Due to her age, we actually know rather little about Teka. There is a great deal which we put down to trust. We ‘know’ it because we have been told it. A great deal has been told to us by people whom we trust, and are in a position to know, but still there are a number of mysteries. Of course, there are also a number of absolutes, which are pretty much beyond doubt.
She is a gaff-rigged ketch. The ‘gaff’ bit refers to her sails. When fully raised they are rhomboid, as opposed to triangular as with a Bermuda rig, or square like a Latine or, you guessed it, a square rig. The sails have a boom keeping their shape at the bottom, like a Bermuda, as well as one at the top, like the older styles. This is beautiful, but a bit of a bugger to raise without winches. Guess what we don’t have. Winches. Being a ketch refers to the size and position of the masts. There are two, with the aft mast being the smaller of the two. Unlike a yawl, the aft mast is in front of the cockpit. Teka is also a Colin Archer. Sort of. You’ll have to wait for a later post for more on that.
We think we know that she was built at the Christiansen boatyard, in Norway, in 1954. Being as neither of us were there, however, it’s a little hard to know for certain. The survey she came with says that. A survey from 1999, however, while corroborating the place where she was built, says that she is “believed to have been built […] in the late 1930s”. Whilst there is a touch of glamour in the possibility of adding twenty years to her age, the precision of the 1954 date lends itself to being interpreted as accurate. The boatyard have attempted to collate information on their boats, but it is patchy at best. I have attempted to contact them, so watch this space.
The most exciting stuff we have was collected by a previous owner in the early 2000s. They managed to get hold of a copy of a record of ownership. This document, dated December 12th 1962, makes mention of K. Christensen & Co. Babtyggeri, Risor, Norway as the builder, and that the first registration of Teka was on 5th May 1954. Interestingly, the address of the owner indicates that she originally lived in California. Long Beach, no less! The official number card, and designation of home port letter from the same period all agree.
We also have a bill of sale from earlier that year. Or at least, we think so. It’s dated the 8th June 196squiggle. Which is a little odd for an official document. The squiggle is relatively ‘2’ shaped, so we are going with that. The buyers name matches the owner in the registration documents, so it’s unlikely to be later that decade. The squiggle isn’t the only thing which is a bit strange, though. The cost of Teka is included. $10. Now, I appreciate that inflation is a thing, but even so, that only equates to $80.48, according to several websites. That’s not a lot of money for a relatively new boat (she was eight years old at this point) “with all her sails, tackle and gear.” Why was she sold so cheap? Was she damaged? Was she used to pay off a gambling debt? Was she sold between good friends? Why is the date a mess? Annoyingly, I don’t know if we will ever know.
Then… there is nothing. For 35 years. Not a single peep. We assume that she stayed in the USA for this time, however, as our next documents are a bill of sale and an import docket. They mention Teka having been purchased in 1993, and imported from the USA to Plymouth in the summer of 1997. Weirdly, however, we again have an, apparently, tiny cost. “One dollar & other valuable considerations”. Again, with all gear. I really hope that the valuable considerations were valuable. Otherwise, I might begin to worry. From then onwards, we have really detailed information, if a little dry. Information on work done, receipts, and so forth. Fantastically detailed, and very helpful, but not quite as exciting as the older stuff.
The measurements in her descriptions seem to fluctuate a little bit too. Not a huge amount – a few centimetres here and there. Although some might be down to rounding up. So, she is about 42 foot long on deck, with a 6’6” draft (this number never seems to change, which is good and very, very important). She is 13’6” across (probably). She has one, long keel, and is massively built. There are plenty of mysteries, but at the very least Teka is seaworthy as hell.
We have had a response from the boatyard, and think we have found her listing! This is incredibly exciting. She is listed under 1953. This is when the contract was written, and apparently also when she was launched. December 1st 1953. We know her birthday! It has her length, and that she went to California. I think this means she was commissioned. It is interesting to note that it has her down as a fishing boat. Did she start life as a working boat? In some ways she feels like she could have done, and yet there is a distinct lack of anywhere to put the fish. Perhaps it was pleasure fishing, rather than commercial? We think that, at some point, she spent some time as a diving charter boat, so I am imagining something like that, but staying above the surface more.
We don’t have any information mentioning a Don Pettersen, though, or Owens & Co. Who are/were they? I think that will have to be the next thing to find out!
I have had another look over the various bits of documentation that we have, and made a chronological list of everything we know.
1st December 1953: Teka undergoes sea trials off the coast of Norway, having been built by K. Christensen, Risor. She is described as a 42 foot “fiskebat” (‘fishing boat’). She had been ordered by Owens & Co., California, either by or for a Don Pettersen.
8 June 1962: Bill of sale of Teka for $10, from Rod Cameron to John Annan (both in California). – She was assigned number CF 6257 AT.
12 December 1962: Record of ownership of undocumented vessel “Teka” which says she was owned by Donald Thomas in California since 5th May 1954
17 December 1962: Designation of Home Port of Vessel (San Diego, California)
10 January 1963: Official customs card
13 August 1993: Bill of sale for $1 and other valuable considerations (so I think this was probably a boat swap), from Mr and Mrs Talbot (Maine, USA) and Ian Gibson (Middlesex, UK)
25 June 1997: Import of Teka from USA to Plymouth. This one says that her USA registration was 290186 and was changed to SSR6195