The Boleh Project

Boleh is a junk yacht, listed on the National Register of Historic Vessels and built in Singapore in 1945 by a British Naval Officer, Commander Robin Kilroy, DSC, who then sailed her back to England.  She is constructed from traditional materials to a mixed junk/Bermudan rig design with many novel features - such as portholes made from the windscreens of Japanese fighter aircraft.

When bought by her current owners in 2007, she was in need of conservation and a dedicated Trust has now been set up to carry out the work.  Operating from the Old Pump House Workshops, Eastney in Portsmouth, Project Boleh is now well under way, with the work on the vessel's hull almost complete. 

Since Boleh's arrival back in the UK in 2008, the Boleh Trust was formed to safeguard the vesel's future and to return her to what she does best, inspiring young people through sail training.

Initially, her hull was stripped and restored by 2 apprentices Jason Rankin and Josh Brookes, led by the then shipwright, Richard Uttley, and supported by grant aid raised from a range of funding bodies, including National Historic Ships UK. Both Jason and Josh have now gone on to full time employment within the boat building industry.

Late 2012 saw the Boleh Trust being awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant to fully restore Boleh, allowing the Trust to embark on a two-phase project:
- completing the restoration
- providing the restored historic vessel for sail training.

Sail Training

When completed, the restoration will see Boleh return to her role as a sail training vessel. Through the funding received from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Boleh Trust aims to have Boleh fully operational by summer 2014.

The Trust will then be able to offer the experience of traditional sailing to young people. Sail training is a proven way of changing attitudes and improving young lives by developing teamwork, building self confidence and encouraging physical effort and personal commitment.

If you are interested in finding out about future sail training opportunities, or would like to donate towards sail bursaries once Boleh is fully operational, please get in touch with the team (website link at bottom of page).


The Boleh Trust is committed to working with young people, to provide opportunities to invest in them both now and in the future.  The Project is currently working in partnership with Charter Academy, Highbury College and the University of Southampton.


4 apprentices worked as part of the Project team and have now successfully completed their training. You can read their blogs online:

Samantha Perks - grew up around boats and has always been intrested in how they're built. She really enjoys working with her hands, it's the perfect job for her.

Henry Durman - on his first year of his apprenticeship and keen to pursue a career in the boat building industry.

Reuben Wincott - has been at Boleh since Nov 2012. His whole life has been around sailing and he has a natural ability for hands-on work.

Will Wiltshire - also started at Boleh in Nov 2012 and applied for the apprenticeship because he wants a career, not just a job. He enjoys all aspects of woodworking and views this opportunity as a chance to gain experience in a lot more than just shipwrighting and boat building.


Boleh is now fully operational and, in this her first season, there are a number of opportunities to offer you the excitement of a day sail in the Solent! Please sign up and in so doing help the work of the Boleh Trust where, amongst other things, we are already offering sailing opportunities to state school children, to other charities and to Help for Heroes. All of the Trust's charitable work costs money so your sailing - and donations - will enable the Trust to support young people. Come and experience a day out on Boleh - she excites interest wherever she goes!

There are 6 slots available on a day sail - we provide the Skipper and Mate.

Boleh will be operating from Gosport Premier Marina - easily accessible from Portsmouth Harbour Station by ferry - in July. Available dates are as follows:

Sat 8 July to Tues 11 July

Sat 15 Jul to Mon 17 July.

Thu 20 July to Mon 31 July.

Visit to register your interest!

NEWS Boleh to work with Gwennili Trust

This sailing season the Boleh Trust will be working with the Gwennili Trust. Gwennili was set up over 20 years ago primarily to give disabled ex-service men and women the chance to sail offshore. Since then, over 5000 disabled/disadvantaged people from a wide client base have shared this experience. 

Learn more at

NEWS Boleh is back in the Solent!

Boleh is now back in Chichester Marina in the beautiful sunshine after a 6 months in Falmouth. 

