Betsie Jane

Cruise aboard Betsie Jane

We have been the custodians of Betsie Jane since 2016 and much of the inspiration for the Deli was taken from our love for the bygone era that Betsie represents! Join us for a cruise along the stunning Upper Reaches of the River Hamble, starting from Cabin Boatyard in Bursledon and meandering through the beautiful and oft-forgotten rolling fields and woodlands that line the lesser known, quieter but stunning waters of this famous River. Running only at high tide we are able to reach the point at which the River splits into two and continues its journey further to the Quay in Botley and the Horse and Jockey in Burridge.

Alternatively join us on a downstream cruise through the busier Lower Reaches of the River Hamble, which is always a hive of activity, through the the thousands of moorings which line both sides of this busy yachting waterway. There is always plenty to see and admire on our downstream cruises and Betsie Jane always turns heads as one of the oldest motor launches on the River!

Our professional Skipper and Mate will take care of you throughout your cruise – we’re a small team so if you have visited our Deli in Botley you may well recognise the crew who will be taking care of you on the day. Don’t worry as before we opened the Deli all of us had extensive careers in yachting and boating covering over 300,000 nautical miles at sea between the four of us, so you’ll be in safe hands! All the catering for our cruises comes straight from our Deli and there is something really quite quintessentially British about enjoying an Afternoon Tea on vintage bone china on a traditional Gentleman’s Launch. For our evening cruises we swap the Afternoon Tea to one of our signature Mermaids Graze Tables for you to lazily nibble on as we watch the sun set over the River. On all our trips we offer a range of drinks including Prosecco, tea, coffee and soft drinks.


Our covid-19 and weather promise

We will be offering our COVID-19 and Weather Promise for all trips in 2021. This means if we are unable to run your trip due to inclement weather, you are unable to attend due to national restrictions as a result of COVID-19, you are unable to attend due to yourself or a member of your party receiving a positive COVID-19 test result or being advised to isolate by the national track and trace service we will provide a full refund (or a rescheduled cruise should you prefer – subject to availability).


Hire of Betsie Jane

£300.00

Book now for exclusive hire of Betsie Jane for up to 8 people. The price includes exclusive use of Betsie Jane with her professional Skipper and Mate for one and a half hours, Mermaids Afternoon Tea for afternoon cruises, a Mermaids Breakfast Graze Table for morning cruises or a Mermaids Evening Graze Table for evening cruises and refreshments on board (including Prosecco for over 18s – subject to a sensible drinking policy and for which ID will be required if you look under 25).

All cruises start and finish from Cabin Boatyard in Bursledon, where free parking is available for two cars.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do you accept children on your trips?

We accept children aged 8 and over on our cruises if accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Can we bring our own food and drinks on board?

As a licensed vessel we are only able serve alcoholic drinks bought as part of our packages aboard Betsie Jane. We also ask that only food purchased as part of your booking is consumed aboard.

Do you accept dogs on board?

Unfortunately we are unable to accept any pets on board Betsie Jane

Is there a toilet on board?

Yes we have a sea toilet on board Betsie Jane. We do however recommend using the toilet ashore in the marina before departure as it’s a little more luxurious!

How easy is it to get on the boat? Do you accept participants with restricted mobility?

Participants will need to walk down a marina ramp and along pontoons to get to the boat. There are also two steep steps to get onto the boat and unfortunately Betsie Jane is not adapted to take wheelchairs aboard. If you would like to discuss mobility requirements for a trip aboard Betsie Jane please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss this further.

How far in advance can I book?

At present we are releasing dates for booking around 1-2 months in advance. This will continue throughout the 2021 season to the ever changing restrictions. Keep an eye on our website and Facebook page to see when new dates are announced.

Do you run in any weather conditions?

Betsie Jane is a completely open boat, so we don’t run in weather conditions which might mean that you’ll get rained on or your food will be blown away! We will always call you the day before your trip to confirm it is going ahead and to discuss any bad weather forecast with you.

Are you COVID secure?

A cruise aboard Betsie Jane is naturally very COVID secure as you are outside throughout the voyage. Our professional crew will wear masks when in close contact or serving your table. We ask you wear a face mask as you board and disembark Betsie Jane. During the voyage our crew are stood over two metres away facing the opposite direction to drive and navigate the boat. As far as possible they will leave your group alone throughout the voyage. Within your group we ask that you consider coming with your family group or support bubble and if you are from two separate households you sit opposite someone from your own household as far as possible. Hand sanitiser is available on board and we ask that you provide a list of participant names and contact telephone numbers for all of your party in case we need to contact you after the voyage.

Do you offer gift vouchers? If I have an existing voucher can I still use it?

In order to allow us to manage bookings we no longer offer new gift vouchers for bookings aboard Betsie Jane. We will honour outstanding vouchers as best as we can within the current restrictions. If you have a voucher that was originally valid for use in the 2020 season its validity has automatically been extended to cover the 2021 season. We have some dates set aside for voucher redemptions for voucher holders with vouchers for individual places rather than whole boat hire so please contact us on info@themermaidsgroup.co.uk and we can confirm available dates for booking your voucher. Please note that we are only taking bookings around a month in advance at the moment, due to ever changing restrictions.


About Betsie Jane

Betsie Jane was commissioned by Lord Ebbisham and built by Saunders-Roe in Cowes in 1937/8. Designed specifically for entertaining guests, she was luxuriously appointed with white leather seats in the cockpit, teak decks and beautiful cabinet work.  She was driven by two 6 cylinder 71hp ‘Gray’ petrol engines with a maximum speed of 14 knots.

