An agreement was signed June 23, 1899 between the boatbuilder William H. Halford of Gloucester England and the Cumberland Sea Fishery Committee to build a 'Police Boat' or 'Protection Cutter' for the use of Officers to patrol the fisheries in the Cumberland area.
Halford's yard had previously built at least three Bristol Channel pilot cutters, including the St. Bee's and the Britannia. Unlike many other pilot boats that sported an offset bowsprit, some of Halford's pilot boats were unique in featuring a bowsprit that housed directly over a raked stem. The new boat was to be built to the same scantlings, materials, design and layout as the Halford pilot boats.
As work progressed there was some difficulty in getting Lloyd's to perform a scheduled survey of the boat going together. The Cumberland Sea Fishery wanted someone to report frequently on the progress of the yard and the task was given to a Mr.E Brinkworth - a retired Pilot who worked as the Dockmaster in Gloucester. On November 15, 1899 the boat was launched and Christened The Solway. It measured 50' long on deck, 13' beam, 8' draft and 28 Tons.
Following the launch the boat was found to be under ballasted by about 4 tons. Halford argued that he had fully completed his end of the contract and after much dispute the Fisheries Commitee added the remaining ballast themselves, having to contract another boat builder in Whitehaven to raise the cabin sole to make room for additional lead weight.
Although the boat had been assembled and rigged in the manner of a pilot boat, the Officers delivering the boat from Gloucester to Whitehaven found the rigging, interior, and some of the gear on board to be inadequate. They had the boat surveyed, and were quick to point a finger at Brinkworth for not supervising Halford more closely. Brinkworth responded (noting his 25 years experience in the Pilot service with all manner of craft) that the recommendations of the recent survey were "no more a neccessity to the boat than a side pocket to a shark."
June 20, 1907 The Solway was transferred to ship chandler John Thomas Kee of the Isle of Man. The Certificate of Registry with Whitehaven Port was cancelled July 3, 1907 as the Sea Fisheries Committee believed the policing duties would be better served by a steam-powered vessel.
It is believed a 'Lady Vivian' found the boat at Whitehaven, converted her to a yacht and registered her anew under the name Carlotta at Ramsey, Isle of Man due to alterations. Sometime after this Vivian shot and killed an intruder in her home and as a consequence to this trouble sold the yacht.
1907 records David A. Croall of The Sports Club, St James' Square, London as owner and the vessel registered in Ramsey.
1908 During this time Carlotta was associated with several prominent people, including the notorious financier Clarence Hatry. One of the key events leading up to the 1929 Stock Market Crash was the collapse of Clarence Hatry's empire in Britain. In 1930 he was sentenced to 14 years penal servitude for forging municipal bonds and obtaining money by fraud.
1913 Carlotta won the 1913 Royal Cornwall Yacht Club Regatta under the ownership of A.R. Hoette. The Mercantile Navy List and Maritime Directory of 1913 gives the owner as William H. Rogers of Bickford Grange, Penkridge, Staffs.
The 1914 and 1915 Lloyd's Register of Yachts shows the owner of Carlotta as W.G. Luke of The Anchorage, Hamble, Southampton. In 1919 Beken of Cowes photographed Carlotta under full sail in company with the 'Banba' - a yacht built in Southampton in 1897. To date it is the earliest photo record of Carlotta.
1929 shows the retired Lieutenant Colonel, the Honourable Christian Henry Charles Guest of London as the registered owner.
1933 George Henry Jordan of Southlands, Monmouth is shown as owner on the sixth of December 1933 but only for a very short term as Sir Thomas Hewitt Skinner of London is shown as owner December 22 of the same year. At this point Carlotta was given a magnificent swept teak deck.
1935 Beken of Cowes once again took several photographs of the yacht.
Bessie and Aleck Bourne of London bought Carlotta to replace their aging Idris - another smaller ex-pilot boat. In 1938 Aleck Bourne (a noted gynecologist) performed the operation of abortion without fee on a young girl not quite 15 years of age who was raped by a group of British soldiers. Bourne was charged with unlawfully procuring abortion but later acquitted of all charges.
The Bournes would spend the summers sailing around the coasts of Northern Europe in the North Sea, the Channel, the Baltic and the coast of Brittany. One summer was spent sailing right around England. A silent home movie documents these travels.
During a stay in Brest in 1939 the radio receiver on board broke down. Without much concern the Bournes took a leisurely course southwards down the Britany coast. At Concarneau, a large port where they finally met civilization again, they received a telegram from London:
RETURN HOME IMMEDIATELY. WAR IMMINENT.
They promptly sailed North and left the boat in the care of friends at St. Peter Port on the island of Guernsey thinking that Carlotta would be safer here than on the mainland.
1940 The ownership was transferred to three gentlemen in Guernsey: Commander Lewis Tobias Peyton-Jones, Mr. Harry Lyster Cooper, and Timothy Patrick Moriarty O'Callaghan. Far from being a safe haven, the Channel Islands were the only British territories to be occupied by the Germans. On a Sunday in June 1940 the Germans landed at the airport.
He later chartered Carlotta out of St. Mawes, Cornwall with his wife Nellie (who incidentally could set all sail and singlehand the boat) with frequent voyages to France. Carlotta was laid up at St. Mawes beside the Laurent Giles designed cutter Dyarchy every year when out of season. The following season the Twists would always leave on May the first "whatever the weather" as Richard used to say.
Sometimes they used the laborious process of a block and tackle to raise the anchor. Mrs. Twist would take the business end over her shoulder and walk the length of the deck until the anchor was aweigh, at which point Mr. Twist would shout "Avast there!" She seemed to like it. Apparently one season Twist could not afford anti-fouling so he used sheep dip instead that year.
She was also sailed out of some tight corners, notably inside of Caladh Island in the Kyles of Bute, as well as going South to North through the rocks inside the Raz de Sein - a terror of sailors from the very earliest of times. In the Middle Ages, when a ship had safely passed through, one of the sailors would blacken his face pretending to be Father Neptune collecting tolls. This bit of tomfoolery was later extended to crossing the equator.
Peter Heiberg's relationship with Carlotta lasted for over 30 years - the entire time without an engine or any other modern conveniences installed. He has proven that an old gaff rigged boat need not be thought of as a slow, clunky, old tub - as he raced Carlotta competitively and made many long passages aboard her.
2004 Heiberg sold Carlotta to Barbra, Jasper and Stephen Mohan. Long time admirers of Carlotta and pilot cutters, the Mohan's jumped at the chance to be Carlotta's next custodians. After one year of sailing and living aboard on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia attention was turned to necessary long term repairs. The Mohan's began the process of restoring Carlotta with an eye towards the original workboat she was in 1899.
2009 August - The hull and decks are completed and the mast had been stepped. A small party was held at the Hotel dock in Lund with a traditional Celtic band, Champagne smashed on the bow, a few sea shanties belted out by the Lund Shanteymen, and cake for everyone!
2011 October - The interior is completed and the Mohan's move back aboard Carlotta!
*Carlotta's story with thanks to:Joan Ostry, Robert Simper, Charlie Ford, Peter Maxwell, Tim Pratt, Richard Campbell, Hugh Conway-Jones, Dick and Juliette Rymer Cooper, Peter Heiberg and many others.