Milan Vesely history
Milan Vesely was owner of Specialised Mouldings Ltd. in Kenya, where the Samantha-39 boats were built. This is his story about Samantha-39.

Samantha 39

A time when anything was possible.


The Samantha 39 was born at a time of boundless enthusiasm, when anything was possible, no risk too daunting to take. It was also born out of necessity, Specialised Mouldings (K) Ltd having prospered from its 1970 one man start-up in an open sided shed to a 5 acre factory site complete with three 20-ton overhead cranes and a staff payroll in the hundreds. “We have to sell overseas”, I told Ruth in 1977. “To continue our success we have to break into Europe. The local market for our power boats and industrial products is great, but to ensure the future we have to bring in a new element.”


A yacht was chosen; not any yacht but an ocean-going, family-friendly deep sea cruising yacht. Such a boat would maximize our advantages; excellent but inexpensive craftsmen, good exotic timbers, versatile production facilities and the knowledge I’d been fortunate to gain at Scott Bader resins UK, Lotus Cars UK, and the Choy Lee Boatyard in Hong Kong when as a Super VC10 pilot with East African Airways I’d worked in their facilities for free during flight layovers. 


Robert Tucker; the hull, top deck.


London-based naval architect Robert Tucker was selected because his hull designs were what we wanted; comfortable, extremely sea-worthy and with a wide beam, they also gave lots of interior room. His contract also allowed us input, this soon coming into play when I discarded his flush top deck as too low and designed the top deck myself. The centre cockpit replaced the rear one for safety reasons—especially for onboard children—and for ease of boat operation. Moving the cockpit mid-ship also allowed for convenient sail handling and thence a one or two person operating crew. Same with the ketch rig. Center, front and rear cabin ceilings went up, something that gave the Samantha a more spacious interior and increased head room. All this resulted in weight being moved mid-ship—a factor that I believed could only improve sea comfort during long cruises.


As for Robert Tucker himself: I liked him. He was a good naval architect, very meticulous, not set in his ways, eccentric and with a good heart. It couldn’t have been easy working with me.


The one piece interior moulding.


This I believe was an inspiration as I’d not seen it done before; not at Chris Craft in Fumacino, Italy or at Choy Lee, Hong Kong where I’d worked during two and three day flight layovers. “Why can’t we save labor costs, mould the structural interior shapes as one unit and use plywood and timber only for finishing touches?” I wondered. “We have the overhead cranes and can handle big pieces, no problem!”

Working on formula One race cars at Lotus with the legendary Colin Chapman had also taught me that fiberglass strength increased by a factor of three if a bend was introduced and that a monocoque structure absorbed and dissipated exterior forces, hence a five fold increase in overall boat strength.


Production sequence.


We started with the hulls—Lloyds of London suggested a fiberglass lay-up to comply with their requirements—dropped in the lead keel, glassed this in, fitted the water and diesel tanks and then dropped in the moulded interior unit. Glassed to the hull at strategic points it almost formed a second hull. With the top deck in place the yacht now had more then enough bends in it to increase it’s fore and aft strength by close to 100 percent, while at the same time its overall weight was considerably reduced—a reduction figure I can no longer remember.


Masts, fittings, etc.


A Perkins diesel was selected because I’d visited the Perkins factory in Peterborough, England, not far from the Scott Bader resin laboratories. Well thought of, their engines were simple and tough, something I hope has been experienced by Samantha 39 owners. Proctor masts and rigging were selected as a result of our connection with the father of a very lovely British Airways stewardess friend. Tony Fitzhugh was the Proctor Masts factory foreman and took special care of our orders. For the many other fittings required we set up our own purchasing and exporting company in England, Stratdev Ltd., based out of Cowbridge, Wales and managed by Ruth’s brother, Pete Petersen.

The name.


The name Samantha was chosen and the S and M mimicked our Specialised Mouldings logo.


How many yachts?


