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Tom Howard’s labour of love restoring the Margaret Lee
Written by Administrator    Saturday, 03 August 2013 16:37    PDF Print E-mail
Tom Howard's labour of love restoring the Margaret Lee In the first quarter of the last century a brilliant engineer from England called Hubert Scott-Paine founded a Company named Supermarine. This Company designed and built high performance aircraft culminating in the legendary Spitfire of WW2 fame. By the end of the 1920s Scott-Paine wanted a change so he sold his shares in Supermarine for what was described as a "considerable sum" and invested in a new venture – the British Powerboat Company – to develop his passion for high speed watercraft. An extract from the BPC website explains:

"Mr. Hubert Scott-Paine discovered how to build a craft which in contrast to the ordinary ship would travel over the surface of the water instead of forcing its way through it. This type of craft attained high speed with commercially usable horse power and although it was a planing craft, it had neither the disadvantages of lack of manoeuverability or seaworthiness associated with stepped hydroplanes, nor the lack of directional stability and longitudinal stability associated with other types of planing craft. This discovery and the development of suitable British High-Speed light-weight
Tom Howard's labour of love restoring the Margaret Lee machinery placed Britain in the forefront of World development of high speed craft and armed the British Navy with a type of Motor Torpedo Boat superior to any other in seaworthiness and cruising endurance, combined with speed."

He and his company designed a number of "milestone" craft notably the first boat to exceed 100 miles per hour and the Bluebird series of World Water Speed Record holders. As an aside, he had a "test pilot" in those early years – another speed junky called T. E. Lawrence – better known as Lawrence of Arabia – who helped Scott- Paine until his untimely death caused by a high speed crash on his motorbike in 1935. Tom Howard's labour of love restoring the Margaret Lee Scott-Paine designed and built a range of Military vessels that were given the category of High Speed Launches (HSLs) ranging from 50 ft upwards and powered by a variety of engines whose horsepower could attain the speed required of the boat's function. HSLs performed numerous tasks in WW2, the most notable being MTB's (Motor Torpedo Boats, MTG's (Motor Gun Boats and ASRL's (Air Sea Rescue Launches). This design continued development and construction at a number of Shipyards around the UK and the British Empire to satisfy the military. Information gathered from the British Military Powereboat Trust leads us to believe that our Yacht was 1198 – launched in Singapore in 1953.
1198 served until 1970 when she was decommissioned and renamed Margaret Lee. She was subsequently sold to a Phuket -based offshore Tin Mining Company owned by Mom Tri Devakul where she initially operated as a crew boat for the miners but was later transferred to Le Meridien Hotel – one of Mom Tri's many architectural and property development projects where she performed as the Hotel's Hospitality Yacht until 2011.

Sea-Phuket acquired Margaret Lee while she was languishing in a Phuket Boatyard in need of considerable repair, fixed the hull sufficiently to float and tow her to a more convenient workplace for a 12 month total rebuild.

The Rebuilding of Margaret Lee now known as Marie G
Initial condition:

The yacht was "bottomless" at the stern when acquired. Most of the frames needed replacing along with the huge timber engine bearers. In the 1970s the hull had been sheathed in Polyester and Chopstrand Fibreglass Mat which was scarcely attached to the timber hull.
Tom Howard's labour of love restoring the Margaret Lee
The engines were old with only one (of the now 2 – originally 3) almost working and were underpowered for the hull design. Above decks she maintained her basic original lines with the addition of an upper enclosed deck exceeding the wheelhouse roof level. Additional unwanted guests, in the form of Termites, had chosen to live in and eat the superstructure only baulking at the double layer of Burmese Teak that still formed the majority of the hull.

This was not the "userfriendly" layout we were seeking to achieve which was needed to carry up to 20 guests in comfort with easy access to the amenities needed to make the classic cruising experience wholesome and fun.

From the bow heading aft, her new configuration is:

Foredeck – a large open area to be utilized by the sun seekers among the guests – the coach roof has a full size mattress for lounging.

The Work - "Repair/Replace and then Improve" being the motto so:

  • 90% of the frames were replaced.
  • 25% of the hull was replaced and the balance checked and fixed, as necessary. The hull was then re-sheathed in modern West System Epoxy and Glassfibre.
  • The "coffin" - like structure on the aft deck was removed and new decking fitted on the entire boat. A "day" toilet and urinal and a small deck galley was created in the area.
  • The raised enclosed deck was removed and replaced with an open "flying" deck.
  • All new timber was treated with coats of epoxy and anti-termite paint on installation.
  • An air-conditioned cabin with 1 x double and 2 single berths was designed and built in the bow section along with a new toilet and shower.
  • Engines, generator and air-con units were removed along with all old wiring. Two new engines of double the HP of the originals and an ultra quiet generator and air-con were installed and the yacht was completely rewired.
  • The old "rod" steering system was replaced with state of the art hydraulics.
  • A lightweight foam awning/roof was designed and installed over the (now large) open aft deck to carry the yacht's tender and a smaller awning was installed above the "Flydeck" with 2 solar panels mounted on top.
  • A mast with a crane boom was installed as the mechanism for lifting the tender.
Tom Howard's labour of love restoring the Margaret Lee


Tom Howard from Sea-Phuket Dot Com states:

"Marie G has exceeded my expectations in terms of appearance, comfort and useability. With some fine tuning, she will also exceed my initial performance estimates. Finally she has, with no surprises here, vastly exceeded my early budget assumptions but, as she is now a true gentleman's yacht of the 1920's and 30's style, I have no doubt in her ability to repay the investment as a unique addition to the charter yacht fleet here in Phuket"


The following individuals and organizations took a keen interest in the project in both a consultative and hands on way and should not go without mention:

  • Terry Holtham from the WSS Small Craft Group who produced the report from his initial investigations into 1198 (available on request).
  • Phil Simons and Richard Hellyer from the British Military Powerboat Trust for correcting many of the myths that surrounded the yacht.
  • Mark Horwood from Latitude 8 Asia who advised on the timberwork and the use of modern composites.
  • ATL Composites – the providers of consultancy and training in the use of the high technology materials.
  • Peter Wanner on the design and installation of the electrical and plumbing systems.
  • Thawatchai Engineering for the mechanical engineering elements.
  • Jeroen Deknatel of Waterline Marine Surveyors who kept us on the straight and narrow regarding International Marine Standards.
  • The multitude of artisans who worked on the yacht in often testing conditions.
And finally but most significantly:
  • Captain Bao assisted by Arkom and Sut who worked tirelessly for over a year controlling the whole process while, incidentally, running Marie G's older sister – the 100 -year -old schooner Seraph.