An Invited Friend of The Harrison Butler Association
Built to an Alan Buchanan design in 1963

Hephzibah Afloat


Hephzibah : A Succession of Extraordrinary Owners
Hephzibah was built for Sir Maurice Laing a one of fifteen contenders for the UK Admiral's Cup team in 1965. Alas, in the selection trials she wasn't sailed quite fast enough. The three boats selected were Noryema IV, Firebrand and Quiver IV and with them the UK went on to win the 1965 cup. Sir Maurice, who's building company constructed a long section of the M1 motorway, continued to be an enthusiastic offshore racer, most notably in his yacht Loujane in the 1970s. He particularly enjoyed competing against Morning Cloud captained by Edward Heath (UK Prime Minister). He was a frequent competitor in the Fastnet race and sat on the committee of inquiry into the catastrophe on the 1979 race in which 24 yachts and 15 lives were lost.

Maurice Laing
Sir Maurice Laing

Hephzibah's second owner was David Balme, a Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy who lead a bording party that captured the German U-Boat U-110 in 1941. She had been abandoned mid-Atlantic following a military engagement with UK forces. He realised that a strange typewriter onboard was some sort of coding machine, and so an Enigma cipher device was aquired along with the two months worth of daily settings. This was key in enabling Alan Turing and his team at Bletchley Park to break the German naval “Hydra” code. From the U-110, David brought back some souvenirs; two swastika-stamped Zeiss binoculars and the cap of Fritz-Julius Lemp, the U-110's Captain. These were later used aboard Hephzibah. The fictional USA war film U-571 is very loosely based on the British capture of U-110 and her Enigma machine.

David Balme leading the boarding party across to U-110

David Balme
Lt Cdr David Balme

Malcolm Robson became Hephzibah's third owner. He made Sark, one of the Channel Islands, her home port and wrote his most respected pilot books aboard. He cruised her to the Baltic, Iceland and around the UK.

Malcolm Robson's Channel Islands Pilot
Malcolm Robson's Channel Islands Pilot published in 1990

The boat's history now becomes a little more vague but Hephzibar is known to have been taken back to Priors, her original builders, for much of the underwater planking to be replaced, c2000. This new planking was then given several coats of epoxy resin in preparation for a warm waters cruise. Now for sale for £28,000 (June 2017) it is known her present owner has cruised her from the UK to Gibraltar and also to the Batlic.

Hephzibah Hull Form
Hephzibah as she is in 2017

Hephzibah Statistics
Built : 1963 by RJ Prior & Son Ltd in Burnham-on-Crouch, England
LOA : 43' 0"
LWL : 30' 0"
Beam : 11' 1"
Draught : 6' 9"
Displacement : 18 tons TM
Lloyd's Register : N° 304593

Hephzibah Custodians & Home Ports 
JM & JO Robson (?-1983-1985-?) Sark, Chanel Islands
Malcolm Robson & Mrs Merrill Lyle (1974-1980-?) Sark, Channel Islands
Lt Cdr DE Balme DSC RN ret (1966-1973) Bursledon, England
Sir J Maurice Laing (1963-1965) Burnham-on-Crouch

Hephzibah Links
Hephzibah For Sale with Wooden Ships (June 2017)
Lt Cdr DE Balme obituary (Telegraph, 3rd January 2016)

Page last updated : June 2017


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