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Mengehetti Edmondo - Steelbird 38
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Mengehetti Edmondo - Steelbird 38 for sale

Argyll, Scotland
ad ref. BU1032853
Sailing BoatsBlue Water Cruisers
Mengehetti EdmondoSteelbird 38
United KingdomCurrency GBP
1975good
UsedPrivate
available11.3 m/37 ft
3.4 m/11 ft2.1 m/7 ft
chined hullInboard
3-bladeHydraulic wheel control
FarymannNo. of engines 1
HP 28Diesel
Fuel Capacity 120Steel
Steel1000
No. of cabins 3No. of berths 6
1.9 mWC & bathrooms 2

Steelbird 38: Unusual Italian craftman-built ocean-going steel cutter with interesting trans-Atlantic history


Steelbird 38, Alice Fouché, was professionally built of corten steel by Edmondo Mengehetti to a Vittorio Lombardi design in Genoa in 1975 for trans-Atlantic crossings. She has had a chequered career. First, we understand, she was used for running drugs from Venezuela to Venice; later for bringing cannabis resin to the UK, when she was caught and became forfeit to the Crown. Since then, she has been refurbished inside in American white oak and is a comfortable, very sea-worthy cruiser with one double and two single berths (+ two full-length pipe cots) in separate cabins, each with its own basin and heads. The saloon has the galley and a dinette (which will convert into a further double berth) and a Taylor’s diesel heater. There is a separate chart table with chair in the wheelhouse area.
Dimensions: Length: 11.3m; Beam: 3.4m; Draft: 2.1m
Hull: multi-chine in 4mm corten (semi-high tensile) steel with angle frames; deck 3mm corten steel; long fin and skeg.
Displacement: approx. 12 tons.
Rigs: R/R genoa, self tacking staysail (alternatively, 2 yankees, staysail and running backstays). Fully battened main with lazy-jacks and cover. Over-specified alloy mast and ss standing rigging. Winches: all by Barbarosa except for one Barton
Steering: cockpit tiller/inside hydraulic wheel steering. Raymarine Smart Pilot X5. Neco remote fluxgate compass with cockpit and inside repeaters.
Engine: Farymann 28 HP, raw water cooled, capable of hand start. This is the original engine (ruggedly designed for fishing boat use) and it has proved 100% reliable. A universal joint and thrust block-cum-stern gland ensure no problems with stern shaft alignment. Triple stern gland seals replaced 2018.
Tankage: Fuel: 120 litres. Water: over 1000 litres in three tanks under galley sinks and forward .
Anchor: 45lb CQR with 60m chain. 2 further anchors with 30m chain Cayman electric winch.
Safety equipment: carbon monoxide detector, multiple fire extinguishers, fire blanket, heat activated extinguisher in engine bay, life jackets including children's, jack stays and safety harnesses, Seago four-person liferaft, two life buoys, Life-Sling.
Equipment: 6 HP Sidepower bow thruster and Cayman electric winch with dedicated gel battery (60ah) forward. Space for 3 domestic and one starter battery each of 110ah. Sterling charger. Aerogen 4 wind generator. VHF, GPS, Navtex. SSB and car-type radio receivers. Seafarer 5 echosounder. Radar reflector. Boat Leg Company telescopic boat legs, storable under forward berths. Fully enclosed framed cockpit canopy + spare canopy for winter cover. Clock and barometer. Covers for winch, wheelhouse windows. Yam Inflatable, spray dodgers, warps, fenders, charts, bosun's chair, spares, etc.
Domestic: Heads fore and aft with basins to serve separate sleeping quarters. Forward heads with Rinnai gas water heater (currently u/s) and pressurised water. Gas in forward draining locker. Galley with Eno gimballed cooker with 3 burners and oven. Gas in dedicated draining stern locker. Twin sinks with fresh water foot-pump. Seacock and tap to sink for seawater but currently unconnected. Isotherm fridge, shore/battery powered Cutlery, crockery and cooking utensils. Shore power sockets. Taylors diesel cabin heater.
Comments: Built in 1975 for long-distance cruising and redesigned and refitted in mid-1990s by shipwright owner for himself with short-handed use in mind. Condition generally good though under-equipped in terms of electronics by modern standards. Carefully maintained, though a few items, e.g., cooker and water heater, need some attention. 2007 and 2020 Survey Reports available for inspection. The boat is comfortable for living in and relishes big seas. We have felt very secure in forces 7s in the North Channel and in the Irish Sea
Viewing: Ashore at RB Marine, Rosneath
The story of the yacht Alice Fouché

Originally built in 1975 in Genoa to an Italian design, the yacht, we were told, was first used for cocaine smuggling between Venezuela and Venice. At some point it was sold, in Gibraltar, to an English woman television producer. We believe this was when it became British Registered and when it acquired the name Kiwi Star. We don’t know why it was registered to Hull – maybe a short name was cheaper to get painted on the transom! When I spoke to the sail maker who made her a new genoa, he said she was finding keeping the boat very expensive. She must have sold it on, because she had nothing to do with its subsequent adventures.

