The boats
Current boats

There was frequently difficulty in balancing the various skilled trades and to combat this the group was always on the lookout for alternative products. Some that come to mind are the 16ft Worksled, an attempt to break into the mass-production dory market, the Out-of -Town fishing punt, the brainchild of TV presenter Jack Hargreaves; the 'authentic' sea-chest, bos'un's chairs and the Romany Caravan. The enduring alternative product however was the case making division which offered an instant service to a local radar manufacturer who always demanded cases 'today' to ship spares world wide but sadly usually took at least three months to pay the bill. The GRP Company meanwhile had developed a unique business in the production of glass fibre roof panels for airport control buildings etc.

Specific enquiries spawned larger hulls and a 50ft design was developed in response to an enquiry from the Bahrain Coastguard. This was 'stretched' to 56ft (17m) to meet a requirement by the Sri Lanka Navy for whom five craft were built in 1976/7. Subsequently many 17m craft were built, including some for Far Eastern clients.

In 1970 the company was commissioned to build the plug and complete the first Fisher 30 for Freeward Marine launching what turned out to be a major player in the marine leisure field.

Also in 1970 the Company won a design and build contract from the MOD for a replacement 24ft ship's motorboat. After a long and at times painful gestation period this design was adopted by the MOD in 1975 and thereafter was known in the service as 'a Cheverton'. In addition to building to this design for MOD(N) similar craft were also built for overseas navies using ex-RN ships.

Shortly after this exercise the MOD started to look at existing production boats to fulfil their requirements and this resulted in a version of the 27ft (8.20m) being adopted as the 'standard' MOD Ferry Boat for RN and RAF duties. The 6m Champ, with a few minor modifications, was also adopted and dozens were built as rescue/training launches for the UK Sea Cadet Force.

The early 1970s onwards saw a boom in overseas orders for commercial and para-military craft and to meet the volume production was relocated to Whitegates Yard in Cowes to premises previously occupied by R & W Clark and the adjacent Sunbeam Yard, the birthplace of many small sailing craft built by the Williams family, father and son.

In 1973 the Loadmaster range of steel ramped landing craft was introduced, initially at 45' (13m), a range of variants was produced including 60' (18.20m), 23m and finally 33m.

1977 was a busy year for Cheverton Industrial and Marine Services for, in addition to being appointed the main contractor for a new coastguard base in Bahrain, Flotta Marine Services a joint venture company formed in 1975 in the Orkneys to operate and maintain a fleet of five service craft built by the company for Occidental of Britain Inc. for use in Scapa Flow, came on full stream. Simultaneously a training school had been established in Cowes to provide nautical instruction to members of developing coastguard and marine police forces using Cheverton built craft.
Following subsequent company name changes this department became known as FBM Special Projects Division.

In 1978 the Company signed a licence agreement to build the Murray Cormack designed North range of GRP hulls which were available at 40ft, 45ft, 58ft and 65ft lengths.

By 1978 the combined design, marketing and support staff had outgrown the tiny Bath Rd office and a move was made to larger premises on the ground floor of what used to be The Marine Hotel, now a prestigious block of luxury apartments on Cowes Parade.

In March 1979 the Company's Whitegates Yard and the Newport GRP factory received formal approval from the MOD Procurement Executive as being suitable for the construction and repair of GRP craft up to 56ft in length and 80ft in steel. Both these facilities had previously been approved by Lloyds Register of Shipping.

At about this time an agreement was reached with local boat builders Horne Brothers to market their range of trihedral-hulled GRP craft produced in their yard at Wootton for the overseas commercial and para-military markets under the name 'Triton'. A fair number of craft were sold but sales did not perhaps achieve their full potential. A similar marketing arrangement continued for other local yards including Mustang Marine Ltd. and Reliance Workboats.

In 1983 the Group secured two significant orders; one for a fleet of pilot boats and service craft for the Kenya Ports Authority and another for landing craft, tugs and service craft for the Kuwait Navy. These orders together with two Fishery Protection vessels for the Department of Agriculture & Fisheries for Scotland represented a massive workload for Chevertons and attracted the attention of cash-rich Fairey Allday Marine who had previously acquired East Cowes based Groves & Guttridge (established in 1899) and they purchased the Cheverton group in March 1983.

