Kathleen J Kilbey I.Eng MRINA.
Kathleen grew up in Southern England within a few miles of the Sussex Coast. Much of her childhood leisure time was spent “messing about in boats” in true Swallows and Amazons style around Chichester and Langstone Harbours. In fact she still subscribes to the Arthur Ransom philosophy that “if duffers – will drown; if not duffers – won’t drown” and is on a fairly short fuse as far as what she sees as “interference in commonsense-sailing by Nanny State” is concerned.
Kathleen’s first marine survey and engineering project was undertaken at age 13, with the acquisition of a timber and canvas canoe kit. This project was followed a couple of years later by her first all timber sailing boat, a National 12’ dinghy, clinker built of Honduras Mahogany on oak frames and still with its original cotton sails. This dinghy provided the first of Kathleen’s wooden-boat restoration projects and was subsequently cruised as far as Lymington on one occasion – quite an adventure for those days.
Following the dinghy experiences, Kathleen’s sailing credentials in the 1950’s included South Coast crewing in a Deben 4 Tonner, various Hillyards, ranging from a pretty little 2 ½ Tonner to a 12 ton Gaff Ketch. She also took part as crew in cross channel cruises and races in various Nicholsons and Buchanans.
On leaving Grammar School in Sussex, Kathleen attended Guildford Technical College and completed an HNC in Mechanical Engineering before qualifying as a Technical Lecturer at London University’s Garnett College. She subsequently lectured in Maths and Engineering Science at various technical Colleges, prior to completing a course in Marine Engineering and Naval Architecture.
A career move to Marine Engineering Consultancy work, and a stint overseas, first with Mobil Oil International Inc, and then Ocean Systems Inc. and finally Mannai Corporation, followed. By the early 1980’s, corporate life with its “Club Class and Hilton” travel syndrome had definitely palled and the creeks and harbours of Southern England beckoned……..
In 1983 Kathleen finally turned her back on big-company life and commenced a new fulltime career as a Classic yacht charter owner and Skipper. “Oiled teak and Flying Spray – come and get wet cold and uncomfortable on our 1962 Buchanan 11-ton cruiser-racer” ran the adverts! At the time Kathleen used to tell her (sometimes very motley) crews that there was no chance of their being seasick – they would be too busy and terrified even to think of it!
Kathy Kilbey has always been a keen and competitive sailor, having competed in most of the major RORC races over the years, including the Fastnet race in 1989.
Kathleen holds the RYA International certificate of Competance (I.C.C) for motor and sailing vessels up to 80 gross tons, the RYA Yachtmaster Offshore, plus the various RYA intermediate tidal, coastal-skipper, VHF, first-aid and day-skipper certificates acquired along the way.
During the early 1980’s there was relatively little interest in wooden yachts and many of the “Classics” of today were lying in creeks and harbours along the south coast being used as chicken coops or houseboats. “Endeavour” was on the Medina, “Bloodhound” in Poole, “Lulworth” on the Hamble – whilst “Velsheda”, with rusty holes visible in her topsides and a somewhat ragged rig, was to be seen sailing about the Solent with a scratch crew.
KJK is on record at that time, as saying that “in 15 years time people will be spending millions restoring these boats” and it was that instinct that motivated her, despite the massive additional expense, to maintain her own Buchanan 38 to Lloyds +100A1 category – until other commitments dictated a sale of the vessel in 1997.
It was during the early ’80’s while operating as a charter skipper, that Kathleen, having regard to the fate of the wonderful old boats mentioned above, decided to combine her marine engineering skills and her wooden boat experience and become a full time Marine Surveyor.
As a result of this decision, after some years of mentor-ship by experienced surveyors, in 1985 she set up her own independent Marine Survey Practice focussing on timber sailing and motor yachts and also providing a full survey and inspection service for GRP yachts.
During that period (1983-1989) Kathleen had as mentors, a number of senior traditional- yacht surveyors and she qualified as a Member of The Royal Institution of Naval Architects, (MRINA) in 1992, sponsored by none other than Alan H Buchanan.
Whilst practising as a Marine Surveyor, for a number of years Kathleen also maintained an ongoing involvement in Property Investment and Finance projects for income diversification purposes.
Please see our history and photo archive pages on this site for details and pictures of some of the Marine Survey and construction-supervision projects in which the ClassicBoatSurveys.com Survey practice has been involved.
As a complete contrast to her professional interest in and previous experience of large wooden “Classic” yachts, Kathleen has recently been involved in a project to restore “Apache” (K6054), a 1972 GRP (24ft) Hunter 701 sloop.
KJK likened her move from a 38ft wooden Ocean Racer to the Hunter, as “like going from a vintage Bentley to a Lotus Seven – but now I don’t have to feed and clean up after a hungry, thirsty crew”.
Download the full story here ; Apache Project
“Apache” was fully restored for long-distance solo cruising and racing and was adapted internally to provide a full size navigation station and galley, plus two full-length quarter berths and occasional 3rd and 4th berths. A lightweight inboard diesel was projected. The rest of the interior was intended to be largely food and water storage – however this project has now had to make way for “Sea Wraithe” – please see project pages on this site.