Harrison Butler Z4 Tonner

Today a post about the other boat, which I own together with Jochen, a mate of mine. It is a lovely example of a Harrison Butler Z4 Tonner built in 1938. I was asked by the Harrison Butler Association to write a little article about the boat. They edited quiet a bit, so I republish it here.

Zebedee’s Story

Zebedee, a Harrison Butler Z4 Tonner Build Number 16, was bought by us in April 2011 from Mr. Desmond McKendry from Islandmagee in Northern Ireland. We is my mate Jochen Brose and myself Thomas Loos, two German ex-pats living near Lough Derg in Ireland.
The viewing process was an adventure in itself. We drove to the little harbour of Ballyumford, Co. Antrim. Arriving there we found the harbour invaded by about 50 officials ranging from police over army to ambulance and a mighty crane. We were told that we can’t enter the harbour as they were investigating suspicious activity. Only by promising them, that we will only look at the boat we came for, were we allowed inside.
When Desmond arrived we had already fallen in love with the boat and after some poking around a deal was struck. In the meantime a car was pulled out of the basin, still with someone inside. While driving home to the relative safety of the Republic a car caught fire in front of us on the motorway in Belfast. Rough place that is.

 Johanna + Paul 308

We arranged to have the boat delivered and two weeks later a low loader arrived in Mountshannon with Zebedee on its back. She was craned into the harbour and to our relief was totally watertight despite having been on hard standing for a couple of years. As the engine, a rather ancient Brit Imp 5 hp side valve engine, wouldn’t start we arrange for a tow to our nearby mooring. The tug missed the centre of the narrow entrance and there is a picture of me just in underpants in the water pushing Zebedee of the rock next to the entrance.

Johanna + Paul 345

We rig the boat up a few days later and itch for some decent weather for our first sailing trial. Also the engine was rebuild, we knew there were problems with it, and we never managed to get it started, other then on a bench starting here with a power drill. So we have to wait for the right wind to be able to sail in and out of the harbour. The day comes and of we go. What is a nice force 3 (as foretasted) developed into a force 8 within half an hour. But after some initial excitement and some “technical problem” we managed to reef here right down and get the storm jib up. And what a nice and dry ship she is to sail even in such harsh conditions. Only we had to leave here in a harbour the other side of the lake and tramp home.


Over the next winter we repainted the hull above the water line and got her surveyed. The surveyor claimed, that he has never seen a boat of that age in such a good condition. Which is a strong testimony to the two previous owners how had but a lot of hard work into her. The only real problem was still the engine, which really locked to piece, but even after another rebuild just refused to start reliably, so we eventually swapped her for a 9 hp Faryman Diesel. We had a lot of fun and a steep learning curve with the boat and really regret that we have to let here go. But non boating live is just too intense at the moment to do this beautiful boat justice.

A few words to the history as far as I can trace it from the paperwork that came with her:
– A survey was done in 1961 on Tucker Brown Co.’s yard in Burnham-on-Crouch while she was owned by a Mr. Gordon A. Shepherd from London

– A Mr. J.T. Pagett from Buckhurst Hill, Essex, enquired about the history of the boat from Mr. Gordon in January 1967. In the same year she was quiet extensively refurbished by Clarke & Carter, West Mersea in the name of Mr. Pagett. At the pricely sum of 288£ 10s 9p.
– A survey was done in August 1971 on behalf of Mr. J.P.Pralle from Alresford, Hants. “The vessel appears to be reasonably free of decay, […]. “ But repairs on several frames were reminded.
– Another survey was done for Mr. Peter Pralle in January 1998 while Zebedee was laid up ashore in Bembridge on the Isle of Wight. There is some correspondence showing the rebuild work that was done under the direction of the surveyor Mr. Rhys. Plenty of planks and timbers were replaced as well as a new new ring frame was fitted.
– The next survey was done on behalf of Desmond McKendry in July 2002. It states:”The yacht Zebedee was found to have been well maintained during its present ownership of 31 years […]”