It first came to the attention of the British authorities when a tanker in the Channel reported a collision at night with a yacht showing no lights. The Master reported to the Coastguard that the yacht had simply bounced off him and had sailed away and did not respond to his VHF calls. This suspicious behaviour triggered a general call to ports on the South Coast to look out for any yacht coming in with evident collision damage. The yacht was spotted in a marina in Plymouth and sniffer dogs responded positively in the yacht, though no actual drugs were found. The men on board were held on suspicion of drug smuggling.

Meanwhile, a woman at a pub in Cornwall found a parcel that seemed to have been thrown over the hedge into her garden. She handed it in to the police and it was found to contain cannabis resin. So now both the police and Customs were hunting for the drugs.

After his shift, a Customs dog handler was taking his dog for a walk on a beach. When he let the dog off the lead, it ran up to some rocks where it became very excited. Behind the rocks the dog handler found a stack of parcels of cannabis resin, altogether weighing about one and a half tons.

Evidently, after the collision, the smugglers had panicked and made for a Cornish beach to off-load their cargo as fast as possible. They stashed the drugs rather inadequately in the dark and one of the smugglers, a Dutchman, made off, taking one of the parcels with him. Again, seemingly, something panicked him and he threw the parcel away into the pub garden. The Dutchman was never caught but the other men were gaoled.

The boat was impounded for several years by Customs and Excise in the early 1990s. In their search for more drugs, they ripped the interior apart and even cut up the box-section fin keel to see if anything had been welded up inside. Eventually, the damaged boat was sold on to a yacht surveyor, John Merrett.

John Merrett set about renovating the boat in order to be used by him and his wife and another couple in the Mediterranean. The collision damage was minimal because the boat was steel and particularly strongly built. A GRP yacht would have been smashed to bits. One of the things John did was find a suitable cast iron keel from the keel foundry in Plymouth to replace the damaged box keel. Another was to rebuild the interior beautifully in white American oak. He also had the engine taken out and stripped down for a thorough renovation.

The other couple then dropped out for financial reasons, and since John already had a large 1890s wooden racer, his pride and joy, to maintain, he decided to sell Kiwi Star. That is when we bought it.

Curiously, after we bought it, Customs and Excise officers kept engaging us in conversations – “Going south, Sir?” “No, north.” “Oh where might that be, Sir?” I mentioned that we might look at Fleetwood. When we did actually go there a couple of weeks later, before we moved the boat at all, the man in the marina asked the name of the boat. When I told him, he said, “Oh. Customs and Excise were here the other day asking if you’d arrived yet!”

In Newquay we had another encounter. We asked why they were so interested in us because surely smugglers would not use a boat that already had a dubious history. “Ah,” said the officer, knowingly, “Double bluff, you know.” So when we were anchored in the Scillies and a Customs cutter came up to us, we said, “We know why you’re here!” “Why would that be, Sir?” When we told him and pointed out the name of the boat, the officer became very interested and friendly. He had been the dog handler who had found the stashed drugs! He said he’d never actually seen the boat before but he’d kept all the cutting from the papers. We asked if he could send us copies. And he was as good as his word. He sent us a complete set of photocopies of all that he had. So when we changed the name of the boat to Alice Fouché, we wrote to him to tell him - as a courtesy, because C&E would have known in any case, as we had to change the Registration.

When, later, we had the fully battened mainsail made, we told the sailmaker the story of the boat. He then said he already knew the story. Before he met his wife, he’d gone out with the daughter of one of the gaoled smugglers!

As for the new name, that’s another story. Alice Fouché was my great grandmother from Haiti, whose photo is in the cabin, and her story is juicier even than that of the boat! But we would need to know you well before we’d tell that story! All I’ll say here is that Alice died aged 18, in Louisiana, during the birth of her second child. We thought that calling the boat after her would give her a second life.

Since we bought the boat in1997, we sailed it from Plymouth to Maryport in Cumbria, where we kept it for six years. From there we have sailed to the Isle of Man, Ireland and up the West Coast of Scotland. More recently, we have been based in the Clyde, again sailing to Ireland and up the West Coast, including going round Cape Wrath, either just as a couple or with family and friends. On the two occasions we have been caught out in Force 7s, once crossing the Irish Sea in the dark, once coming down the North Channel, the boat felt as if it had come into its own, enjoying the weather it was built for.

