This Easter weekend we received an incredible email from Australia. The author had been a young boat builder in Sri Lanka who had worked building the original Fisher 25’s in Negombo at Neil Marine. I’ll transcribe the email below as it makes wonderful reading for anyone with an interest in the history of this iconic brand.
“Good afternoon from Melbourne Mr Skellon,
Let me introduce myself to you , I’m Maxwell Hamilton Eliyathamby & hail from Colombo, Sri Lanka. I migrated to Australia in July 1987 & domiciled in Melbourne in the state of Victoria.
I accidentally stumbled across your article “The History of Fisher” & I was intoxicated with joy as I read through the wonderful narration.
I joined a yacht building company (Constellation Yachts (Pvt) Ltd) in China Bay in the Trincomalee district (East Coast of Sri Lanka) and worked for approx. 1.5 years in the Marine Drawing Office. We were embarking on building a 42′ Ketch with the plans also on hand to build a 52′ down the track. Brewer & Wallstrom Associates from the USA were the designers. Mr Brian Lourensz (Sr Lankan ) teamed up with an American Mr Bryce Furyman who was based in Hong Kong & began this company “Constellation Yachts”. Mr Furyman provided the experts from the USA and the fittings whilst Mr Lourensz got the premises, local tradesmen & the timber (Teak, Plywood, Mahogany etc). Mr Lourensz was successful in negotiating with the Sri Lankan Air force & leasing our 99.9 acres of land that contained a disused Catalina Sea Plane Hanger & numerous buildings with solid foundations that had no walls. These were built when Sri Lanka was under the British. Sadly the boatyard closed in the late 1980’s due to the war between the S/L government & the Tamil Tigers. There were about a 8-9 42′ yachts build as I understand.
I got a good grounding in the Marine Drawing Office & worked alongside Mr Wim Koersvelt in all aspects of ‘lofting’ on the 42′ Ketch. Wim was a Dutchman who began his trade initially in Holland & went onto bigger things in Florida, USA.
I moved to Colombo (back home) I was snapped up by Neil Marine (July 1978) who were the biggest boat builders in Sri Lanka – albeit ‘fishing boats”. I was told that Mr Neil Fernando who was the Managing Director of “Penthouse Group” (Neil Marine Boatyard was a subsidiary) went to England & struck this deal to manufacture the FISHER 25’ initially in S/Lanka & if Fairways Marine was happy with progress then move onto making the bigger versions of the Fisher (Fisher 30 etc).
A special building was put up to begin construction of the FISHER 25 at Neil Marine Boatyard (Negombo) – approx. 35 km from Colombo.
One Mr EDDY MARSHALL was posted to Neil Marine S/Lanka to look after operations. I had just come across from Constellation Yachts after just 1.5 years in the industry after finishing my G.C.E. Advanced Level & was a novice. Mr Vagira Navgala & another guy Mr Russel Young were two individuals who had worked for TAOS YACHTS (in Colombo) & had 5-6 years experience. However after about 03 months Mr EDDY MARSHALL called me to his office & told me that he will be going to the UK for Christmas & gave me the keys to his office & entrusted me to look after the place. I had to learn all the tricks of the trade on my feet. Eddy helped me a lot as he was aware of my limited experience. Eventually Eddy Marshall went to the UK on a holiday but never returned. We continued production & made six Yachts for export to the UK every month. I was running the place & even today I know every facet of the construction of the FISHER 25 – not bad I guess after 35+ years.
In your article you mentioned the Potter 25 & the fisheries project that your company tendered for the Sri Lankan Fisheries Department. This Fisheries project was for deep sea fishing trawlers which was funded I believe by the UN. The WHITE FISH AUTHORITY in the UK drew the plans & Neil Marine Boatyard was awarded the tender to build 03 Hulls & provide same to Taos boatyard, Seynor Fisheries boatyard & Neil Marine Keep one. Then each of these boatyards had to build “x” amount of trawlers. Mr DAVID FORD from White FISH AUTHORITY (UK) came to S/L & I was picked to work alongside Mr FORD. I did the lofting & built the moulds. I guess this was the project that you failed to win at the tender box.
I moved to Australia but unfortunately found that Yacht building was a dying industry as most yachts were built in New Zealand, imported from Hong Kong and the odd yacht company in Perth (Western Australia) & Brisbane (Queensland) build yachts. Seeing that there was no scope in the long term I worked in a fibreglass factory making Spa baths, waterslides, portable toilets for use on construction sites etc for 3 years to establish myself in my new country of adoption. In mid 1987 I gave up this factory job & went to Canada/USA for 2 months & on my return I joined the Finance field specializing in Credit Management. I still have this soft spot for yachts & when I do go on holidays to S/Lanka I visit Neil Marine & see the yachts they build for the Dutch Market. I was there in Dec ’15/Jan ’16.
It was surely a delight to read your article & the history of FAIRWAYS MARINE & the FISHER 25.”