Her Builder, Designer & Ownership

Her Builder, Designer & Ownership

Was Eveline designed by John Alden?

According to Lloyd’s Register of Shipping 1911-12, then the definitive register for pleasure yachts and clubs worldwide, she was built and registered in Shanghai in 1911 as Ethel L in the ownership of  Fitzroy Lloyd, Custom House, Shanghai as a Cutter designed by John Alden, built by Kwang Fook Cheong with sails by Yew Chang  covering an area of 1,400sqft. No engine was indicated as of then.

Photos of yachts of that era in Shanghai feature tall (often gaff) mainmasts with shortish booms often to allow for a yawl rig at the stern. It is probable that Eveline was rigged in the same way as no media comment indicated any material originality.

Her builder, Kwang Fook Cheong, was then a well known local shipwright and carpenter listed in 1928’s Comacrib directory of businesses and whose business only closed down in the 1950s. Its last office was still standing when recently visited by Eveline’s current owner. It was founded in 1892 and operated from various locations, including at Ye He and Jian Nan Shipyard, then China’s largest. They worked in both wood and metal building and repairing vessels up to 200 tons, though they were known to have built vessels up to 2671 tons. Nothing has been traced on the sailmaker.

John Alden, the celebrated US yacht designer from Boston, Massachusetts, had then only recently opened his own design office (1909) after leaving the employ of B.B. Crowninshield, another yacht designer.  From studies of Alden’s designs of the period it is arguable that Eveline could have been from an Alden design but after consultation with the Alden Archives there is no evidence of this particular design nor of Alden being commissioned to design a yacht for a Shanghai based client and the industry knows well that designs were often plagiarized. A reference in a North China Herald race report in 1911 describes her design as having been modeled on the lines of a Gloucester Fisherman, a type of very seaworthy fishing boats adapted in the late 19th century for racing, Gloucester being a fishing and sailing port in Massachusetts where Alden was based .

Attached is a typical Alden design of that era (Design No.13). Shorten the boom ad increase the mast height (i.e. per Shanghai style of that era) to allow for a yawl rig and note the similar bow, stern and rudder configuration to that of Eveline in the photo here at her 1987 restoration relaunch.

This is a tantalizing question. If it can be shown that ‘Eveline’ was designed by John Alden, this would be the oldest extant yacht by him. This fact cannot be ruled out as it is perfectly possible that Fitzroy Lloyd could have heard of Alden and asked for a design from him. Sadly, the Lloyd’s Register’s surveyor in Shanghai at the time never sent the plans back to Lloyd’s in UK as he was officially obliged to and Lloyd’s Register’s archives (now at UK’s National Maritime Museum) confirm they in fact never ever received a yacht plan from the Shanghai surveyor so this line of research is a dead end.

It seems that Fitzroy named the yacht “Ethel L” after his wife Rose Ethel Lloyd and could not use the name Ethel as that was already in use on another local yacht owned by a Club member.

 

Ethel  L Becomes ‘Eveline’

When did ‘Ethel L’ become ‘Eveline’? How she acquired the name Eveline remains a mystery. She appears in Lloyd’s Register in 1924 and 1928 with the name Eveline in the ownership of her second recorded owner, O Bersani of 486 Rue Lafayette, Shanghai. By now she is described as an auxiliary yawl with a Magnet Motor 4 cylinder petrol engine, still designed by John Alden but her sail area reduced to 1,000 sq ft. Maybe she was proving just too much to handle with that larger sail area as indicated in North China Herald stories on her racing achievements in that section of this website.

In 1929 Eveline’s ownership changed again in Lloyd’s Register, now owned by Capt H.E. Middleton M.B.E. with reference to her having been also previously named “Stella T”. Her other details remain the same and this time Middleton registers the green and white 4 panel flag at Lloyd’s as an identifying mark, it being then an accepted way to identify a yacht by looking at her personal flag and checking your on board copy of Lloyd’s  Register. This registration of ownership seemingly continues with Lloyd’s in 1948 listing Eveline as being still in the same Middleton ownership with a Shanghai address c/o Registrar of Shipping, H.B.M. Consulate-General, 33 The Bund, Shanghai thus suggesting an absent ownership of some sort. Thereafter Eveline is never listed again at Lloyd’s.

 

How did Eveline leave Shanghai? The question remains

So where was Middleton and when and how had Eveline left Shanghai before World War 2 ? Shanghai’s “North China Herald” newspaper reported the departure of several yachts in the 1930s, usually to Manila, but no mention of ‘Eveline’. More research needs to be done to answer this tantalizing question.