As early as the 1870s the Thesen and Company sawmills were producing boats from their furniture business premises, but WWII would ramp up production to over six hundred vessels. The most well known of these were the Fairmile Submarine Chasers. The Thesen engineer, Mr Cyril Noble was tasked with building the boat shed over the first keel of a motor launch. The first Fairmile was completed in June 1943, similar to the photo below.
In 1966 a fire raised the Thesen Boatyard on Paarden Island. But within a year construction started on a famous yacht, the Voortrekker, in a rebuilt facility. This boat went on to come second by a narrow margin in the 1968 trans Atlantic race from Plymouth, England.
The yacht, Albatross II, was built in 1970 to race in the first Cape to Rio yacht race from Grainger Bay. This yacht was to win the race both outright and on handicap, a stunning achievement to mark the company’s centenary.
A good many boats were produced in the Thesen Boatyard on what is now the Lofts Boutique Hotel site. We have two examples that have been displayed at the Antique & Classic Boatshow. The first was from the Great Brak area owned by Andre Beyers who bought it from a neighbour. This boat featured the maker’s badge and was renovated by Cameron Searle in 2017. Named after Andre’s recently deceased father’s favorite song title, Il Silencio, the boat is just over 4m long and is driven from the rear seat.
The dashboard was built to house the new stainless steel gauges and a decision taken to chrome the maker’s badge. The boat’s hardware is largely original, but navigation lights and a new ‘eyebrow’ windscreen were added. This boat was displayed for the first time at the 2017 Boatshow where an original Thesen product leaflet displaying a selection of their boat designs was shown to me. The owner jealousy guarded his prize procession so I was not able to make a copy, but the design most similar to this boat was called ‘The Viking’.
The next Thesen boatyard classic appeared at the 2019 Boatshow, unrestored. The owner, Jake Crowther, is intent on restoring this boat to its original condition.
In January 1970 Thesen Industries was sold to Barlows, but the building was leased back and renamed S.B.Thesen Marine by Mr Stan Thesen, producing most notably the Alex Blaikie for the local NSRI Station, still on display in Thesen Harbour Town. Finally, in 1977 the boatyard no longer carried the Thesen name when it was leased to Mr Ian Rennie.