While we have had the boat we have added the steel and Perspex spray dodger (replacing a fabric one), two full cockpit canopies, cockpit cushions and spray dodgers, the electric winch, the bow thruster, telescopic yacht legs that fit under the forward water tanks, the Raymarine Smart Pilot, the GPS and Navtex, the fridge and the Taylors diesel heater, the pipe cots and have made it possible to lower the table to make an extra double dinette berth. We have replaced the large coachroof Perspex windows. And we have replaced the mainsail (with full battens and lazy-jacks for easier reefing), the life raft, the wind generator, the mains charger and the forward water pump, the carpets and cushion covers as well as other items in the usual maintenance routine. We replaced the forward water heater with a Rinnai instant water heater but it currently needs attention. All the changes have been made to make life easier and more comfortable for extended family cruising.

The old engine has remained amazingly reliable, starting at the first touch of the button after every winter. It can also be hand-started easily, though the need to do so has never arisen. One unusual feature of the boat is that the engine is linked to the prop shaft by a universal joint and a thrust block-cum-stern gland (which has been newly stripped down and the seals replaced). This system meant that when, on one occasion coming out of Milford Haven into a swell, an engine mounting bolt sheared and the engine slumped, everything kept running smoothly because the universal joint accommodated the misalignment. Any direct linkage would have meant disaster.


Nicholas Bielby
February 2018

The story of the yacht Alice Fouché

Originally built in 1975 in Genoa to an Italian design, the yacht, we were told, was first used for cocaine smuggling between Venezuela and Venice. At some point it was sold, in Gibraltar, to an English woman television producer. We believe this was when it became British Registered and when it acquired the name Kiwi Star. We don’t know why it was registered to Hull – maybe a short name was cheaper to get painted on the transom! When I spoke to the sail maker who made her a new genoa, he said she was finding keeping the boat very expensive. She must have sold it on, because she had nothing to do with its subsequent adventures.

It first came to the attention of the British authorities when a tanker in the Channel reported a collision at night with a yacht showing no lights. The Master reported to the Coastguard that the yacht had simply bounced off him and had sailed away and did not respond to his VHF calls. This suspicious behaviour triggered a general call to ports on the South Coast to look out for any yacht coming in with evident collision damage. The yacht was spotted in a marina in Plymouth and sniffer dogs responded positively in the yacht, though no actual drugs were found. The men on board were held on suspicion of drug smuggling.

Meanwhile, a woman at a pub in Cornwall found a parcel that seemed to have been thrown over the hedge into her garden. She handed it in to the police and it was found to contain cannabis resin. So now both the police and Customs were hunting for the drugs.

After his shift, a Customs dog handler was taking his dog for a walk on a beach. When he let the dog off the lead, it ran up to some rocks where it became very excited. Behind the rocks the dog handler found a stack of parcels of cannabis resin, altogether weighing about one and a half tons.

Evidently, after the collision, the smugglers had panicked and made for a Cornish beach to off-load their cargo as fast as possible. They stashed the drugs rather inadequately in the dark and one of the smugglers, a Dutchman, made off, taking one of the parcels with him. Again, seemingly, something panicked him and he threw the parcel away into the pub garden. The Dutchman was never caught but the other men were gaoled.

The boat was impounded for several years by Customs and Excise in the early 1990s. In their search for more drugs, they ripped the interior apart and even cut up the box-section fin keel to see if anything had been welded up inside. Eventually, the damaged boat was sold on to a yacht surveyor, John Merrett.

John Merrett set about renovating the boat in order to be used by him and his wife and another couple in the Mediterranean. The collision damage was minimal because the boat was steel and particularly strongly built. A GRP yacht would have been smashed to bits. One of the things John did was find a suitable cast iron keel from the keel foundry in Plymouth to replace the damaged box keel. Another was to rebuild the interior beautifully in white American oak. He also had the engine taken out and stripped down for a thorough renovation.

The other couple then dropped out for financial reasons, and since John already had a large 1890s wooden racer, his pride and joy, to maintain, he decided to sell Kiwi Star. That is when we bought it.

Curiously, after we bought it, Customs and Excise officers kept engaging us in conversations – “Going south, Sir?” “No, north.” “Oh where might that be, Sir?” I mentioned that we might look at Fleetwood. When we did actually go there a couple of weeks later, before we moved the boat at all, the man in the marina asked the name of the boat. When I told him, he said, “Oh. Customs and Excise were here the other day asking if you’d arrived yet!”