Skipper Louis Abbot, describing his crew's enjoyment of the trip back to the Solent, said "It’s always a pleasure to sail a yacht which is so different in every sense - everywhere you go Boleh provokes so much interest." 

The public will have the opportunity to see her and hear her story at an Open Day planned for later this year (more details will follow).

NEWS July 2015 - Boleh sails again!

Following a seven year restoration, the team at The Boleh Trust are delighted to announce that Boleh has now been successfully returned to the water.

This major programme of work has seen her stripped almost bare before being fitted out to the highest standards.  As well as a magnificent new deck and masts, she has the latest in diesel electric technology for her auxiliary propulsion. 

The project has been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, with many contributions from individual donors and the skill and effort of Brian Taylor, Graham Westbrook and the Boleh team.

The next stage of her journey will see her join the inspirational charity Sea Sanctuary in Falmouth, who work to improve mental wellbeing in adults and young people from around the country using sail training and shore-based activities.

Read the full details.


NEWS  January 2015 - Round-up of the Year's achievements in 2014

Strong support for the Boleh project has continued this year including the Heritage Lottery Fund grant (see March 2014 news below) to help fund further progress and establish a secure future for Boleh.

Other support has come from the Royal Navy in Portsmouth, led by the Naval Base Commander, as well as the local MP, Penny Mordaunt and the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth. 

During the year, the four apprentices completed their training programmes successfully and former apprentices, Jason and Josh – now qualified shipwrights, returned to help with Boleh’s restoration.  This and other connections made with young people from the inner city Charter Academy saw the Boleh Trust awarded the ‘Future Generations’ award at the ‘Shaping the Future of Portsmouth’ conference.

Some delays occurred with Boleh’s restoration, which meant that she missed her target for an autumn operational date.  However, progress is now steadily being made with an aim to be ready for the 2015 sailing season.  Some great photos of the new deck and masts can be seen on the website.

Further news, including progress of sister charity - the Portsmouth Sail Training Trust, can be seen in the Boleh Trust annual newsletter.

 NEWS Mar 2014  £63,100 Heritage Lottery Grant awarded

The Boleh Trust has received an additional £63,100 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to carry out a sail training transition study which will benefit local young people. 

The funding will help set up a sail training partnership with local organisations to secure the long term future of the historic junk yacht Bolehcurrently being restored in Portsmouth.  The grant will also launch Boleh as a sail training vessel to provide inspirational opportunities for young people.  The Trust is already discussing ways to achieve this with the Portsmouth Sail Training Trust, a newly formed charity.

Through the current HLF funded Boleh Project, the Trust has been able to employ shipwright apprentices and to share Boleh's remarkable story with the pupils of Portsmouth's Charter Academy and the local community.

George Middleton, Chairman of the Boleh Trust, said:  "Once again the Heritage Lottery Fund has generously supported our vision for this iconic vessel.  This grant ensures that Boleh will be given the best possible start to her renewed life as a sail training vessel."

NEWS Jan 2014 Round-up of 2013 achievements

During the year new faces have been welcomed to the team including Chris Cossor now leading the restoration supported by Dave Reason; both are very experienced shipwrights with huge amounts of knowledge to pass on to the four apprentices.

The restoration has progressed well and the internal outfit is on the programme. The Beta Marine diesel generator is in place and work has started on the wiring of Boleh's twin LMC electric motors & battery bank.

As the team move into the final year, they will be laying the teal deck and completing the internal outfit. Then timber spars have to be commissioned and the vessel's unique quadruped mast will need to be built.

In June, Boleh will be put back in the water and fitted out for sea trials.

Securing Boleh's future is the next priority and options available from the Heritage Lottery Fund are being reviewed. Meanwhile, the team are actively discussing with the newly formed Portsmouth Sail Training Trust their use of Boleh for sail training with Charter Academy, Bedales School and other local sponsors.

An exciting six months lie ahead, we will keep you informed of progress!

The 5th Boleh Trust annual newsletter

NEWS Nov 2013 Second Sea Lord Returns to Boleh

Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral David Steel spared an hour of his time last week to see how much the team has achieved since his last visit nearly a year ago.

