Old Boats, Skippool : Hidden History

The boat in this picture from our collection may not look up to much, but there’s a lot more here than meets the eye…

LANLM-1985-98 Zyava

‘Old Boats, Skippool’, 1974, by David Lord A.R.C.A. (1925-1998).

In 1932, a Polish man named Wladek Wagner set out to circumnavigate the world by sail. His original boat was named Zjawa, meaning ‘spectre’ or ‘phantom’. But in the course of his seven year voyage it had to be replaced – twice. This is Zjawa III, built from tropical hardwoods in Ecuador in 1937.

With his new boat completed Wagner sailed her across the Pacific, stopping at various islands before arriving at Sydney for a long stay in Australia. He set off again in 1938, crossed the Indian Ocean and passed through the Suez Canal before making his leisurely way westwards through the Mediterranean. From Gibraltar he headed north to England. After that it would have been a simple matter to sail home to Poland… had it not been for the outbreak of World War II.

While he was still in England Wagner got a telegram from the Polish General Consul, ordering him to abandon his voyage because the Germans had attacked Poland. The Zjawa III was promptly requisitioned by the British government for war service, and Wagner himself spent the next few years serving on a merchant ship for the Polish Navy.

At the end of the war the Zjawa III was returned to Wagner. Rather than go back to the now Soviet-occupied Poland, he converted her into a fishing boat and went into business in Scotland. But after only a few years he and his new wife Mabel decided to move on. They sold the fishing business and the Zjawa III, bought a new yacht and sailed off in the direction of Australia.

The Zjawa III remained in Britain, and in the early 1950s the spelling of her name was anglicised to ‘Zyava’. Over the next 20 years she was registered in various fishing ports around North Wales and Morecambe Bay, changing hands about a dozen times.

In 1970 she was moved to Skippool Creek on the River Wyre, where her latest owner intended to have her converted back into a luxury yacht. Unfortunately he died before the project was completed, and the boat remained laid up at Skippool for some time. It’s during this period that local artist David Lord made this drawing of her.

Abandoned and unfinished, that might easily have been the end of the story for the Zyava III – but that sturdy hardwood construction and fine design meant that she was still worth saving. Before long she was sold again and the renovation was completed. Her new owners took her for a trial run via the Isle of Man and Glasson Dock before setting off for the Mediterranean.

As a private yacht it’s not so easy to keep track of every change of ownership since then. In 2013 she was advertised for sale in the Netherlands, and so far as we know she’s still sailing – somewhere!

You can find photos and a more detailed history of the Zyava III here:


Or read about the further adventures of Wladek Wagner here: