H.S.L. 256





HSL 256 was ordered by the admiralty in 1918 from J.T.Crampton, shipbuilders in Portsmouth. She was 1 of a batch of 6 Harbour Service Launches ordered from this firm at this time.



HSL 256 was completed and handed over to the admiralty in October 1919.


1919 to 1950  

HSL 256 was in naval service until 1950. It is still unclear where she served the majority of her time. She had her boiler overhauled in Portsmouth in 1944. However, by 1947 she was based at Lyness Naval base (Scapa flow, in the Orkneys). Her duties are listed as being 'Care and Maintenance'. This would usually imply that she was laid up, but she may have been being used to service other larger vessels which were in 'Care and Maintenance' themselves.




In 1950, HSL 256 was sold to Captain J. Hay. He hired two young naval ratings to deliver her to the Shetland Isles. Unfortunately, their navigation wasn't as good as it might have been. They got lost in the North Atlantic, ran out of coal and had to break up the original coxswains shelter and cabin doors to use as fuel to keep going! Fortunately they were able to beach her on a remote island before they came to any serious harm. Captain Hay subsequently rebuilt the wheelhouse in the 'steam drifter' style, renamed her 'Puffin', registered her as LK452 and used her as a fishing boat for the next 3 years.



Captain Hay sold Puffin to Brian Marriage of Suffolk. Captain Hay made the final leg of the delivery voyage himself and announced his arrival by crashing into the harbour wall. Brian Marriage used her for cruising and as a holiday home for the next 17 years. By duplicating the engine room controls in the wheelhouse, he and his wife were able to crew a boat that would have required about 4 naval sailors.



Bob Partis discovered Puffin languishing in 1970 and eventually managed to persuade Brian Marriage to part with her. For the next 15 years he used Puffin very actively and carried out much work on her. His cruises included Dartmouth in 1973, York in 1975, Holland in 1979, Newlyn in 1980, Holy island in 1981, Poole and Oxford in 1982. Many of his exploits were detailed in Steam boat magazines and books of the time. In 1980 he replaced the original boiler with the one from the Norfolk based pleasure steamer, 'Queen of the Broads', after Puffins boiler became beyond economical repair.



Bob Partis sold Puffin to Alan Gurner of Cardiff in 1985. Alan briefly steamed her on the East coast, before the 'Queen of the Broads' boiler itself was found to be in a dangerous state and beyond economical repair. Alan eventually did manage to find a suitable HSL boiler,  but in the meanwhile he relocated Puffin to Bristol Docks by road. Puffin was based and occasionally steamed in Bristol docks until 2002. She was then steamed to the Gloucester Sharpness canal where she spent a year before being laid up for boiler work in 2003.



I purchased Puffin from Alan Gurners family after he suddenly passed away. Puffin is now out of the water undergoing an extensive restoration to return her to her former glory. The work will include Boiler work (including new smokebox and funnel), new decks, new beam shelf, new deck beams, new coxswains shelter (to the original style), recaulk and repaint the hull, repair bulkheads, repair transom, new bulwarks and 1001 other "little" jobs.