Model                       :                   Freeman 24 Finesse

Cockpit                    :                   Rear

Year                           :                  1985

Engine & Fuel         :                  Inboard BMW B130 petrol

Capacity                   :                  2000 cc 120 hp

Sterndrive                :                 BMW Mk2

Fridge                        :                 Electrolux 240/12v

Calorifier                   :                Yes

Warm air heater      :                 Gas

Invertor                     :                 600 watts

Generator                 :                 Petrol

Shower                     :                Yes

Toilet                         :                 Electric Portapotti

Also has GPS,  VHF radio and Depth Sounder.



It was 1975 when I last owned a boat, a Norman 20 complete with a Mercury 20H.P. outboard, moored on The Lancaster Canal at Galgate. The boat was new at the time and I kept it for about a year before getting tied up with “courting”, marriage and children. It was in 2005, when all the children had grown up and left home that we decided that we would look for another boat. After researching the internet for boats available in our budget range we made a shortlist up consisting of a new Bella located at Preston, a 1989 Sealine 289 at Windermere and a 1985 Freeman 24 on The Lancaster Canal. After further research relating to annual running costs and upkeep, we decided to buy the Freeman, even though it had a petrol BMW inboard engine fitted against my preferred diesel. I was also told that the BMW, now being an obsolete model, would be very difficult to source parts for. I later proved this theory wrong  though as further research revealed that the BMW B 130 engine was in fact based on a prolific engine from the BMW car range through the 70’s 80’s and 90’s. BMW engine parts were not going to be a problem! It was really only after we decided to buy that we discovered that our chosen Freeman 24 was somewhat unique.

Our chosen boat turned out to be a Freeman Finesse, built in 1985, one year after John Freeman had ceased trading. It came to us with three huge folders of history, invoices, press releases, magazine articles and workshop manuals for the BMW engine and stern drive. The boat itself was in extremely clean condition, with polished, unmarked fibreglass and an extremely clean interior, engine bay and bilges. It was already fitted with hot and cold pressurized water, shower, gas warm air heating on a thermostat which we subsequently discovered were all listed as optional extras in the original sales literature that I had in one of the folders. An evening reading all this information provided an interesting insight into the history of “Sheer Madness”.

Around 1983 John Freeman finally succumbed to the economic climate of the time and ceased trading as a boat manufacturer. (The name John Freeman Sales still lives on today courtesy of Sheridan Marine on the Thames who still provide an important role in fulfilling the needs of Freeman owners worldwide with re-manufactured and original parts and workshop facilities). Val Wyatt Marine, an old established boatyard on The Thames, (who are still thriving today), were one of the main Freeman agents on The Thames at the time. When the manufacturing company folded, Val Wyatt bought the moulds to the Freeman 24 and commenced construction of a new boat, and according to an article in the Henley Gazette of the time, intended to go into production with other models if the 24 proved to be a success. In late 1984 the new boat, the Freeman Finesse was almost complete, having been hand laid at Aquafibre in Norfolk to Lloyds standards, before being returned to The Thames yard for fitting out in the traditional Freeman way. The boat was constructed to be just as prestigious as the Freemans before it, and to seal this it was to be fitted with what was considered to be one of the best marine engines at the time – the BMW B130 complete with mk2 stern drive. The interior also underwent a complete makeover, losing the separate cabin with dinette layout in favour of a new, fresh, open plan layout which included a redesigned heads compartment at the rear of the cabin which now included a shower utilizing the full height headroom. The boat was to be completed in time for the 1985 London Boat Show, where it was displayed with an initial price tag of £20,500 including V.A.T. (Bare boat without all the extras mentioned earlier)! I don’t know the exact reason, but this was the only boat ever built by Val Wyatt and was later sold to be named “Sheer Madness” and spend most of its life on The Thames until I bought her in March 2006, having been moved to The Lancaster Canal. When I bought her she was still registered to be used on The Thames. I can only guess that her name had something to do with her initial cost, which was quite something in early 1985! She is registered with the MCA small ships register and is fitted with modern navigation equipment such as DSC vhf radio, and GPS. One of the interesting pieces of literature contained within the folders is a copy of an August 1985 Practical Boat Owner Magazine boat test article, where she was put through her paces on The Thames. The test concluded that she handled well, the BMW engine and high freeboard made her not only suitable for river cruising but also for coastal work. Her construction reflected the quality of the original Freemans and that she was “expensive, but worth it”.

Although not a “genuine” Freeman in the true sense, we feel lucky to own such a unique boat with a famous history, and intend to keep her in as original condition as possible while we own her.


Peter & Margaret Berry