The Classic Boat Museum

The Classic Boat Museum at Cowes is one of the Island’s best visits, suitable for young and old alike.

It has something for everyone who is interested in boating of all kinds. The museum has an impressive array of boats as exhibits, a great store of artefacts and one of the best maritime libraries and archives in the country. But straight off the bat I must declare an interest – I love the Classic Boat Museum. I visit it often and I volunteer there.  As a young person I was taken there by my grandparents and was entranced by what I found. I have been a regular ever since and enjoy taking my own children there now.

This is what the museum says about itself:

‘Our aim is to raise the awareness of small maritime craft and crafts, showing their historic development.

The Museum exhibits restored boats and associated artefacts, with records of the part played in their construction and design by companies and people of the Isle of Wight in particular.

Whenever possible we aim to keep the collection sea-worthy and used and we welcome any offers of support, in time or money, and offers of craft that may complement and expand our collecting in the future.’

There is a great array of sailing and power boats. From boats designed for river cruising right through to fast racing dinghies.

Also on display are a huge range of pictures, films, tools and kit associated with maritime activity. The museum is not just about preserving and displaying the history of boats and boating. It is also practically involved in fostering and supporting the preservation and learning of practical skills going forward. Currently a copy of an 1872 American-style ‘Cat Boat’ is being built. The museum is passionate about preserve specialist maritime skills for future generations.

The Museum opened its doors in 1996 with just a handful of boats and now has more than 40 craft available for visitors to see, including Uffa Fox’s WWII Airborne Lifeboat, which saved more than 200 lives, Lord Brabazon’s autogyro rigged Bembridge Redwing and a boat fit for a Prince, ‘Coweslip’, HRH Prince Philip’s Flying Fifteen class racing dinghy.

The museum started life as the private collection of a few boats and materials of a single person, but over the years it has grown as a collection and vastly expanded its resources. Rightly it attracts national and international attention for its collection, and also for its archive. It is consulted regularly by national and international organisations, which is a tremendous tribute to the skill and expertise of the museum’s all volunteer team.

The Classic Boat Museum provides an essential focus to Cowes and to the Island as a whole. As a national and international centre of sailing and boating of all kinds the museum is an essential resource. It is a jewel in the Island’s crown of visitor attractions.  Do visit, support and if you can volunteer with the museum. It’s a fun, interesting and brilliant place to be.