TOLSTAR / MISS SPEEDBIRD
How did it start? By Gerry Pols
Back in 2002 I said to myself that’s it no more boats, I’d had a good 30 years boating starting with my own first boat, a little 13’ Shakespeare which I had bought when I was 18, right up to my Coronet Seafarer 27 and that’s not counting all the years with father on his boats, time to give it up!.
Two years later something was missing I was getting twitchy, NO NO don’t do it Gerry no more boats! Too late but deep down I didn’t want a old boat again, so I bought a new Atlantis 20 centre consol and of course being the service manager for the local Honda marine dealer it had to have a Honda outboard.
“Blue Shadow” as she was called, Deep V plus a Honda on a gill bracket she was a little darling, anyhow down at our local private boatyard/grave yard was this old cruiser sitting on a four-wheeled trailer, the trailer being ideal for the Atlantis!
Over here in Guernsey if a boat is abandoned on harbour authority land it will be marked with a cross and if not moved or claimed it will be disposed of! she had the cross of death so somebody must have moved her into the yard for safe keeping, Father say’s leave it to me I’ll find out who owns it, next thing I know father phones I’ve got you a trailer and a project !!!!
Great, I’ve got the trailer but didn’t really want a project so I didn’t give the boat another thought until the previous owner says she’s a ex Cowes Torquay entrant. I did a quick search on the web but couldn’t find any thing on a Miss Speedbird and that was it for now.
I’m down the yard one day giving the trailer the once over and I start looking at the old girl thinking as one does she’s a pretty boat but she looks mean from the front with that narrow window! if I put a Gill bracket on the back with a 225 Honda I could have a nice open cockpit, plenty of room, nice and stable for a bit of rod fishing, whilst the Atlantis was a cracking boat being deep Vee she wasn’t that comfortable when three of us were fishing on the same side!
So it starts, Speedbirds in a hell of a mess not really worth doing but too late I’m smitten, start ripping things out repairing numerous holes in the transom getting ready to rebuild the transom to take a Gill bracket. Then the previous owner gives me the paper work for her, there’s a Tolcraft brochure including photos of a boat called “Tolstar” being launched in 1967 by Rosemary Mudie plus one of Colin Mudie and a Mr Ian Toll, this is getting interesting!
I wonder if Ian Toll is still around? does he live in Poole where Tolstar was launched? The Internet is a wonderful tool do a quick search on for a Ian Toll, Poole, ‘bingo’ there you go! Got to be worth a phone call, so one evening I give the number a call, Mrs Toll answers the phone… Me “good evening sorry to disturb you I’m trying to find a Mr Ian Toll who owned Tolcraft….Mrs Toll “ you’ve found him hold on I’ll get him for you”
After half an hour on the phone with Ian, I know how she is built etc and that he sold “Tolstar” on to a “Bob” who was a pilot for BOAC, Tolcraft took the race deck off and fitted the Tolcraft production deck ready for Bob to do the 1970 CTC as “Miss Speedbird”, next question how do I find this Bob?
One of my Friends Ron has MBY mags going back to 1970; there it is “ Miss Speed bird being raced by Mr Robert Attwood”. On to the web again good chance that he lives in Poole as well…..Me “ good evening sorry to disturb you I’m trying to find a Mr Bob Attwood that raced a boat called “Miss Speed bird”, Mrs Attwood “ he certainly did, he has just come in I’ll get him to call you “
Bob phoned back, more of her history comes to light, there’s another name, Paul Webb, in the folder let the fingers do the walking again as they say. Found him, more of her history and photos to go with it ! And of course there’s Colin and Rosemary Mudie after being in contact with them all, that’s it there’s no turning back I’m hooked!
Young Nick that used to work with me say’s you know of course she’s got to go back as she was! Better start looking for a motor then, a nice Volvo Penta KAD 32 would be nice but hard to get hold of it would have to be a V-8 then……What have I started? Everything’s got to be ripped out, all the inside is either soaked or rotten the only timbers in good condition are the forward and main bulkheads; luckily as Ian had said the hull was laid up using Isophthalic resin from Scott Bader and was solid even if a bit beat up after 40 years!
