high-profile salvage operations recently, with the hull of a half-finished Trinity sold at auction in Mississippi and a semi-finished Sensation hull resurfacing in Auckland, New Zealand.