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Published: 26-Jul-18 | Source: Nick Szkiler
Headed to Glenapp Castle in Ballantrae, South Ayrshire. It’s been my second home since 2015 when my brother Paul bought the stunning 5 star Castle hotel - formerly the home of Lord Inchcape, Chairman of P&O shipping. As the founder of our classic car businesses and a director of the Castle this really has to be the dream job! An overnight stay at the Castle, before heading further North.
James has sold a nice Jaguar MK2 to a regular customer and the part - exchange is a 1961 Fairey Huntress 23 - the actual Earls Court International boat show example which graced Fairey Marine’s stand. Five Fairey boats participated in the iconic boat chase scene in ‘From Russia with Love’ filmed in Scotland near Crinan, Argyll and Bute.
How appropriate that it would in North West Scotland that I would find this fine 57 year old boat and how beautiful Scotland really is. Loch Lomond was almost flat calm on a scorching summer afternoon.
I decided on a detour to Glencoe and rescued a bunch of youngsters walking the West Highland Way who had run out of energy - and water in the searing heat. I headed down past Port Appin where a magical castle sits in a tranquil bay.
As I settled for the evening in Connel - close to Oban there was sky you only ever see in Scotland - just breathtaking.
Collection of the boat from Dunstaffnage Marina near Oban was fairly straightforward, and at over 3 tons on its purpose-built trailer, the 3 Litre Jeep Commander was a wise choice of tow car. Four hours later after navigating the narrow roads from Bridge of Orchy to Tarbet I took a welcome break in South Ayrshire before heading back to Glenapp Castle.
This stunning view of the car and boat framing Ailsa Craig island was taken at the Russian ‘Varyag’ memorial in Lendalfoot.
This memorial to the 1899 Russian cruiser “Varyag” is close to the spot where the legendary ship sank in 1920. “Varyag” is the first monument to Russian valor in the UK. The Varyag was built in Philadelphia for the Russian Navy, she achieved fame when she battled five Japanese cruisers at the opening of the Russo-Japanese war. When the hopelessness of the battle became apparent, she was scuttled rather than surrender her flag. The Varyag was re-floated and served in the Japanese navy before being passed from Japanese back to Russian hands. It was finally seized by the British after the collapse of the Russian government in the October Revolution of 1917. Caught in a storm just off the coast from Lendalfoot the great ship sank for its second and final time.
Roddy Leitch, skipper of Glenapp Castle’s boat (a 570HP Redbay Stormforce 11) was for 30 years Harbour Master at Girvan - he also used to sea trial the RNLI boats after reworks at the Girvan shipyard. He told me of a visiting Russian Admiral who he took to visit the memorial. “The admiral got on his mobile to Vladimir Putin, and with tears in his eyes sang him the Russian National anthem” said Roddy.
When I told him about the Huntress he looked excited and asked “what are you planning to do with it?”
I told him we planned to sell it - but I might bring it to Girvan first. “Wow!” Was his response when I showed him the history. I agreed to leave it at the Castle for a week and come back to put it in the water.
There she sat under an oak tree at Glenapp until yesterday. August 7th. Staff at the hotel tell me they lost count of the number of hotel guests who had asked about it. “Is it the one from the Bond film” they were asked.
Monday the 6th of August was the day the Castle’s rib was due for service at Redbay boats in Cushendall Northern Ireland. Skippering the boat were Roddy Leitch and our other Skipper David Bova another accomplished ‘man of the sea’. Unbeknown to me these two were desperate to drive the Huntress. The service of the Redbay was to take two days and after pulling it out of the water in Cushendall they were stunned to see every underwater inch of the rib was covered in barnacles. Small wonder her cruising speed was down by 5 knots.
Redbay did an amazing job and the boat set of for Scotland mid-morning yesterday. With a clean hull they roared across the Irish Sea at 26knots.
By 12.30 they were mooring back in Girvan Marina. “Where are you” asked Roddy on the phone. I said I was just setting off to Troon Yacht Haven where the nearest operational crane was. “David and I will be there before you!”. I confess to a little relief at having two hugely experienced men with me. I may have my helmsman and skipper training but they are as at home with a new boat as I am with a classic car.
“Now that’s what I call a crane” I thought as the huge beast lumbered toward the slipway with cradling it’s precious cargo.
As I turned the key the engine burst into life with the gorgeous throb and burble of the Perkins turbo diesel. Roddy took her out of the cradle and onto the fuel mooring - great to have a safe pair of hands with a new boat.
David was soon refuelling her up and thanks to a generous previous owner only a 100 litres was needed to fill up.
Having paid the bills, we saw another Huntress in the Marina and met a lovely Irishman about to set off on a four hour voyage in another ‘Bond’ boat - twin engined Fairey Huntsman. We saw him later roaring across the Irish Sea about three miles west of us.
When I stood at the helm for the first time I began to ‘get it’. The grin came. Just the smallest blip of throttle and you feel the surge.
Roddy took her out of the harbour and into a rather choppy Troon bay.
There was quite a swell as we crossed the bay. Roddy and David remarked on how Fairey’s ‘Deep V’ hull cut through the water. Each skipper took turns at the helm and then rang pals to say “I’m driving a “Fairey Huntress!”. 17 knots at 1850rpm with a decent swell - loads of power left - what a boat! We made a brief detour to Culzean Castle ancestral home of the Marquis of Ailsa - head of the Clan Kennedy. Now owned by the National Trust it is really worth a visit.
Visitors waved as we sounded the boats big horn.
At last it was my turn. Smoother waters as we passed the lighthouse at Turnberry and soon Girvan was in sight and I was still grinning!
Twenty one miles in an hour and fifteen minutes, in a 57 year old boat. Awesome!
Safely moored in Girvan Marina we left the boat for a much needed fish and chip supper, before going back to Troon to get our cars. Roddy told me he’d been up since 4 am. He couldn’t sleep because he was so keen to get back in time to come with me. I climbed into my berth on the boat at 10.30pm and reflected on our wonderful day. I thought about another vehicle made famous by Bond - the Aston Martin DB5. I struggled to sell one in 1993 for £22,500. Oh I wish!
James asked me about the price of this one. It sold in 2001 for £18,750. Very few ever come up for sale. Only a few hundred of these hulls were ever made and only one - hull 40 starred at the ‘61 Earls Court boat show. What will this be worth in 10 years time? Who knows but if it doesn’t find a new home at £34,995 it will stay in Scotland (and Roddy, David and I will keep grinning!)