Ocean Mist; The Cruz

HMS Samuel Green, Ocean Rover, Aries, Ocean Mist, Cruz, Ocean Mist.

Having previously encouraged fishermen to join the new Territorial Army, when WW1 started many immediately commenced mine-sweeping duties, often on the ships they had been fishing on shortly before. The Admiralty in London formed a scheme to build steam armed trawlers for the Great War effort to replace the many trawlers that were lost in action. Our ship was built in Glasgow and named after one of Lord Nelson’s crew at the Battle of Trafalgar: HMS (Her Majesty’s ship) Samuel Green. However, she was too late to see service in the war as her completion finally came in 1919, just after WW1 had ended. Incredibly, HMS Samuel Green is still in existence ~ surviving, as the Cruz ~ the last remaining steam driven trawler of her type.

She was sold immediately to the first of many owners who embarked her on a rich and glamorous life. She was to be boarded by some of the glitterati and aristocracy of the day and who knows what her future holds in store for her yet?

Her illustrious life started when she was snapped up in 1921 and bought by her first private owner, the speed breaking racer millionaire Kenelm Guinness of the Irish brewing company. As for many racing motorists of this era, he had commercial interests in automotive engineering being the inventor of the Spark Plug.  1922 saw Kenelm Guinness facing two important international rally races a week apart with a sea crossing splitting the two venues in Spain and Sicily. Today, to save time, air freight would be standard, but no easy option existed in those days. Being a keen yachtsman Kenelm Guinness renamed the steam trawler the ‘Ocean Rover’, refitted her as a gentleman’s yacht, secured the racing-cars to the floor of the converted fish and ice hold and sailed himself, the factory team and mechanics around the stormy Mediterranean.  This was a sensational solution at the time.

In 1924, Kenelm Guinness used the yacht under the name Aries, for a treasure-hunting trip to the Indian Islands. Adventurous nowadays, but even more so in the days of pirate flotillas. He braved it with his diamond trader friend Sir Malcolm Campbell the Duke of Leeds, knighted for his achievements in breaking eight world speed records on water and land.

With the earlier title Ocean Rover reinstated in 1928, the Guinness family went on to host many parties and trips for the nobility. One in 1929, including guests The King of Greece, Lady Hon Guinness, the Countess of Craven and the Earl of Altamont. Whilst the Ocean Rover never sailed under the White Ensign of the Royal Navy, as a yacht, all the owners up until 1939 were members of the Royal Yacht Squadron.

After a further four years she found yet another new home and owner this time on the the Isle of Wight before passing on once again four years later in 1938 to a berth on the Firth of Clyde. 

After a relatively short period as a Clyde based yacht, due to the out break of WW2 in 1939, along with practically the entire British Fishing Fleet, she was commandeered for the second time by the Admiralty to undertake the duties of mine sweeping and coastal patrol.

However as the Ocean Rover had earlier been converted in order to accommodate luxury passengers and her fishing equipment removed she was initially deemed more suitable for use as a floating HQ. Later being employed as a torpedo recovery vessel on the Clyde and briefly at Leith, before taking up duties on the South Coast. When WW2 was over in 1945, most other vessels of her size were quickly sold out of Admiralty service. But she was not suitable for conversion back to fishing like the others so she was retired (for the first time ! ) and laid up. 

During the immediate post-war years materials for luxurious projects, such as yachting, were very strictly controlled by government edict, coal was even more strictly rationed, which resulted in the Ocean Rover being unused for quite some time. She languished mostly laid-up in a mud berth in Cowes.

By 1949 she had been re-fitted as a yacht but due to post war rationing of coal it took until 1954 and the pockets of another millionaire before she wetted her hull again, this time as the ‘Ocean Mist’. 

By 1954 most of the war time restrictions had been lifted and the new owner an English multi-millionaire yachtsman based on the Isle of Wight. ‘Tiny’ Mitchell, a somewhat larger than life figure, both physically and metaphorically, used it for occasional jaunts across the Channel.  At this point, with smog collecting, her black smoke was now considered filthy and her boilers were converted from coal to oil firing in step with the times.

By 1960 Ocean Mist was purchased by the Anglo-Canadian owner of
the Great Glen Cattle Ranch Fort, whisky trader Joseph Hobbs of Inverlochy Castle, Fort William. He had made his first fortune in shipping and Canadian real estate. Now in Scotland he was doing it again with cattle and whisky, owning seven whisky distilleries. 

Hobbs had the idea of introducing American style cattle ranching to the Highlands of Scotland.A Canadian Daily Tribune reported in 1951 that he was employing “four Gaelic-speaking cattle hands. From dawn to dusk they range this Scottish ranch on horseback and carry 12 foot whips.”

Having had several ships in his private fleet over time, some say his favourite was ’Ocean Mist’. There is tale of Hobbs and his friend John Cobb – who died on Loch Ness trying to break the water speed record, planning to use the boat whilst searching for hidden treasure in Jamaica.

She remained on the Caledonian Canal until the mid 1980s, times having moved on and the taste in yachts having changed she was unsellable.

But again, a lucky reprieve saved her from the salvage yard. In 1984 Joesph Hobb’s son Jo Junior joined forces with two other entrepreneurs under the business title The Leith Steamship Company. The Ocean Mist went first to Inverness where for £1/2million the machinery was overhauled before her journey to Leith Old Harbour. It was to be her last voyage. 

With no concrete bridge to block the way and the Victoria Swing bridge still operating, The Ocean Mist puffed into its new mooring alongside the ‘Kings Wark’ quay in the Old Harbour at Leith Docks in 1987. It was the last time the Victoria bridge was to be used.

‘Kings Wark’ quay has a royal prestigious past. In 1822, George IV, had his tall ship moored there for a meeting at Customs House.

The Ocean Mist had become a yacht to call your own, for lunch at least in the newly regenerated Shore. Later the concrete road bridge would be built and the Victoria Swing bridge would cease to work blocking the Ocean Mist’s water exit. At one point she sported a canary yellow colour considered unsightly by many. With time the numerous eateries out numbered their customers and in 2000 the Ocean Mist closed.

  • 2005 Demolition started then stopped.
  • 2007 It took the foresight of two Iranian engineers Matthew Tabatabaie, the successful Edinburgh restauranteur of De Niro fame; and Sassan Pour, an architectural engineer to re-launch the derelict Ocean Mist as the Cruz, after a £1.1 million refit.  She was stripped down to deck level and machinery removed. They converted her into a smart cocktail bar, nightclub and 90 seat restaurant complex with roof terrace. But the gourmet restaurants all around were booming and also serving Cote d’Azur bouillabaisse and saffron beurre blanc. The competition was stiff. Practicalities were also not favourable as waiting staff tried to run effortlessly up and down the gangplanks with dishes. As the years passed, the mood music for those fine dining and wining upstairs on the deck had to compete at times with the sound of rock music blasting away in the downstairs bar as the former Ocean Mist became a watering hole.
  • 2013 Cruz closed its doors and gangplank.
  • 2019 The Leith Steamship Company, which has now become the Water of Leith 2000 sold the Cruz in 2019. She has been saved from dereliction and is to be restored to her former glory as a luxury floating hotel under her former name Ocean Mist.  More photos to come on completion.

Courtesy of:

Sir Stuart of Allenbank
Lady Hon Guinness
Grand Prix Sunbeams
Captain Walter Hume
The City of Edinburgh Council ~ Art UK Peter Stubbs
Malcom Donnelly
Douglas Brown
Chris Allen
John Cooper
Neil Judson
Martin Third
Leith Podcaster


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