Alfred Payne 1823 - 1878
Mermaid was designed and built in 1860 as a gaff-cutter yacht by Alfred Payne, in the Crabniton district of Southampton, on the River Itchen. Arthur E. Payne is, perhaps, better known as a pioneer of yacht design, but his father, Alfred, along with Dan Hatcher laid the foundations for modern yacht design. Alfred Payne, the son of boat builder Peter Henry Payne, had been in partnership with Dan Hatcher, another formidable name in the building of yachts and small workboats. Their yard was in Crabniton, a name no longer used, which was situated in the Northam area. After the partnership was dissolved they set up in adjoining yards on the same site. Payne’s yard was at No.1 Belvidere Road, whilst Dan Hatcher was at No.3, where he was also the landlord of the Yacht Tavern. This was recently demolished but our friend Mark did use to drink there. Later Payne moved up river to Belvidere following a fire at his yard.
Dan Hatcher has the reputation of being the first to use external ballast. This may or may not be true, but many of his yachts owed their success in racing to the lead under the keel. Dixon Kemp states that external ballast was introduced after movable ballast, in the form of bags of lead shot, was prohibited for racing in 1856. Clearly, Payne was also using external ballast in these early days, as Mermaid has a recess in the keel and wrought iron keel bolts. This ballast has now been replaced with 1550 kilos of lead.
Sadly that ballast is now missing, but after 140 years it’s a wonder that Mermaid has survived and has been in almost continual service. Mermaid has undergone a major refit in Derby, but, surprisingly, more than 90 of her original pitch pine planking was still in serviceable condition. This owes much to the quality of the original build and the use of bronze fastenings. Payne’s work has been said to almost approach the cabinet making art and one skipper remarked of a yacht about to be launched that “it seemed a pity to put such a lovely piece of work in the water”.
Sorceress, like Mermaid, was built by Payne’s yard, the design being the work of Alfred’s son Arthur, whose name is, perhaps, better known. Sorceress has been restored by Richard Grimble and we were lucky enough to be invited on board when she was in Dover in the summer of 1999.