In Newquay we had another encounter. We asked why they were so interested in us because surely smugglers would not use a boat that already had a dubious history. “Ah,” said the officer, knowingly, “Double bluff, you know.” So when we were anchored in the Scillies and a Customs cutter came up to us, we said, “We know why you’re here!” “Why would that be, Sir?” When we told him and pointed out the name of the boat, the officer became very interested and friendly. He had been the dog handler who had found the stashed drugs! He said he’d never actually seen the boat before but he’d kept all the cutting from the papers. We asked if he could send us copies. And he was as good as his word. He sent us a complete set of photocopies of all that he had. So when we changed the name of the boat to Alice Fouché, we wrote to him to tell him - as a courtesy, because C&E would have known in any case, as we had to change the Registration.

When, later, we had the fully battened mainsail made, we told the sailmaker the story of the boat. He then said he already knew the story. Before he met his wife, he’d gone out with the daughter of one of the gaoled smugglers!

As for the new name, that’s another story. Alice Fouché was my great grandmother from Haiti, whose photo is in the cabin, and her story is juicier even than that of the boat! But we would need to know you well before we’d tell that story! All I’ll say here is that Alice died aged 18, in Louisiana, during the birth of her second child. We thought that calling the boat after her would give her a second life.

Since we bought the boat in1997, we sailed it from Plymouth to Maryport in Cumbria, where we kept it for six years. From there we have sailed to the Isle of Man, Ireland and up the West Coast of Scotland. More recently, we have been based in the Clyde, again sailing to Ireland and up the West Coast, including going round Cape Wrath, either just as a couple or with family and friends. On the two occasions we have been caught out in Force 7s, once crossing the Irish Sea in the dark, once coming down the North Channel, the boat felt as if it had come into its own, enjoying the weather it was built for.

While we have had the boat we have added the steel and Perspex spray dodger (replacing a fabric one), two full cockpit canopies, cockpit cushions and spray dodgers, the electric winch, the bow thruster, telescopic yacht legs that fit under the forward water tanks, the Raymarine Smart Pilot, the GPS and Navtex, the fridge and the Taylors diesel heater, the pipe cots and have made it possible to lower the table to make an extra double dinette berth. We have replaced the large coachroof Perspex windows. And we have replaced the mainsail (with full battens and lazy-jacks for easier reefing), the life raft, the wind generator, the mains charger and the forward water pump, the carpets and cushion covers as well as other items in the usual maintenance routine. We replaced the forward water heater with a Rinnai instant water heater but it currently needs attention. All the changes have been made to make life easier and more comfortable for extended family cruising.

The old engine has remained amazingly reliable, starting at the first touch of the button after every winter. It can also be hand-started easily, though the need to do so has never arisen. One unusual feature of the boat is that the engine is linked to the prop shaft by a universal joint and a thrust block-cum-stern gland (which has been newly stripped down and the seals replaced). This system meant that when, on one occasion coming out of Milford Haven into a swell, an engine mounting bolt sheared and the engine slumped, everything kept running smoothly because the universal joint accommodated the misalignment. Any direct linkage would have meant disaster.


Nicholas Bielby
February 2018

The story of the yacht Alice Fouché

Originally built in 1975 in Genoa to an Italian design, the yacht, we were told, was first used for cocaine smuggling between Venezuela and Venice. At some point it was sold, in Gibraltar, to an English woman television producer. We believe this was when it became British Registered and when it acquired the name Kiwi Star. We don’t know why it was registered to Hull – maybe a short name was cheaper to get painted on the transom! When I spoke to the sail maker who made her a new genoa, he said she was finding keeping the boat very expensive. She must have sold it on, because she had nothing to do with its subsequent adventures.

It first came to the attention of the British authorities when a tanker in the Channel reported a collision at night with a yacht showing no lights. The Master reported to the Coastguard that the yacht had simply bounced off him and had sailed away and did not respond to his VHF calls. This suspicious behaviour triggered a general call to ports on the South Coast to look out for any yacht coming in with evident collision damage. The yacht was spotted in a marina in Plymouth and sniffer dogs responded positively in the yacht, though no actual drugs were found. The men on board were held on suspicion of drug smuggling.

Meanwhile, a woman at a pub in Cornwall found a parcel that seemed to have been thrown over the hedge into her garden. She handed it in to the police and it was found to contain cannabis resin. So now both the police and Customs were hunting for the drugs.

After his shift, a Customs dog handler was taking his dog for a walk on a beach. When he let the dog off the lead, it ran up to some rocks where it became very excited. Behind the rocks the dog handler found a stack of parcels of cannabis resin, altogether weighing about one and a half tons.

