Repsol Sinopec funding anchors historic boat restoration

Posted 28, Jun 19

Orkney marked 'Scapa 100' this month - and Repsol Sinopec had a big part to play in ensuring that one of the islands' most historic and distinctive small boats was restored in time to take part in the commemorations.

Following the end of World War I, what remained of the German fleet was interned in Scapa Flow. On 21 June 1919, under the mistaken belief that peace talks had failed, Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter gave the order that the entire fleet should be scuttled. A total of 50 ships sank to the seabed, representing what is still the greatest loss of shipping ever recorded in a single day. Sadly nine German lives were also lost as a result.

The fast motor launch Cingalee was built in Gosport in Hampshire in 1905, but spent most of her life in Orkney having moved from Portsmouth to Scapa Flow in August 1914. During both world wars and also the inter-war period, she served as a supply boat for the many ships of the Royal Navy that anchored in the Flow, and it was this that led to Repsol Sinopec's offer of support for her refurbishment.

Terminal Manager Ian Tulloch explains:

"In both World Wars, Flotta was the site of the Royal Navy base on Scapa Flow and as such was visited by tens of thousands of naval servicemen and troops. Many remains are still to be seen in the vicinity of the terminal, including of the naval batteries, the cinema and YMCA buildings. Cingalee would have been a frequent visitor to Flotta as part of her supply work.

"After WWII, she apparently served as a leisure craft again but was in very poor condition by the early 21st century. When we heard that the Orkney Historic Boat Society was hoping to restore her as part of the Scapa 100 commemoration it felt appropriate to offer our support given the strong naval and marine traditions of the island. They have done a remarkable job given her age and condition just a couple of years ago - it was fantastic to see her on display, and everyone at the terminal is very pleased that we've been able to help make this a reality."

Jimmy Clouston, Chairman - Orkney Historic Boat Society with Steve Gardyne and Ian Tulloch, Repsol Sinopec

Jimmy Clouston, Chairman, Orkney Historic Boat Society said:

"Orkney Historic Boat Society (OHBS) would like to thank Repsol Sinopec very much for its generous contribution to enable us to restore Cingalee to ‘display standard’ in time for this significant event.

"The preservation of a vessel as old as Cingalee (built 1905) required specialist boatbuilder input (and in excess of 1000 volunteer hours of work). The money donated by Repsol Sinopec enabled us to buy in the essential expertise of professional boatbuilders Jeff Mackie and, recently retired, Ian Richardson.

"Your charitable donation not only greatly contributed to the restoration of this nationally significant vessel in time for the commemorations of the scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow, at which she was a working supply boat, but also helped preserve the skills of traditional wooden boatbuilding which is now classified as a fading craft.

"Being based on the island of Flotta, here in Orkney, Repsol Sinopec can fully understand the importance and lifeline aspect of boats to the community of Orkney. OHBS is a locally based charity whose purpose is to preserve Orkney’s maritime heritage and educate people as to the importance of boats and shipping to Orkney, through time. In addition to the obvious preservation of significant vessels there is also the contribution to positive mental health of people coming together to do practical work on restoration projects and the research into the history of the local maritime culture – which in Cingalee’s case is one of national maritime significance."

Many of the wrecked German ships were recovered and scrapped in the years after the war, but several still remain and are now globally popular sites for recreational diving. (The Flow is also home to the sites of several protected war graves, including HMS Vanguard which sank in 1917 following an explosion, and HMS Royal Oak which was sunk by a German U-boat in October 1939) There is much more information on Cingalee and other preserved Orkney boats here.

Scapa 100 events continue throughout June and both Stromness and Orkney museums are hosting exhibitions on the naval history of the Flow, the fleet and its salvage, until the beginning of November.