By David Walker, owner of the first Saltram


In 1976 I decided I wanted a bigger boat, having owned an Old Gaff rigged cutter built in Mevagizey on Tosher lines.  I had seen and admired a number of Alan Pape’s designs, particularly one being built in Norfolk, of about 34ft and double ended.

A number of visits during that wonderful summer of 1976 to Alan, with long discussions overlooking the sea from his house in East Looe with numerous cups of tea served by his wife, resulted in a meeting of minds and him producing a design based on a boat he had drawn for construction in wood, I think for someone in Australia.

I liked the design, and took the idea and plan to the Skentelbery Brothers at their yard in Laira, Plymouth.  I had known both for many years, infact Paul, the younger brother, and I had sailed and grown up together on the river at home when we were youngsters. After some debate and the Brothers agreeing to build as I could afford, Alan then drew a full set of Plans for the Saga 40, to become known as the Saltram.

This was to be a “one off” and it was decided to build out of Foam Sandwich.  With Alan Pape’s input, this meant that a frame of sacrificial transverse stations was erected, upon which a laminated keel stem and sternpost were placed.  To these, 1.75 by 0.75 inch stringers at about ten inch pitch were attached.  The framed up boat was then “planked” in Monucelluar Airex Foam 0.75 inch thick and in panels.  This was then faired and coated with GRP resin, fibre glass clothes being applied with layers of resin (Multi directional roavings and chop strand mat and finished with a tissue so that the cloth weave would not show).

All this was done on an upside down hull in clear resin, with no gel coat being used.  The hull was then worked to a fairness where-by it could take a coat of paint prior to being turned over to sit on its ballast keel.

Due to the shape fairness and great looks of the upturned hull it was decided to use the boat as a “plug” in order to create a mould for future production.  In order to bring the hull to “Plug Quality” meant extra finishing was required and numerous coats of paint and rubbing back and polishing took place in order to get an extremely fine finish.

When the outer mould was finished, it and the hull inside were turned over and the internals exposed.  In the hull (plug) the sacrificial  transverse stations were removed and the Keel, stem, sternpost, and stringers were encapsulated  with chop strand mat, thus creating a foam core double GRP hull of a “Monocoque” type construction.

The creation of the mould was a cause of interest and the first two boats out of the mould went to a Father and Son for home completion.  Further orders followed, for both Skentelbery complete boats and also sail way versions as well as part complete boats.  As a result of this success, my own boat took a back seat partly due to funds and partly due to a busy yard.

Grace Virtue, the original boat, was launched in 1987, eleven years after the start of her birth. That in part reflects her name.  It is traditional in the west country to name vessels, particularly in fishing boats and the trading ketches and schooners of old, after two females in the family.  Also the time factor came into play. There is an old proverb “Patience is a Virtue, Virtue is a Grace” etc. So she became “Grace Virtue” and the tender became “Patience, tender to Grace Virtue.”

So that’s how it started.  You may wonder why the Class name was changed to “Saltram”.  Alan Pape had named the design “Saga” (incidentally, he didn’t much like the design being compared to a Colin Archer.  Not because he didn’t like C.A’s designs but other than the double end and form of the stern, there is no comparison).  A Scandanavian firm decided they had the proprietary right to the name “Saga” and  the Brothers decided to use the name “Saltram”, as the Yard bordered on the The Saltram Estate, and it was a name their father had used in previous boats.

I am happy and would be delighted to talk and help anyone who has a “SALTRAM”. They have a special place in my heart.

David Walker




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