The Short Flatner on the water and on the ramp at Watchet harbour
Fans of the unique traditional Somerset flatner family of British flat-bottomed small turf, river and sea boats will be interested to learn that there’s a new baby among the fleet: the Short Flatner.
Watchet Boat Museum honorary curator John Nash developed and built her, so I’ll let him tell the story. But before he begins, I should explain that John Short was a well known local character and provided folklorist Cecil Sharp with a long list of great sea songs. There’s a list of the songs and a surprisingly large collection of photos of Short at the English Folk Dance & Song Society website.
I’ve heard that Short earned the nick-name Yankee Jack simply because he had once crossed the Atlantic by ship at a time when the world was a bigger place than it is today, but who knows what the real reason may have been? My old friend Tom Brown offers a talk on the topic.
I’ll let John Nash tell his story of the new boat his way:
‘It was originally based on boats from Combwich but that all changed during design, so the new name is the Short Flatner.
‘The name sums it all up really: it’s a short boat, all parts of which are to be found on one sort of flatner or another, and named after Watchet’s famous chantyman, John Short. His nickname was Yankee Jack, but we already have a boat with that name so we had to think of another. I pull people’s legs and tell them it’s called John Short because it’s a short boat built by a bloke called John, but that’s just bullshit!
‘Our President, Commander Gil Mayes OBE C Eng MRINA exhibits his own flatner at various river festivals around our area on our behalf. He identified a need for a small, cheap, easy to build rowing boat based on a flatner. I decided I could do it, and with the help of his advice and experience, did it. It incorporates traditional features from different types of flatner, all with a view to easy building.
‘I was determined to design and build a boat that one person could make, and, apart from help turning it over, this is exactly what I’ve done.
‘If I can build this boat, anybody can – and that’s the truth. Skills-wise, it requires very basic carpentry and nothing else – except reading the manual on glues, paints etc. Plans and full details will be available for a small fee in aid of Museum funds as soon as I can get round to it.
‘I built the boat from 9mm WBP rather than marine ply at three times the price, and used standard-size softwoods from my local DIY shop, taking care to choose half-decent wood. For glue I used the standard and quick versions of Balcotan. It’s all coated with WEST or MAS resin (in this case both, just to try them), and well sealed and painted with Dulux rather than boaty paint and bought various fittings from agricultural merchants to keep the cost down. I also used loads of g and f clamps. The gunwales are laminated to avoid steaming.
‘I think the little boat will be good for gentle healthy rowing on rivers, lakes and ornamental ponds. It’s fine for one person and easy to row. It’s also OK for two, with the passenger on one of the water-tight lockers, but three is pushing it a bit.
‘It’s too heavy to put on a roof rack easily, but two blokes can lift it. We were lucky enough to pick up a very light and almost perfect trailer for next to nothing.’
Related intheboatshed.net posts:
•Watchet Boat Museum http://www.wbm.org.uk