Evidently, after the collision, the smugglers had panicked and made for a Cornish beach to off-load their cargo as fast as possible. They stashed the drugs rather inadequately in the dark and one of the smugglers, a Dutchman, made off, taking one of the parcels with him. Again, seemingly, something panicked him and he threw the parcel away into the pub garden. The Dutchman was never caught but the other men were gaoled.

The boat was impounded for several years by Customs and Excise in the early 1990s. In their search for more drugs, they ripped the interior apart and even cut up the box-section fin keel to see if anything had been welded up inside. Eventually, the damaged boat was sold on to a yacht surveyor, John Merrett.

John Merrett set about renovating the boat in order to be used by him and his wife and another couple in the Mediterranean. The collision damage was minimal because the boat was steel and particularly strongly built. A GRP yacht would have been smashed to bits. One of the things John did was find a suitable cast iron keel from the keel foundry in Plymouth to replace the damaged box keel. Another was to rebuild the interior beautifully in white American oak. He also had the engine taken out and stripped down for a thorough renovation.

The other couple then dropped out for financial reasons, and since John already had a large 1890s wooden racer, his pride and joy, to maintain, he decided to sell Kiwi Star. That is when we bought it.

Curiously, after we bought it, Customs and Excise officers kept engaging us in conversations – “Going south, Sir?” “No, north.” “Oh where might that be, Sir?” I mentioned that we might look at Fleetwood. When we did actually go there a couple of weeks later, before we moved the boat at all, the man in the marina asked the name of the boat. When I told him, he said, “Oh. Customs and Excise were here the other day asking if you’d arrived yet!”

In Newquay we had another encounter. We asked why they were so interested in us because surely smugglers would not use a boat that already had a dubious history. “Ah,” said the officer, knowingly, “Double bluff, you know.” So when we were anchored in the Scillies and a Customs cutter came up to us, we said, “We know why you’re here!” “Why would that be, Sir?” When we told him and pointed out the name of the boat, the officer became very interested and friendly. He had been the dog handler who had found the stashed drugs! He said he’d never actually seen the boat before but he’d kept all the cutting from the papers. We asked if he could send us copies. And he was as good as his word. He sent us a complete set of photocopies of all that he had. So when we changed the name of the boat to Alice Fouché, we wrote to him to tell him - as a courtesy, because C&E would have known in any case, as we had to change the Registration.

When, later, we had the fully battened mainsail made, we told the sailmaker the story of the boat. He then said he already knew the story. Before he met his wife, he’d gone out with the daughter of one of the gaoled smugglers!

As for the new name, that’s another story. Alice Fouché was my great grandmother from Haiti, whose photo is in the cabin, and her story is juicier even than that of the boat! But we would need to know you well before we’d tell that story! All I’ll say here is that Alice died aged 18, in Louisiana, during the birth of her second child. We thought that calling the boat after her would give her a second life.

Since we bought the boat in1997, we sailed it from Plymouth to Maryport in Cumbria, where we kept it for six years. From there we have sailed to the Isle of Man, Ireland and up the West Coast of Scotland. More recently, we have been based in the Clyde, again sailing to Ireland and up the West Coast, including going round Cape Wrath, either just as a couple or with family and friends. On the two occasions we have been caught out in Force 7s, once crossing the Irish Sea in the dark, once coming down the North Channel, the boat felt as if it had come into its own, enjoying the weather it was built for.

While we have had the boat we have added the steel and Perspex spray dodger (replacing a fabric one), two full cockpit canopies, cockpit cushions and spray dodgers, the electric winch, the bow thruster, telescopic yacht legs that fit under the forward water tanks, the Raymarine Smart Pilot, the GPS and Navtex, the fridge and the Taylors diesel heater, the pipe cots and have made it possible to lower the table to make an extra double dinette berth. We have replaced the large coachroof Perspex windows. And we have replaced the mainsail (with full battens and lazy-jacks for easier reefing), the life raft, the wind generator, the mains charger and the forward water pump, the carpets and cushion covers as well as other items in the usual maintenance routine. We replaced the forward water heater with a Rinnai instant water heater but it currently needs attention. All the changes have been made to make life easier and more comfortable for extended family cruising.

The old engine has remained amazingly reliable, starting at the first touch of the button after every winter. It can also be hand-started easily, though the need to do so has never arisen. One unusual feature of the boat is that the engine is linked to the prop shaft by a universal joint and a thrust block-cum-stern gland (which has been newly stripped down and the seals replaced). This system meant that when, on one occasion coming out of Milford Haven into a swell, an engine mounting bolt sheared and the engine slumped, everything kept running smoothly because the universal joint accommodated the misalignment. Any direct linkage would have meant disaster.


