Archaeologists have discovered a dock in Castletown harbour that was used by Captain George Quayle to float his yacht Peggy in and out of the boat house.
Excavation of the area surrounding Peggy, which is thought to be the world’s oldest yacht and is in the Nautical Museum, is being conducted in preparation for her restoration.
Peggy’s current damp environment, which also floods in very high tides, means she is in danger of falling apart. So Manx National Heritage is taking crucial steps to preserve the maritime treasure.
Last year, a supporting cradle was fitted around her hull and they plan to lift her out of the cellar later this year and move her to an environmentally controlled workshop, for further analysis and conservation.
To slide her out of the cellar, MNH plans to introduce rails and, to clear the way, the area in front of Peggy’s boathouse has been excavated by archaeologists from Oxford Archaeology North.
During this process, a beautifully constructed dock was discovered, which would have enabled Captain Quayle to float her gently in and out of the boathouse in the late 1700s.
Timber gates formed part of the dock – however, with the removal of the ground around them during the excavation, they were vulnerable to the sea that continues to flow in and out of the area with the tides. Sandbags have been required to help support the gates until they can be further examined – and members of the Isle of Man Civil Defence were recently recruited as the natural experts to construct the sandbag wall.
MNH curator of archaeology Allison Fox said: ‘The task of supporting the timber sea gates at the Nautical Museum with a wall of sandbags was rather daunting with numerous logistical challenges.
‘But with the planning, experience, efficiency and sheer physical effort of the Civil Defence volunteers, the work was completed and 400 sandbags were soon in place.
‘The wall will protect the fragile gates over the coming winter and help ensure the protection of this unique part of the island’s maritime heritage.’
MNH thanked Civil Defence and the Department of Infrastructure for their help.
Emergency planning officer Ian Young said: ‘Civil Defence were delighted to assist, and in treating the operation as an exercise we hope in some small way we have helped in the important preservation work that is being carried out by MNH.’
The dock suggests Captain Quayle’s use of Peggy was less secretive than previously thought.
‘I hate to spoil a good myth, but there is no evidence of smuggling,’ said Allison.