With help from his daughter Pavla, Sir Peter Ustinov had been able to spend the last summer holiday of his life living aboard My Nitchevo in Mallorca in August 2003. By 2011, a team from Underhill Engineering in Plymouth had located the ketch on the hard at Port Napoléon and pulled off a long range rescue, by lorry, for a refit in Devon. Six tonnes of rain water were trapped in her grp-sheathed steel hull.
Back in the 1956 Suez crisis, when Ustinov had just starred in Hollywood with Humphrey Bogart in We‘re No Angels and his Tony winning play Romanoff and Juliet was opening in Manchester, the multilingual actor, director, author and raconteur had been invited for cocktails aboard the 17.8m ketch in Cannes Harbour. She was then owned by a French industrialist with Moroccan interests and named Christina.
Ustinov heard how she had been scuttled by the Germans in St Tropez Harbour after two wartime gun-running voyages for the French Resistance.
Before the party was over, Ustinov had agreed to buy the yacht, complete with her Spanish captain - and the captain's wife: "José Perez Jimenez‘s passion for the sea is contained in an austere secrecy not unlike that of a monk for his God, and his controlled anarchy is utterly and uniquely Spanish."
In his 1977 autobiography Dear Me, he wrote, "My rash, thoughtless purchase has given me some of the happiest times of my life."
"I have faced high seas and even peril on old Nitchevo, with waves breaking on the roof of the deckhouse, arrows of icy water in flight as in medieval battle, little whirlpools scurrying round the calves and pushing at the ankles, seas angry and devious in their malice. All of it, even the moments of fear, was sheer exhilaration."
In 1962, the young Michael Caine caught his first sight of Cannes from the deck of My Nitchevo. Ustinov had lent the yacht and his villa in Provence to Caine's London flat-mate Terence Stamp after directing his performance as Billy Budd. Caine remembered the generosity: "Cannes was fantastic. The girls, glamour, home of the world's biggest film festival".
Long-distance lorry driver Marcel Monnink delivered the 37-tonne load on Transportbedrijf Van de Wetering's exceptional 7-axle 23 metre long low-loader using a tortuous route across France to reach the ferry terminal at Ouistreham, then heading from Portsmouth down the A38 to Plymouth. Project manager Richard Underhill said, "She is a great classic with a notable career as a transatlantic racer in 1929 and 1931. Her 82 year old steel hull and teak deck will be restored before we begin a sympathetic refit of her interior, according to original plans.".