Nicholas Bielby
February 2018

The story of the yacht Alice Fouché

Originally built in 1975 in Genoa to an Italian design, the yacht, we were told, was first used for cocaine smuggling between Venezuela and Venice. At some point it was sold, in Gibraltar, to an English woman television producer. We believe this was when it became British Registered and when it acquired the name Kiwi Star. We don’t know why it was registered to Hull – maybe a short name was cheaper to get painted on the transom! When I spoke to the sail maker who made her a new genoa, he said she was finding keeping the boat very expensive. She must have sold it on, because she had nothing to do with its subsequent adventures.

It first came to the attention of the British authorities when a tanker in the Channel reported a collision at night with a yacht showing no lights. The Master reported to the Coastguard that the yacht had simply bounced off him and had sailed away and did not respond to his VHF calls. This suspicious behaviour triggered a general call to ports on the South Coast to look out for any yacht coming in with evident collision damage. The yacht was spotted in a marina in Plymouth and sniffer dogs responded positively in the yacht, though no actual drugs were found. The men on board were held on suspicion of drug smuggling.

Meanwhile, a woman at a pub in Cornwall found a parcel that seemed to have been thrown over the hedge into her garden. She handed it in to the police and it was found to contain cannabis resin. So now both the police and Customs were hunting for the drugs.

After his shift, a Customs dog handler was taking his dog for a walk on a beach. When he let the dog off the lead, it ran up to some rocks where it became very excited. Behind the rocks the dog handler found a stack of parcels of cannabis resin, altogether weighing about one and a half tons.

Evidently, after the collision, the smugglers had panicked and made for a Cornish beach to off-load their cargo as fast as possible. They stashed the drugs rather inadequately in the dark and one of the smugglers, a Dutchman, made off, taking one of the parcels with him. Again, seemingly, something panicked him and he threw the parcel away into the pub garden. The Dutchman was never caught but the other men were gaoled.

The boat was impounded for several years by Customs and Excise in the early 1990s. In their search for more drugs, they ripped the interior apart and even cut up the box-section fin keel to see if anything had been welded up inside. Eventually, the damaged boat was sold on to a yacht surveyor, John Merrett.

John Merrett set about renovating the boat in order to be used by him and his wife and another couple in the Mediterranean. The collision damage was minimal because the boat was steel and particularly strongly built. A GRP yacht would have been smashed to bits. One of the things John did was find a suitable cast iron keel from the keel foundry in Plymouth to replace the damaged box keel. Another was to rebuild the interior beautifully in white American oak. He also had the engine taken out and stripped down for a thorough renovation.

The other couple then dropped out for financial reasons, and since John already had a large 1890s wooden racer, his pride and joy, to maintain, he decided to sell Kiwi Star. That is when we bought it.

Curiously, after we bought it, Customs and Excise officers kept engaging us in conversations – “Going south, Sir?” “No, north.” “Oh where might that be, Sir?” I mentioned that we might look at Fleetwood. When we did actually go there a couple of weeks later, before we moved the boat at all, the man in the marina asked the name of the boat. When I told him, he said, “Oh. Customs and Excise were here the other day asking if you’d arrived yet!”

In Newquay we had another encounter. We asked why they were so interested in us because surely smugglers would not use a boat that already had a dubious history. “Ah,” said the officer, knowingly, “Double bluff, you know.” So when we were anchored in the Scillies and a Customs cutter came up to us, we said, “We know why you’re here!” “Why would that be, Sir?” When we told him and pointed out the name of the boat, the officer became very interested and friendly. He had been the dog handler who had found the stashed drugs! He said he’d never actually seen the boat before but he’d kept all the cutting from the papers. We asked if he could send us copies. And he was as good as his word. He sent us a complete set of photocopies of all that he had. So when we changed the name of the boat to Alice Fouché, we wrote to him to tell him - as a courtesy, because C&E would have known in any case, as we had to change the Registration.

When, later, we had the fully battened mainsail made, we told the sailmaker the story of the boat. He then said he already knew the story. Before he met his wife, he’d gone out with the daughter of one of the gaoled smugglers!

As for the new name, that’s another story. Alice Fouché was my great grandmother from Haiti, whose photo is in the cabin, and her story is juicier even than that of the boat! But we would need to know you well before we’d tell that story! All I’ll say here is that Alice died aged 18, in Louisiana, during the birth of her second child. We thought that calling the boat after her would give her a second life.

Since we bought the boat in1997, we sailed it from Plymouth to Maryport in Cumbria, where we kept it for six years. From there we have sailed to the Isle of Man, Ireland and up the West Coast of Scotland. More recently, we have been based in the Clyde, again sailing to Ireland and up the West Coast, including going round Cape Wrath, either just as a couple or with family and friends. On the two occasions we have been caught out in Force 7s, once crossing the Irish Sea in the dark, once coming down the North Channel, the boat felt as if it had come into its own, enjoying the weather it was built for.

