The Arab Lifeboat News

Sadly, I had to sell the ARAB II on my return to Ontario, Canada. However, as this article from a local Newspaper in Cornwall, England shows I ensured that a buyer from Cornwall was found for this Historic Lifeboat.  If you would like to find out more about her history read on.

Historic lifeboat may come sailing back

by Robert Jobson of the Western Morning News, Cornwall

A Cornish lifeboat that made headlines as long ago as 1911 has been offered for sale from a port in Majorca where her owner is keen to find a Cornish buyer. Robert Jobson reports

During three decades, she was launched 40 times and saved 75 lives

AN HISTORIC Cornish lifeboat, currently enjoying a life of leisure in the Mediterranean, has been put up for sale by her Canadian owner in the hope that she will attract a buyer in her home county.

The Arab II, built at Mevagissey, was a 36ft-long, ten-oar boat which served at Padstow from 1901 to 1931.

During those three decades, when the port had two other lifeboats, she was launched 40 times and saved 75 people from death on the dreaded Doom Bar.

After she was finally decommissioned by the RNLI, Arab II went to work in the Isles of Scilly as a coal barge.

From there she was taken to Belgium for conversion as a “live aboard” vessel before being found abandoned and derelict in the 1980s on the River Thames.

Her saviour was shipwright Tom Bowden. He rebuilt her and, with his wife, children and dog, turned her into his houseboat at Kingston-on-Thames.

Arab II, named after a yacht wrecked during the Victorian era on the Goodwin Sands off Kent, whose owner was saved by the Ramsgate lifeboat and made a donation to the RNLI, was acquired in the late 1990s by Canadian Mark Harwood and taken to Bristol for her centenary.

Mr Harwood, a 42-year-old builder who previously lived in a log cabin 100 miles north of Toronto, converted Arab II into a ketch with a cabin and portholes.

Speaking to the WMN yesterday from a village port in Majorca, where he is living aboard the Arab II with his partner Karen Conabeare, who spent more than 20 years in Newquay, he said: “Unfortunately the time has come for me to sell her and to move back to Canada.

“Arab II has significant historical value to Cornwall. I am desperately trying to ensure that she returns to Cornwall. She is still very much afloat, having taken us from England through the French canals to the Balearic Islands.

“I feel that she could be returned to her former glory as a Cornish attraction. I would love to see her back in the county where she belongs. And I am sure the local people, especially those in Padstow, would too.

“A return to my home of Canada is forcing me to sell her after three wonderful years. The question is: ‘Will the Arab II get to return home too?’

“I wish I could donate her to a local museum. I have written to the National Maritime Museum at Falmouth and await their response. I understand funding may be a problem. However, all I am asking is the money I originally paid – £5,500.

“She has been a wonderful home and this is not about making a profit.

“Is there anyone out there who could help to bring her back to Cornwall?”

He added: “She is in great nick for her age. She has brought us 4000 nautical miles from Bristol, around Land’s End, up the Channel, across from Dover to Calais and down through the canals of France.”

On that voyage, the Arab II made a nostalgic return up the Camel estuary and Padstow in September 2003.

It was there, at the entrance to Padstow harbour, that her predecessor, Arab I, perished on April II, 1900, when the port lost both Arab I, a larger steam lifeboat James Stevens and eight lifeboatmen.

They died after being battered by huge waves as they went to the aid of Peace of Plenty, a fishing ketch from Lowestoft which had sought shelter.

Arab II was to give distinguished service to Padstow for the next 30 years in partnership with Edmund Harvey, another rowing and sailing lifeboat, and the steam tug Helen Peele.

Her greatest day came on November 12, 1911, when she was launched to go to the aid of the French brigantine Angele and performed a double rescue, saving sailors aboard both the schooner Island Maid and the French brigantine Angele.

The Arab II’s coxswain, Bill Baker, having performed one heroic rescue, landed his exhausted crew of rowers ashore after their gruelling ordeal and went back to sea with a fresh crew.

With volunteers for that second crew in short supply and a lone figure visible from the Padstow shore desperately clinging to the mast of the Angele, out stepped local bobby PC Turner.

He went to sea in the Arab II fearing not just for his life but his job, thinking he would be dismissed from the Cornwall Constabulary for deserting his post. As he threw down his police helmet, he was heard to say: “I’ll get the sack.”

On his return to shore however he was congratulated by his commanding officer and instantly promoted.

As for Mr Baker, coxswain of the Arab II from 1904 to 1923, he was awarded the RNLI’s silver medal.

Five years later his son John, who succeeded him as coxswain at Padstow, was also honoured by the RNLI.

John Baker received a bronze medal for his gallant conduct and skilled seamanship when his lifeboat rescued 18 people from the SS Taormina, of Oslo.

Newlyn, Cornwall

Still alive and the proud possessor of those silver and bronze medals, having given a lifetime’s service to the RNLI in Padstow, is 74-year-old Mary Taylor, grandchild of Bill Baker, daughter of John Baker, mother of Penlee RNLI deputy chairman Eric Taylor, and grandmother of Penlee crewman James Taylor.

Mrs Taylor said: “Between us, our family has given 267 years of service to the RNLI since 1883.

“I was absolutely thrilled when the Arab II came back into Padstow last September. I went aboard her and met her current owner, Mark Harwood.

“With my family connections with Arab II, it was very emotional. It was lovely to see her back. She’s a fine old lady and Cornwall is where she really belongs.”



I found a buyer and he is from Looe, Cornwall & she will be sailing in the bay in which she was built. A great ending or new beginning?

I am pleased to say that I have been contacted by the ARAB II’s new owner. He returned her  to  Cornwall, England flying the “Cornish ensign”.  She is in dry dock on his property in Looe, Cornwall &  he is working on sprucing her up  after a winter berthed in France. He is now looking for a berth in a Cornish Harbour.

I have been in contact with the new owner once again and he is working on bringing her back to her former glory as in the 1900’s. He is planning to restore her to a Lifeboat and has begun work. This is a long process and I look forward to seeing the Arab as she once was!

Anyone interested in our wonderful adventures will be able to read my book on our beautiful boat and trip. I have spent a year working on it and I am sending it out to publishers. For more info check out or if you would like to be notified when the book is available for sale email me at