As far as I can remember there were 12 hulls molded. The only one not listed on your web site is a hull John Velzian was fitting out himself. Three others were being built against potential orders when I lost control of the factory.


This and that.


Most Samantha 39 owners never met us—something I hope will one day be possible. We now live in Grapevine, Texas.


Who we are.


Ruth’s parents were Danish. Her mother Solveig and father Peer Arvard-Petersen arrived in Kenya via the Nubian  Desert and down the Nile by steamer in 1938. After many business ventures, always the restless adventurer, Peer left his family and ended up in Australia . Ruth studied at the Kenya Girls High School before training as an accountant with Gill and Johnson in Nairobi. We married when she was 19, started and successfully ran the Rondaval Café in Westlands, Nairobi, an auto import company, Jack and Jill—a high end, gently-used (and gentry-used) clothing business—and then finally Specialised Mouldings. Today Ruth is an independent non-profit accounting and administration specialist with two Lutheran churches in our area. She also manages our rental property tax issues and, most important, keeps me in line.


Milan’s parents came to Kenya as Czechoslovakian refugees toward the end of WWII, my Prague-born father Matej setting up an East African trading post for hides and skins for the new Thomas Bata shoe operation in Canada. I was born in Mombasa, next to Fort Jesus. My mother Emily Vassina was from Slovakia. After military service with the Kenya Regiment I became a bush pilot with Boscovich Air Charters and then joined Safari Air Services in Uganda,  flying out of Entebbe. Idi Amin came to power through a coup at this time. Ten years with East African Airways followed. Qualifying with a senior ALTP (Airline Transport Pilot License) and a Flight Engineers License I flew DC3’s, F27 Fokker Friendship turbo props, DC9’s (briefly) and British Aircraft Corporation Super VC10’s internationally. I left EAA to launch Specialised Mouldings (K) Ltd in an open shed building beach buggies—a great idea that didn’t make any money.


Ten years of exhilarating risk and success followed. I traveled anywhere and everywhere to find orders. Idi Amin became a customer, even considered me a friend. The southern Sudan was a good place for business despite its civil war, and Somalia gave us the opportunity to win a considerable United Nations contract. Rwanda and the Congo were also good. There were many times when I wondered whether I’d lost all common sense, however.


The Samantha 39 was the gem however. Exhibiting the yacht at the Southampton Boat Show in the UK for two years and at the Hamburg Boat Show for another was exhilarating. It led to many deep friendships and not a little sense of achievement. The UK magazine Motor Boat and Yachting under their then editor Commander Dick Hewitt did a very nice boat test write-up.



We were able to ship yachts to Southampton Port, UK at the amazing rate of 1,000 pounds sterling because I persuaded the shipping company that as deck cargo it was extra income for them. Cradled in a steel frame much like the wooden one shown on the ‘Samantha hull production’ photograph the yacht was ‘last on’ and ‘first off’ cargo.


In 1980 our world came crashing down. Pressures to hand-over Specialised Mouldings had been building. Physically attacked—the scar stretching from behind my left ear to the center of my left cheek still occasionally itches. Ruth nearly lost her life also, startled awake by an intruder holding a rock over her head. Specialised Mouldings was then placed under receivership, my import licenses for raw materials having been repeatedly denied.


Falsely charged with stealing a Commander 34 police boat that had already been delivered to the Game Department  in Lamu on the Kenya Coast, we soon discovered who our true friends were. Our African manager and foreman, Peter Nyutu and John Ngugi, stood by us despite the risk to themselves.


Systematically stripped of our business, our properties, and our freedom Ruth and our two younger children, Sacha and Ivan, were finally allowed to leave Kenya and joined our older sons, Martin and Adam, in the US after two years of horror. A further two years of my life lost, the bogus charge against me dropped, and I was allowed to go when my torturers became convinced that they had extracted every last asset from me. I left the country of my birth with a briefcase and a change of underwear!