While we have had the boat we have added the steel and Perspex spray dodger (replacing a fabric one), two full cockpit canopies, cockpit cushions and spray dodgers, the electric winch, the bow thruster, telescopic yacht legs that fit under the forward water tanks, the Raymarine Smart Pilot, the GPS and Navtex, the fridge and the Taylors diesel heater, the pipe cots and have made it possible to lower the table to make an extra double dinette berth. We have replaced the large coachroof Perspex windows. And we have replaced the mainsail (with full battens and lazy-jacks for easier reefing), the life raft, the wind generator, the mains charger and the forward water pump, the carpets and cushion covers as well as other items in the usual maintenance routine. We replaced the forward water heater with a Rinnai instant water heater but it currently needs attention. All the changes have been made to make life easier and more comfortable for extended family cruising.

The old engine has remained amazingly reliable, starting at the first touch of the button after every winter. It can also be hand-started easily, though the need to do so has never arisen. One unusual feature of the boat is that the engine is linked to the prop shaft by a universal joint and a thrust block-cum-stern gland (which has been newly stripped down and the seals replaced). This system meant that when, on one occasion coming out of Milford Haven into a swell, an engine mounting bolt sheared and the engine slumped, everything kept running smoothly because the universal joint accommodated the misalignment. Any direct linkage would have meant disaster.


Nicholas Bielby
February 2018

The story of the yacht Alice Fouché

Originally built in 1975 in Genoa to an Italian design, the yacht, we were told, was first used for cocaine smuggling between Venezuela and Venice. At some point it was sold, in Gibraltar, to an English woman television producer. We believe this was when it became British Registered and when it acquired the name Kiwi Star. We don’t know why it was registered to Hull – maybe a short name was cheaper to get painted on the transom! When I spoke to the sail maker who made her a new genoa, he said she was finding keeping the boat very expensive. She must have sold it on, because she had nothing to do with its subsequent adventures.

It first came to the attention of the British authorities when a tanker in the Channel reported a collision at night with a yacht showing no lights. The Master reported to the Coastguard that the yacht had simply bounced off him and had sailed away and did not respond to his VHF calls. This suspicious behaviour triggered a general call to ports on the South Coast to look out for any yacht coming in with evident collision damage. The yacht was spotted in a marina in Plymouth and sniffer dogs responded positively in the yacht, though no actual drugs were found. The men on board were held on suspicion of drug smuggling.

Meanwhile, a woman at a pub in Cornwall found a parcel that seemed to have been thrown over the hedge into her garden. She handed it in to the police and it was found to contain cannabis resin. So now both the police and Customs were hunting for the drugs.

After his shift, a Customs dog handler was taking his dog for a walk on a beach. When he let the dog off the lead, it ran up to some rocks where it became very excited. Behind the rocks the dog handler found a stack of parcels of cannabis resin, altogether weighing about one and a half tons.

Evidently, after the collision, the smugglers had panicked and made for a Cornish beach to off-load their cargo as fast as possible. They stashed the drugs rather inadequately in the dark and one of the smugglers, a Dutchman, made off, taking one of the parcels with him. Again, seemingly, something panicked him and he threw the parcel away into the pub garden. The Dutchman was never caught but the other men were gaoled.

The boat was impounded for several years by Customs and Excise in the early 1990s. In their search for more drugs, they ripped the interior apart and even cut up the box-section fin keel to see if anything had been welded up inside. Eventually, the damaged boat was sold on to a yacht surveyor, John Merrett.

John Merrett set about renovating the boat in order to be used by him and his wife and another couple in the Mediterranean. The collision damage was minimal because the boat was steel and particularly strongly built. A GRP yacht would have been smashed to bits. One of the things John did was find a suitable cast iron keel from the keel foundry in Plymouth to replace the damaged box keel. Another was to rebuild the interior beautifully in white American oak. He also had the engine taken out and stripped down for a thorough renovation.

The other couple then dropped out for financial reasons, and since John already had a large 1890s wooden racer, his pride and joy, to maintain, he decided to sell Kiwi Star. That is when we bought it.

Curiously, after we bought it, Customs and Excise officers kept engaging us in conversations – “Going south, Sir?” “No, north.” “Oh where might that be, Sir?” I mentioned that we might look at Fleetwood. When we did actually go there a couple of weeks later, before we moved the boat at all, the man in the marina asked the name of the boat. When I told him, he said, “Oh. Customs and Excise were here the other day asking if you’d arrived yet!”

