Ron Pipe, around 2003. © 2003 Nick Skeens

RON PIPE (1935-2004)

Ron Pipe was born in 4th July 1935. His father was from Southminster and his mother from Burnham.

He started working on the Crouch around the age of 15, beginning at Tucker Browns boatyard, where he did an apprenticeship in boatbuilding.

He saved up for his own fishing boat which he bought at the age of 18. She was called Victoria.

Slowly but surely he became the King of Burnham River.

He was, at one time, the owner of the Dunkirk Little Ship Vanguard, fishing the oyster beds of the River Roach. His partner was fisherman Ray Hawkins.

If you had a problem with a mooring, wanted to move a houseboat, drive piles in for pontoons, get anything substantial done on the river, you went to Ron. He was immensely skilled, and could manoeuvre a 200-ton houseboat with supreme accuracy via a small tug and a dory.

A large, strong, jovial man, most people knew not to cross him.

One customer told the tale of how he had bought an expensive yacht which had a design flaw – the keel was knocked off in a blow some miles off shore and she capsized.

The owner called up Ron on the radio who came out in a launch, took a line from the stricken craft, brought her under tow before skillfully towing bringing her, still capsized, up the river to the Marina and in between the lines of yachts, clearing them by inches.

Afterwards the owner went up to Ron and said, ‘that was a capital piece of seamanship, Ron. Most impressed.’

Ron laconically replied, ‘That’ll be £20,000.’ Apparently Ron had claimed salvage against the insurance.

He was well known in the town for wearing Dutch wooden clogs and was once chased across a field down beyond Rice & Cole’s by police after being accused of some misdemeanour.

A generous and helpful soul, the yacht clubs and houseboats of Burnham came to depend upon him.

He was married to Julie Pipe. The relationship ended in divorce in 1997, and then Ron entered a relationship with Carole Sansom, who had previously lived on the houseboat Willow Wren on West Quay.

Ron sold one of his fishing boats to buy the West Quay houseboat Fathom from Mr and Mrs Moores who had built a deckhouse on the hull as a holiday retreat. Ron and Carole moved in in 1997.

Ron Pipe died of a heart attack in controversial circumstances on West Quay, outside his houseboat, at 1pm on 21st March, 2004.

See also HMS Beagle.