Today I am an author and journalist, writing business and politics for a The Middle East and African Business magazines in London and Paris. We manage our several rental properties and are still passionate about life and world affairs, if only from our armchairs! Four highly successful children and their spouses, six amazing grandsons—and now our beloved Samantha 39 back in our lives—who could ask for anything more?

Milan Vesely,   August 2008
A new story has begun. In 2010 Milan Vesely was offered to buy "African Queen", a Samantha-39 that was built at his own boatyard around 30 years ago in Kenya. The following is his story, Part II.

Milan and Ruth - Part II

The e-mails were cryptic. “Someone called Jovi Starc wants to contact you,” my old Nairobi, Prince of Wales school website webmaster wrote, this soon to be followed by “I have a Samantha 39 and need some help with the fuel gauge” from a Jovi Starc (a man, or so I then thought).


Shortly thereafter the message I was half expecting popped up: “I need to sell it and you can have it for a nominal sum.” Still cautious I mumbled: “Sounds very much like an internet scam”--especially as there had been a whole slew of warnings about such schemes.


And then on November 1st 2010 the whole complexion of the ‘African Queen’ and my life changed; took another exciting and convoluted side step like so much of my past.


Jovi Starc had been an attractive and vivacious Miss, a ‘Human Behavior’ graduate of Columbia University N.Y., a medical equipment inventor and a person who lived life to the full. Fifty-eight years old the adventuress with a passion for travel and Greek mythology had also been an avid and very talented photographer, her Greek island rock formation photographs even starring in an exhibition. Killed in a 15 mph freak car accident on a sunny Saturday afternoon on Paros Island in the Greek Cyclades Islands -- “She died 35 years to the exact hour and day as her beloved grandmother”--this according to her 83 year old mother, Jovi Starc had also left a message on her laptop computer.


“Get a hold of the man from Texas and see if he wants to buy my yacht. I want the ‘African Queen’ to go to a good home,” was what it read. Strange but true it nevertheless led her friend and fellow mariner Graeme Hole of Paros to contact the Samantha 39 “Sisterships” web site, the message re-routed to me in Grapevine, Texas.


And so on February 20th I left for New York to join up with Grant and Anne-Marie Prior, the owners of the Samantha 39 yacht ‘Mjamaji’, then in Jacksonville, Florida undergoing a re-fit. This led on to Athens, Greece and then on to Paros the following morning.


As had been promised the ‘African Queen’ was everything I could have wished for. Proudly, even serenely hunched down among a bevy of modern Bavarian charter yachts in Parikia Harbor the 12 tonnes ‘African Queen’ exuded that experienced look that only comes from a log full of incident filled, deep ocean voyages, its whole well traveled “been there, done that!’ appearance projecting a supreme, even arrogant confidence.


For me, seeing the ‘African Queen’ in all its understated reality was a life altering experience, another life changing side step in the convoluted story of Ruth’s and my life.


“Thank you, Jovi Starc,” I breathed through pursed lips and constricted chest, “thank you for resurrecting, renovating and raising from the dead the yacht that I had set aside as my family’s personal escape carriage in that 1980 time of African upheaval.”


And so Ruth and I are the proud owners of a pre-owned but very much alive, rosewood finished, fiberglass renovated and very experienced ‘African Queen’, a Samantha 39 ‘grand dame’ yacht that now joins its illustrious ‘WeMoon’, ‘Appetite’, ‘Mjamaji’, ‘Pussyfooting’, ‘Kiboko’, ‘de mi Manera’, ‘Alligande’ and ‘Windarji’ brethren; as well as all those other Samantha 39’s that are yet to be discovered.

For that I will honor the much loved but mysterious Jovi Starc, her gracious mother and the dream that led Jovi to allow the 'African Queen' to once again become a part of Ruth's and my life; only this time without the pain, fear and terror of those trouble filled African years. Long may Jovi Starc smile in heaven. The 'African Queen' is as much her legacy . . . as it will be ours.

Milan Vesely,   March 2011

"African Queen", Paros, Greece, 2011.