Lord Ebbisham, Sir George Rowland Blades GBE, former Lord Mayor of London employed a full time Skipper, Frank Toogood, to look after and run Betsie Jane.  His role was to transport Lord Ebbisham and his guests to and from his house, ‘The Rookery’ in Seaview on the Isle Of Wight and around the Solent.  However shortly after she was built, with the outbreak of WW2, Lord Ebbisham relinquished the boat for the Royal Navy to use. Amazingly, Lord Ebbisham managed to keep Frank Toogood aboard Betsie Jane to ‘look after her’ meaning he had to sign up as a Rating and join in with the War effort aboard Betsie Jane.

Betsie Jane initially operated as tender to whichever ‘examination vessel’ was positioned at St. Helens Roads. They were responsible for examining and checking each incoming ship to the area.  Frank Toogood and ‘HM Motor Launch Betsie Jane’ received their orders directly from Captain Saunders RN, the Commander in Chief, Isle of Wight who was based at Culver Down Fort. 

In 1940 HM Motor Launch Betsie Jane took part in the evacuation of Dunkirk under the command of Frank Toogood. In discussions with his Son before passing, Frank recalled towing small boats that had broken down, but could not remember how many trips across they made in the end. He didn’t like to talk much about it, according to his family. 

In 1941 Seaview Pier and the Pier Hotel were taken over by the Admiralty and became H.M.S Victory III – External Defence Office. HM Motor Launch Betsie Jane was also moved to the new position and Frank Toogood became ‘Coxswain to the Commander’. 

In 1942 Betsie Jane had a major overhaul at Woodnutt’s Yard, St. Helens where a wheel house was added and her original engines were replaced with two 120hp Sea Queen engines bring her top speed from 14 knots to 20 knots.

After every air raid all the  ships in the Solent and Dockyard couldn’t move until the harbour and shipping channels were swept clear of mines. However as Betsie Jane was made from teak and fastened with copper roves, she could move around with minimal risk from the magnetic mine detonators.  

On one occasion she was ordered to proceed to a position approximately 10 miles South of St. Catherine’s Point to pick up airman who had ditched in the sea. When they arrived they discovered the airman was German and in a poor way. Once they had him aboard and disarmed, they took him to Haslar Hospital. After that incident it was decided to issue Frank Toogood and the crew with side arms and .303 rifles. 

As the War intensified and more and more shipping arrived in the Solent, Betsie was also used as a Pilot Vessel. She was ordered to proceed to the Nab Tower and pick up the lead vessels of allied ship convoys and escort them to designated anchorages within the safety of the Solent. 

One of the most secretive operations Betsie was involved in during the War was surveying for Operation PLUTO. Frank Toogood and Betsie Jane were ordered to report, without crew, to King’s Stairs in Portsmouth Harbour where they collected high ranking Officers and surveyors and were handed sealed orders directly from the Admiralty to “proceed to the SW of the Isle of Wight then steam at 3 to 4 knots in a Westerly direction, 1 to 1.5 miles off the coast, heave too when ordered”. 

During the build up to Operations Neptune & Overlord – The D Day Landings; and during the operation, Frank Toogood and Betsie Jane worked all day and night leading ships to their anchorages, transferring Officers from ship to ship and shore to ship as well as delivering sealed orders to awaiting ships Captains before they departed the Solent. 

Frank Toogood and Betsie Jane were released from Service in 1945 and returned to service for Lord Ebbisham as before the War.  In 1953 Lord Ebbisham passed away and Betsie Jane was laid up and no longer used. After a few years Betsie Jane was sold by the family. 

Betsie Jane came into the ownership of Mr Alick Dick, the Managing Director and Chairman of the Standard – Triumph International Company. She was used as a family boat cruising from the Solent to the West Country and onwards to Pembrokeshire. From here the ownership trail is lost, until we pick up the story when Ron Bailey transported Betsie Jane to Haddenham, Cambridgeshire.  Before this she had laid in a local boat yard in a very poor state. 

Ron was a retired boatbuilder and started restoration in 1991. He secured much of the structural work with the intention of full restoring her.  Unfortunately ill health meant Ron could not continue with the  restoration and poor Betsie Jane was eventually put on the market in 2007. 

This is where Paul Rainbird took over the project and what was supposed to take 6 months turned out to be 5 years, with the refit finishing in 2012. Fortunately thanks for Ron and Paul, many of the original fixtures and fittings were saved and incorporated into the restoration.  Paul Rainbird moved Betsie Jane to Greenway Marine in Loddon, on The Broads in Norfolk to undertake the refit.

Paul Rainbird launched Betsie Jane once more in 2012 and she was used on the fresh water of the Norfolk Boards. Used privately by Paul and Heidi Rainbird for pleasure trips, as well as for commercial trips with guests along the Broads.  

In September 2016, after a long search for the ‘right’ boat, Betsie Jane was purchased by Lisa and Jono (the owners of Mermaids of Botley) and brought back to the Solent, where she started her life back in 1938. Since 2016, with careful ownership and continued refits and restoration, she is now once again entertaining guests in her original home waters as she was intended to, over 80 years ago. Since 2016 Jono and Lisa have entertained over 2,500 guests aboard Betsie Jane for afternoon tea or evening drinks.