Sole surviving heritage sailing gig to be restored

Dos Amigos before she fell into disrepair
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Those who love heritage sailing boats are very excited in Cornwall, UK, at the moment. A historic fishing boat which plied Cornish waters for more than 80 years before being left to rot on a quayside is to get a new lease of life thanks to the efforts of maritime enthusiasts.

Dos Amigos, a 38ft carvel gig built at St Ives in 1920, is believed to be the only surviving example of a vessel once common in West Cornwall.

Designed and constructed by master boatbuilder Thomas Paynter, the boat – originally christened Our Francis – was well maintained throughout her working life until the present owner let her fall into serious disrepair. This week, however, Dos Amigos's long road to restoration began when she was craned out of Looe Harbour and transported by lorry to Treeve Boatyard in Hayle.

Boatbuilder Robb Lello, who is storing the vessel, said: 'Dos Amigos has been neglected for ten years. Very sadly, her last owner wasn't able to maintain the boat and, over time, most of her keel was eaten away. Today, she is far from seaworthy.

Dos Amigos - now to be restored to her former glory
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'She went from being an asset to Looe to a blight on the harbour.'

Mr Lello explained that the historic vessel had almost gone beyond repair and faced being impounded by Looe Harbour Commissioners.

'She had to come out of the water because of serious gribble infestation,' he said. 'This is a kind of tiny prawn that gets into unprotected wood. It's about the size of a woodlouse, has three mouths, seven legs, and dines out on classic boats.

'Luckily the vital first step of getting her on to dry land has now been taken and we have bought some time. There's still a tremendous way to go and it will only be possible for Dos Amigos to set sail again with the inventiveness and determination of everyone involved. We hope to win support from the local community.'

Dos Amigos was originally built as an open gig, powered by fore and aft lug sails and an auxiliary motor. She spent her working life manned by two Spaniards, who had settled in Newlyn around the time of the Spanish Civil War. They changed her name to the Spanish for 'two friends' in 1935. For most of the 20th century she operated out of Cornish ports and was involved in a variety of trades – from drift netting for pilchards and potting for crabs to hand-lining for mackerel and dredging for scallops.

In 1985, Mike and Sue Darlington of Looe restored Dos Amigos, changing her name to Deu Kerens – the Cornish for 'two friends'. During the 1990s, the couple ran her for charter and day trips, and regularly sailing to classic boat festivals in Brittany. Since they sold the boat in 2002 she has been moored at Looe.

Boat restoration expert John Lambourn, who rebuilt St Ives lugger Ripple, said Dos Amigos was an important part of Cornish maritime heritage, adding: 'Gigs were open, day boats which were very versatile in that they could carry large amounts of fishing gear. 'Although mechanised they had not abandoned their masts and sails, which indicates the background and caution of their owners. These boats were a special class of boat and well worth preserving and restoring for that reason alone.'

Anyone near enough to lend a hand, and who would like to help the team planning to restore Dos Amigos can find her on Facebook or by emailing deukerens@inbox.com.

Pictures show Deu Kerens, painted blue in early 1980s, later pitch black, also in 1980s, believed afloat off South East Cornish coast, both pix while under ownership Mike and Sue Darlington.