Faireys closed their Hamble and East Cowes yards and, with Chevertons, moved into larger premises at Cowes Shipyard with an overall area of 28,000 sq. m with an undercover production area of over 8,050 sq. m. and alongside deep water fitting out berths. This facility had previously been occupied by shipbuilder J S Whites and was adjacent to the old Whitegates Yard which was retained. The combined staff was also relocated in offices at Cowes Shipyard.

The Group accounts for the year ending 31st December 1983 showed a modest profit on a total turnover of £11.6million.

The new group traded under their original company names for a while before combining as Fairey Marine Ltd.

The amalgamation with Groves & Guttridge brought with it their long established RNLI business of new build and refits which provided a steady base load of work. Fairey Allday Marine brought their patrol boat range comprising 20m Tracker, 13m Sword and 9m Spear designs and the Trojan aluminium landing craft offered in various lengths from 10m to 14m. The most significant FAM product was the famous 27ft (8.20m) Combat Support Boat (known as the Bridge Erection Boat or BEB in the US) as an ongoing project. By 1995 well over 1,000 of these versatile craft had been built for various operators including the British Army, US Army, US Marine Corps, Greek and Turkish armies with an on-going licence build contract with the Government of South Korea. These sales also generated substantial spares and upgrade contracts for the Group.

The business continued marketing and building the individual company's existing designs which were all built at Cowes Shipyard.

In 1985 the Company achieved its ambition of breaking into the larger patrol boat market and three steel hulled 33m Protector patrol boats were built for the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and delivered the following year. Three 26m aluminium Protectors were ordered by HM Customs & Excise in 1987 (with a fourth licensed to Rosyth Shipyard in 1992). HRH The Princess of Wales, named the first of class 'Vigilant' at a ceremony at the yard on 6th December 1988. Finally two 33m aluminium Protectors were delivered to the UAE Coastguard in 1999.

In 1986 the company was acquired by the international Marinteknik Group with building yards in Sweden and Singapore and a fast ferry operating business in Hong Kong. The company name was changed on 31st March 1987 to Fairey Marinteknik (UK) Ltd.

In April 1987 the Group acquired the military business and Intellectual Property Rights of defunct East Coast shipbuilder Brooke Marine Ltd (established in 1874) and in late 1988 the FBM Group comprised FBM Marine Holdings Ltd, with Head Offices in Hong Kong, Marinteknik Verstads AD based in Sweden, FBM Marinteknik (S) Pte Ld with a shipyard in Singapore, FBM Marine Ltd, Brooke Marine Shipbuilders Ltd and Marindesign International Ltd all located at Cowes Shipyard. On 26th August 1988 the name was changed again from Fairey Marinteknik (UK) Ltd back to the simpler FBM Marine Ltd.

The new owners were established builders and operators of aluminium fast ferries and the company's marketing thrust was directed into this field with the result that two Marinteknik designed 41m - 30 knot monohull craft were built for Italy in 1988 / 9.

Two ongoing Fairey Marine design projects for the US Navy were the Diving Platform and the Elevated Causeway System (ELCAS). Both used the Mexecell Modular Logistics construction system. The design work was carried out at Cowes Shipyard and construction in the case of the Diving Platform was carried out by Marinette Marine in Wisconsin whilst American Coastal Industries were responsible for the manufacture and distribution of the Mexecell system.

1989 also saw the construction of the first 37m SWATH (small water plane area twin hull) passenger craft for the government of Madeira. This 400-seat ferry was delivered in 1990.
Also in 1989 the Company secured an order from Red Funnel for the design and build of the first two 30m RedJets (with a tight low wash clause in the contract) which revolutionised the reliability of the Southampton - Cowes fast passenger service.

Further 23m low-wash catamaran passenger ferries and a series of 15m 'Executive' launches were built for use on the Thames with two more of the latter for German owners.

A 34m Submarine Support Vessel using the RedJet hull form was built for the MOD in 1992 and two 23m SWATH Crew Change vessels were delivered to the same owner for use by Flag Officer Sea Training in Plymouth in 1997.

Building on earlier licensing experience in many overseas territories, including USA, S Korea and Brazil, a rationalised version of the Protector was licensed for local build to Asmar in Chile who produced at least 18 craft for DGTM, the National Coastguard.

By this time a separate Workboat Division was in operation at Cowes to handle the traditional small-craft business.

