Donna Capel was built in Ostend in 1943 and originally named Françoise Helene.

She was then bought in the 1960’s by a fisherman called Howard Capel from Brixham and she fished from there. His wife was called Donna, hence the name.

She was sold again in the early 1970’s to a Mr Dean from Newlyn which is where Terry Heard from Gaffers and Luggers in Mylor Bridge Falmouth spotted her in a very poor state of repair.

He subsequently bought her in the 1970s and floated her, with his son Martin, to Falmouth; nearly sinking in the process as she was in such a poor state of repair. Sadly Terry died before he was able to restore her.

She was subsequently restored, in his memory, by his son, Martin, for Brest and Douarnenez 1992 and then sailed by him for the next 7-8 years before falling into a state of disrepair again. Tragically Martin also died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2009.

John Davison bought her in 2000 from Martin, gutted her, put a strong-back and tarpaulins on and she spent 6 years like this at Tregatreath Boatyard at Mylor Bridge in Cornwall until 2006.

Sept 2006 was the start of the re-build which we completed in Aug 2009.


  1. I was in Douarnenez in 1988, I’m sure Martin brought her over for that event, she may not have been completely restored at that point though!!!
    So glad someone had the time and finance to care for here, it’ll get harder & harder for these old girls to be maintained.

    Well done & a testament to the Heard’s for their dedication to classic boats

    Rob Page

  2. Hi Rob,
    Thanks for your response.
    Martin was at Douarnenez in 1988, not on Donna Capel, and he was so blown away by the whole event that he vowed to start and complete her restoration in time for the 1992 event which he managed to do by the skin of his teeth.
    I’ve got an article written by Janet Heard about this and if you’re interested let me have your email addess and I’ll send ot to you. My email is: jdavison@nvagroup.co.uk
    Kind regards
    John Davison

  3. Hi Rob & John,
    Interested to know what happened to the Donna Capel. Howard Capel was my step-father & when he met & married my mother he still had her as a working trawler. On reading the above I must point out that neither of his wives were called Donna – his first was Joan & my Mum was Mavis. Sadly they have both passed on but I would be grateful for any info/pictures of the Donna Capel as she is now.
    My email is sue.edwards1828@yahoo.com
    Kind Regards
    Sue Edwards

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