When we purchased The Bootlegger in 2006 we knew some of her history but recently I began to research her a bit more. We were fortunate enough to be in contact with one of her previous owners, Captain Winston G. Churchill. I had contacted him when we were working on transferring the vessel documentation papers and then again when I came across the Nelson Boat Owner’s Club (NBOC) (http://nelsonboatownersclub.co.uk/index.php) a few weeks ago. When I shared this information with Captain Churchill he too was interested and emailed me that he had a couple of pictures that the club and I might be interested in. This was the beginning of correspondence between Captain Churchill , the NBOC, and myself. It has been so interesting finding out more of The Bootlegger’s history from him and I hope that he is pleased that his “Mercator” is now being appreciated and used the way she deserved to be.
Several of my friends thought that this history was interesting and that I should post it here on my blog. I think that some of you that are interested in history, as well as my ‘boat friends’ would enjoy knowing a little more about The Bootlegger.
Our Halmatic Nelson, “Mercator” was built in 1970 at Tough Brothers Boatyard in Teddington, England for the Mersey Docks and Harbor Board. She was employed as a Pilot Launch and a Survey Boat in the River Mersey from 1970-1981. In 1984 she was sold to Mr. Gary Wesley in Hampshire England and was refitted as a yacht by P&C Yachts in Lyminton, Hampshire, England. She crusised in the UK , Channel Islands, and to Spain. Captain Churchill (USCG) bought Mercator (The Bootlegger’s previous name) in 1989 and she was moored in Island Harbor, Isle of Wright, England. Captain Churchill kept her name Mercator and she was documented as a US Vessel. She cruised the Solent and was invited to participate in the 1990 marine parade to mark the 50th anniversary of the “Little Ships” evacuation of the British expeditionary force from Dunkirk. In 1990 she sailed to London and was moored at St. Catherine’s Haven by the Tower Bridge (See the above picture). When Captain Churchill received his new posting as commanding Officer of the Coast Guard Base in Alameda, California Mercator was shipped to Coast Guard Island in San Francisco Bay. She cruised the area and participated in the “Fleet Week Parade of Ships” in San Francisco Bay during the Fleet Week Festivities in 1990 and 1991. (see the above picture of Mercator in San Francisco Bay)
Mercator was sold in 1992 when Captain Churchill moved to Hawaii. I don’t have much information during the period from 1992-2005. In 2006 we bought Mercator in Alameda California and changed her name to The Bootlegger. She had been badly neglected and we have spent the past few years cruising locally and refitting her for her next chapter of life.
Captain Churchill and I have both been in contact with the Nelson Boat Owner’s Club historian, Mr. Brenner, in England. He has expressed interest in her history and her upcoming cruises and is considering doing an article about her. She is a unique vessel and she has taken good care of us so far. We are looking forward to this next chapter in “our” lives.