Visitors to the vicinity of Clacton Pier have, in the past, traditionally favoured the west beach rather than that on the east; resulting in it earning the nickname “Poverty Bay” by the locals. That wasn’t to say it was not popular and for several decades the smaller, and more powerful, pleasure boats operated from the first breakwater east of the Pier, helping to attract visitors to this side. The breakwater was used as a jetty to allow the public to take advantage of an exciting “spin around the pier”, with optional spray sheets to protect those not wishing to get splashed by flying spume. But the breakwaters were there to help protect the coast and had to be adapted for conveying passengers to and from the boats, and at high tides proved particularly unsuitable. The local boatmen therefore built wheeled jetties (known as brows) to assist with the embarkation of passengers.
In the late 1950’s and during the Swinging 60’s “Surf Queen” and “Speed Queen” were the most well known powerboats and would alternate between picking-up passengers and taking them for an exhilarating trip. They were not alone in operating, as a large powerboat known as “Sea Spray” would run trips from Clacton Pier, using the steps by the entrance to the Lifeboat House on the east side, or alternatively a set of steps on the west side depending on the weather or sea conditions. After their day’s work the power boats would be moored at sea close to the Pier but if the weather-forecast did not look good the boats would motor round to Brightlingsea for shelter. Occasionally bad weather appeared without warning and the small boats would be tossing and turning, riding the large waves at anchor, and it was not unknown for them to occasionally get swamped and sink. Airbags and divers then had to be used to bring the boats back to the surface. In the winter months the boats would be given berths at St. Osyth boatyard where they would be worked on ready for the next season.
The two “Queens” were clinker built and carried the corporate colours of black with a white boot line, white decks, and red antifouling, “Surf Queen” having a second white band of white just under the gunwale “Sea Spray” on the other hand was painted bright red with light blue decking, so very distinguishable. Both “Queens” had their engines housed in the centre of the hulls with a driver and passenger bay for’ard and a second passenger bay aft. Purpose built covers protected the two passenger bays whilst at anchor and in the morning the skipper would either row out to his vessel (the rowing boat being tethered to the pier railings by the steps) or be dropped off by one of the larger pleasure boats “Viking Saga” or “Nemo II”, operating their first trip of the day from West Beach. Once on board, the front hatch cover would be pulled back so the powerboat could be brought in to the shore where both covers were removed.
Sadly by the early 1970’s the number of visitors to Clacton had fallen, and those desiring the thrill of a lively sea trip had also dropped. The “Speed Queen” had sustained damage to her hog (part of the keel) and “Surf Queen”, operating on her own, was no longer viable. Having completed her last season she was sold to the Burnham on Crouch Harbour Authority and used as a launch, being moored just downstream from the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club.