In 1991 the Hong Kong owners of the Marinteknik Group sold the business to another Hong Kong ferry operator, the Hong Kong Parkview Group, itself a subsidiary of the Hwang family-owned Chyau Fwu Group also based in Hong Kong who commissioned a fleet of five, subsequently increased to eight, advanced 45m Tricat catamaran ferries powered by gas turbine/water jet propulsion to give speeds in excess of 45 knots. The first, Universal 2001, entered service on the Hong Kong to Macau route in early 1995 following a naming ceremony in Cowes performed by HRH The Princess Royal.

The next significant order was for eight 20 knot Solent Class ferries for Portuguese company Transtejo for operation as commuter transport on the River Tagus.. Four were built in Cowes with a further four assembled in Portugal The first was delivered from Cowes on her own bottom in the autumn of 1995.

In 1996 the Group included several Joint Venture partners, among them were FBM Aboitiz Marine Inc, based in the Phillipines and Pequot FBM Marine LLC based in Connecticut, USA.

Licensing and ferry building continued and two further large ferries were delivered to Greek owners in June 1998 and July 1999.

Orders for ferries were few and far between after 1999 and following the delivery of the two UAE Protectors in late 1999 the owners sold the business, yard and a part completed Tricat ferry to Babcock International Ltd. who, after changing the name yet again to FBM Babcock Marine, sold the Cowes yard and effectively closed the business down in 2000.

The last delivery from the Yard on Saturday 30th September 2000 was Yd. No 1456, a Severn Class lifeboat destined for Yarmouth. This was the 179th lifeboat delivered to the R N L I by the Group since 1931. Construction commenced on four more but a fire at Clarence Yard destroyed one in 1937 and three more were 'blitzed' during the war.

A marketing and design office, based briefly in Southampton and subsequently at Newport, continued with design work including upgrades for the US BEB/CSBs, consultancy and designs for FBM Aboitz in the Philippines until that yard was 'mothballed' in 2008 but that's another story.

David Cheverton was awarded an OBE in 1984 for Services to Export and in April 1993 was appointed High Sheriff for the Isle of Wight and a Deputy Lieutenant of the county in 1998.
He retired from the FBM Group in 1985.

The company name of Cheverton Workboats together with some of the smaller mould tools were transferred to a former employee in Scotland and a few craft were moulded there. The larger mould tools were destroyed apart from the 56ft (17m) hull mould, which was converted into a motor cruiser by a local hotelier.

And so ended nearly fifty years of the maritime history of Cowes.

In 2010 the Cowes Shipyard site was occupied by South Boats, employing many of the craftsmen who previously worked for Chevertons and Faireys building sophisticated aluminium Wind Farm Support Vessels and GRP fishing boats and passing down the traditional boat building skills for which Cowes has been famous for many years.

Patrick Methold - Employee from 1957 to 2002.

Issue 2 - 27th September 2010.dd,l

Initially the Workboat range was based on existing ship's lifeboat hulls moulded by Viking Marine based at Gosport. The forerunners of the range, the 16ft and 18ft 'C' boats were marketed as the Champ. The 16ft was dropped early on as its production costs were close to the 18ft version.

In recognition of the new products, David Cheverton (Sales) Ltd, the marketing and contracting arm of the Group, was renamed Cheverton Workboats Ltd., the name that was to stick until the Fairey buyout in 1983.

Larger designs marketed as the 'Coaster' range initially used the 33ft and 38ft cruise-liner tender hulls as a basis. The relationship with Viking Marine continued and that company moulded most of the Group's hulls until 1975 when a new GRP facility was opened at Newport and received Lloyds approval in September of that year.

Market opportunities were identified for intermediate sizes which resulted in the introduction of a 27ft hull (later to become the 8.20) with various wheelhouse/deck options, a 23ft hull in 1972 and a 40ft hull, later known as the 1200, offered with a straight sheer of raised forward topsides. The 8.20 and 12.00 were offered with single or twin-screw installations.

The Titan, a 21ft GRP hull designed specifically to be powered by a White-Gill water jet with an eye on the dinghy safety-boat market was costly to produce and few orders were received but the hull was used in many subsequent designs including a fishing launch for HM King Hussein of Jordan based at Aqaba.

In 1966, in conjunction with designer 'Sonny' Levi and moulders Viking Marine, the company produced a Levi designed deep-vee 27ft powerboat marketed as 'Corsair'. The mould was taken off Bert Shead's 'Inertia, a contender in the Cowes-Torquay power boat race, and a number of craft were built with various power installations. The design has recently been revived by Sonny's son Martin and is marketed as the Levi Corsair 27.
Click for Link to current Levi Corsair website.