In 1924 Alpha was acquired by Sir Sidney Rowlatt, a high-court judge and author of India’s notorious Rowlatt Act of 1919. Before the First World War, he had built a substantial Edwardian summer retreat at Nansidwell, between the north bank of the Helford River and Falmouth Bay. He was elected rear commodore of the Royal Cruising Club in 1921, and Alpha, now known as Black Bess, first appears in the Lloyd’s Register of Yachts in 1924; she remained in Rowlatt’s ownership until 1931. For the majority of his ownership, Rowlatt kept Black Bess in falmouth harbour, although by 1928 he had sold the Nansidwell retreat to which he and his six children had come each summer. According to John Buchan, the creator of the fictional Richard Hannay, Rowlatt had a “boyish zest for sailing… in the gusty channel”. It is known from the log of Cariad (another of the centenarians) that in August 1926 Cariad met Black Bess off Dodman Point; and, to quote from the log, that Black Bess then “sailed away from Cariad.”

In 1931 the vessel was bought by a retired naval officer, Commander Jack Mocatta of Maidstone, Kent. Black Bess remained at Falmouth, where the Mocatta family made good use of her, though the younger son, Michael Mocatta, recalls today that he was considered to young to cruise.


Mocatta sold Black Bess in 1934 to another naval commander, Conyngham Denison of Montpelier Row, London. His ownership never appears in Lloyd’s Register, and Black Bess is again for sale in November 1934, described in the unpunctuated advertisement as “sleeps four on vispring mattresses new mast and rigging. Seen near Brighton”.
In 1935 the cutter’s name was changed back to Alpha and a Captain D.B.H. Warner of Kent, who was also a solicitor, acquired her. Thanks to the Warner family, and to Michael Humphries, a much later owner, Alpha’s log is extant from 1935 to 1953. In 1935 Alpha set out from Shoreham and the crew took her to Southampton, Newhaven, Dover, Burnham-on-Crouch and back to her new base in Gillingham, Kent. Later that year she cruised to Holland and Belgium. During 1936 there was a lot of local cruising, as well as a voyage to France in August. The log records a total distance sailed in 1935-36 of 593 miles.