VA Steel was impressed with not only what the apprentices have achieved over the last 12 months, but the opportunities that Boleh presents for the future.

During his visit, VA Steel also kindly presented a National Historic Ships UK/Marsh Volunteer Award Highly Commended certificate to Brian Taylor, commending him for his ongoing commitment to the project.

More details about the Marsh Volunteer Awards


NEWS Oct 2013

FREE ENTRY Open Day - 27 October 13.00-17.00
Visit the workshop: Eastney Beam Engine House, 199 Henderson Road, Eastney, Portsmouth, PO4 9JF




NEWS Jul 2013 

Internal structure is well underway now - for example, you can see the beams fitted on the coach house roof on this image, right.

The Boleh Trust have added some new photos to their website showing progress throughout!


NEWS 29 Apr 2013

Open Day - a fantastic day with over 240 visitors, Boleh’s story was shared with many people from the local community.

One of the visitors commented: “Awesome project providing lots of interest and new skills for a lot of young people. Important historic interest and maintenance of skilled talents in this country. Well done to all involved.”

Visitors ranged from those who had sailed on Boleh in the past, to people interested in maritime history and finding out about what our local young people are learning.

A lot has been achieved since the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant was awarded last year, it was a great opportunity to invite members of the public in to see the Boleh Project. The next open day will beheld on 30 June 2013.

NEWS Apr 2013

The Boleh team are excited to be currently working with students from Charter Academy on a digital learning experience, the Charter Academy Digi Project.

This 10 week learning experience has seen five students learn about Boleh, her history and her restoration through the use of media technology. The students have written, interviewed, filmed and edited material to enable them to create a short movie on their interpretation of the project. 

NEWS Dec 2012

The Boleh Trust has received a £501,000 investment from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for its restoration project. 

The grant will enable the Trust to employ apprentices to restore the historic junk yacht and enable local young people to learn heritage skills and make her sail again, while gaining credits at Portsmouth's Highbury College towards their professional shipwright qualifications.

The restoration will be supported by the design expertise of third-year ship science students from the University of Southampton.

Read our news item

NEWS Mar 2012

Heritage Lottery Funding will enable 12 apprentices to continue the project to restore Boleh.  HLF has provided an initial sum of £55,800, which will be followed by a stage two application for £440,000 from the Boleh Trust. 

Her hull has already been restored by a team led by Richard Uttley at the Old Pumphouse workship in Eastney.  When complete, she will resume her sail-training role.

She is going to prove a challenge: she's built in Malayan chengai two and half times the density of oak.  She has an unusual rig - sliding gunter with wishbone booms and an unstayed quadruped mast and her decklights use windscreens of wartime Japanese Zero fighter planes.

George Middleton, newphew of Cdr Kilroy and now part of The Boleh Trust, said his Uncle "built her for ocean sailing - Solent marinas might be trickier."

Item taken from Classic Boat magazine, March 2012.

NEWS Dec 2011

From April onwards this year, The Boleh Trust have been putting together a substantial Round 1 bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The bid was submitted in September with the strong support of Portsmouth City Council, the Royal Naval Museum, The Boleh Trust's training partner, IT Paragon, Bay House School Gosport and Dolphin Quay boatyard amongst others.

At the beginning of December, HLF granted the Boleh Round 1 Bid success which includes development funding of £55,800 so that Trust can apply for a full grant of just over £440,000 at a later date.  This exciting news is the first step towards winning the funding required to restore Boleh and establish an apprentice training programme.

George Middleton, Chairman of The Boleh Trust, said, 'We're absolutely delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has agreed to support The Boleh Trust in giving young people in the area the chance to find skilled employment.  This immediate HLF grants means we can now complete our case for over half a million pounds to set up this heritage training operation and restore Boleh.

Brian Taylor, Project Shipwright said, "Boleh is a real one-off with such a histoy.  Technically the restoration really gives our apprentice shipwrights the experience to develop a whole range of traditional skills."


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