Decisions have to be made at some stage and as I didn’t have anything in the cockpit area that was original from when she was a race boat I decided to build it in keeping with the style of the sixties/seventies but changing things around to suit my taste, hence the steering is now on the stbd side which allowed me to have a nice locker door in the bulkhead giving me access to the electrics etc.
All the wood/ply that was used to construct the cockpit area was treated and fitted using west’s epoxy as were all the holes that had been drilled in the hull and transom over 40 years. As for the cabin, that I gather was still pretty much as it was in the seventies but was well passed its sell by date so everything was ripped out and replaced with new keeping it pretty much the same as it was when built.
Having a father who is a master joiner and can do wonders with a piece of wood can come in very handy at time’s, leave the locker doors, mouldings etc to me he says I’ll do something a little special. Which is all very well as joinery and me do not get on to well, trying to fit something like a moulding was a nightmare, after all I’m the engineer in the family give me an engine or a jumble of wires any day of the week!!
After having to leave off the rebuild for a couple of years through work commitments it was time to really get stuck in and try and get the old girl finished, lots to do and lots of things still to buy without the wife finding out, but some how they always do!
Fast forward to 2011, she has to go back in the water where she belongs, Miss Speed bird is no where near finished but I have to get her in and see if it was all worth it, we launched at low water in the marina nice and gentle, get the feel of her, Fathers on the pontoon ready for me, I’m coming in astern, motor decides it doesn’t want to tick over now, this is going to be fun, starting a v8 in gear with a bit of throttle on is not good for the nerves especially in astern, anyhow she’s on the mooring I can now settle the motor down,
We decide to go out for a run the following weekend; father will take his Dell Quay Ranger and act as escort just in case, over that week I tweaked the carb and by Saturday she was running as sweet as a…….
Oh well it’s a lovely day might as well go and give her a run, slip the mooring, have a gentle play out in the fairway, no sign of father, might as well go out on my own. Out I go followed by a 23ft Cleopatra called “Lady Cleo” which used to belong to a friend of mine, Mick, as I later told Mick ” Lady Cleo tried to accost Miss Speedbird, Miss Speedbird defended her honour by achieving 34 knots”. To say I was pleased was an understatement, the rest of that year was spent doing odd little jobs and wasting petrol, one thing that she needed was a windscreen so templates were made ready for father to construct one out of timber but as all things boats she was again launched in 2012 still not finished and still no windscreen!
I had noticed that when I had put her on the mooring that the drive trim wasn’t holding on the Hydraulics, over the next couple of weeks it was getting worse, after checking over the trim pump it was no good I was going to have to take her out again and do the trim rams hoping that the holding pins come out otherwise it was engine out!
By the time I managed to get her out of the water August was almost gone so I would miss another classic rally, she was relaunched and tested hard for 1 hour during which time she reached 36.5 knots on the GPS, that’s more like it, she is still a couple of hundreds revs down on maximum rpm so I will have to play around with props and trim and see if I can get 40 knots .I’ll be a very happy man especially as she has only 260 hp
Back on the mooring one of the boys hollers’s across ” Gerry! Dan’s selling his boat (which was a production Tolcraft) might be worth a phone call! to cut to the chase I now have an original windscreen for Miss Speedbird, which will be fitted this winter along with all the other jobs hopefully.
I’m down the boatyard looking at my new purchase as one does, thinking that’s the same hull as “Miss Speedbird” if I cut the production top off and put a race deck on I could have a Tolstar look- a- like, know where there’s a Merc V-8 wouldn’t take that long to do NO NONO NO!!! Miss Speedbird is very much an on going project; she is by no means perfect that was never my intention there are a few things, which I wish I had done differently, and a few things which in my mind have worked out well, would /will I’d do it again? when I look back at some of the photos and remember the hours and hours of work, NO…
But ask me again when the sun’s shining and she’s doing 30 knots and the answer might be a bit different. Have I been fishing lately? What in “Miss Speedbird ” she’s not a fishing boat you know!…..
There again I’ve got a spare hull if I put on a Gill bracket with an outboard and……
Gerry Pols 2012
OK SO WHAT IS THE READERS VERDICT, DOES GERRY
- Rebuild the hull as a replica of the original TOLSTAR with v8 Mercruiser and brings both to the Classic Rallies
- Sell the hull to someone who will build a replica of Tolstar…. OR
- Build himself a “fishing boat”……..
Answers please on a post card to Gerry at………