In Newquay we had another encounter. We asked why they were so interested in us because surely smugglers would not use a boat that already had a dubious history. “Ah,” said the officer, knowingly, “Double bluff, you know.” So when we were anchored in the Scillies and a Customs cutter came up to us, we said, “We know why you’re here!” “Why would that be, Sir?” When we told him and pointed out the name of the boat, the officer became very interested and friendly. He had been the dog handler who had found the stashed drugs! He said he’d never actually seen the boat before but he’d kept all the cutting from the papers. We asked if he could send us copies. And he was as good as his word. He sent us a complete set of photocopies of all that he had. So when we changed the name of the boat to Alice Fouché, we wrote to him to tell him - as a courtesy, because C&E would have known in any case, as we had to change the Registration.

When, later, we had the fully battened mainsail made, we told the sailmaker the story of the boat. He then said he already knew the story. Before he met his wife, he’d gone out with the daughter of one of the gaoled smugglers!

As for the new name, that’s another story. Alice Fouché was my great grandmother from Haiti, whose photo is in the cabin, and her story is juicier even than that of the boat! But we would need to know you well before we’d tell that story! All I’ll say here is that Alice died aged 18, in Louisiana, during the birth of her second child. We thought that calling the boat after her would give her a second life.

Since we bought the boat in1997, we sailed it from Plymouth to Maryport in Cumbria, where we kept it for six years. From there we have sailed to the Isle of Man, Ireland and up the West Coast of Scotland. More recently, we have been based in the Clyde, again sailing to Ireland and up the West Coast, including going round Cape Wrath, either just as a couple or with family and friends. On the two occasions we have been caught out in Force 7s, once crossing the Irish Sea in the dark, once coming down the North Channel, the boat felt as if it had come into its own, enjoying the weather it was built for.

While we have had the boat we have added the steel and Perspex spray dodger (replacing a fabric one), two full cockpit canopies, cockpit cushions and spray dodgers, the electric winch, the bow thruster, telescopic yacht legs that fit under the forward water tanks, the Raymarine Smart Pilot, the GPS and Navtex, the fridge and the Taylors diesel heater, the pipe cots and have made it possible to lower the table to make an extra double dinette berth. We have replaced the large coachroof Perspex windows. And we have replaced the mainsail (with full battens and lazy-jacks for easier reefing), the life raft, the wind generator, the mains charger and the forward water pump, the carpets and cushion covers as well as other items in the usual maintenance routine. We replaced the forward water heater with a Rinnai instant water heater but it currently needs attention. All the changes have been made to make life easier and more comfortable for extended family cruising.

The old engine has remained amazingly reliable, starting at the first touch of the button after every winter. It can also be hand-started easily, though the need to do so has never arisen. One unusual feature of the boat is that the engine is linked to the prop shaft by a universal joint and a thrust block-cum-stern gland (which has been newly stripped down and the seals replaced). This system meant that when, on one occasion coming out of Milford Haven into a swell, an engine mounting bolt sheared and the engine slumped, everything kept running smoothly because the universal joint accommodated the misalignment. Any direct linkage would have meant disaster.


Nicholas Bielby
February 2018



The old engine has remained amazingly reliable, starting at the first touch of the button after every winter. It can also be hand-started easily, though the need to do so has never arisen. One unusual feature of Read more
ManufacturerMengehetti Edmondo
ModelSteelbird 38
Mooring CountryUnited Kingdom
CurrencyGBP
Features
General Equipment
Deck Hatch
Pulpit
Pushpit
Anchor W Chain
Anchorchest
Pressurized Water System
Bow Thruster
Fire Extinguisher
Radio
Cushion Cover Textile
Cushion Cover Leather
Dinghy
Life Raft
Antifouling
Additional Extras
Electronic Equipment
Shore Supply
Battery
Battery Charger
Main Circuit Breaker
Bow Anchor Capstan
Bilge Pump
Heating
Fire Extinguisher System
Bow Propeller
Engine Equipment
Bow Thruster
Galley Equipment
Gas Cooker
Oven
Sink
Refrigerator
Navigation Equipment
Autopilot
Depth Sounder
GPS
Compass W Repeater
Vhf Radio
Hand Radio
Ssb Single Side Band
Rig Sails Equipment
Selftacking Jib
Furlingjib System
Aluminium Boom
WC Bathroom
Toilet Manual
Washbasin
Seperate Bathroom
Interior Cabin Layout
Aft Cabin
Foreship Cabin
Saloon
Pilothouse
Helm Interior
Helm Exterior
Cover Type
Cockpit Cover
Sprayhood
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