Seamew, built by Stebbings of Burnham on Crouch in 1953, and repaired and restored in Bob Hinks’ workshop
Clea Rawinsky has been busy fulfilling a long-held ambition to own and sail a Burnham Scow, with the help of boatbuilder Bob Hinks (link one, link two) and their mutual friend Mark. Here’s the story as she tells it:
I first saw Seamew, dusty and forgotten, in a boat shed near my home years ago. I recognised the class easily: she was a Burnham Scow: an 11ft 3in clinker-built sailing dinghy.
One of the local yacht clubs, the Royal Burnham, adopted the class for their cadet section some 50 years ago, and a small number of them continue to grace the River Crouch. However, Burnham Scows are very rarely found for sale and tend to be passed down through families.
Seamew had split planks, a bashed-in gunwhale and had obviously enjoyed a great history – but she also looked like she hadn’t been touched in decades. She needed more work than I was capable of, but just knowing she existed allowed me to dream.
Then, last year, I was introduced to Bob Hinks. He and our mutual friend, Mark, had a cracking day out sailing Cirrus, Bob’s strip-plank built 20ft day-sailer with an electric inboard motor. Bob was clearly a craftsman and I was intrigued by his modest view of his obviously outstanding talent as a boat builder.
One day I was showing Mark and Bob my own boat, a 26ft Polaris. She was in storage awaiting a new owner and by chance happened to be chocked off right next to Seamew. Both guys saw, as I had, the potential in the little elm-on-oak relic. As if by magic, Bob was heard to say how he’d been looking for a winter project.
That was last autumn. There and then the three of us tacitly agreed we’d be sailing her next summer. It has been a whirlwind time making it happen.
Seamew went to Bob’s workshop in London, a perfect, centrally-heated space at the bottom of his garden. We all chipped in but it was Bob’s skill that defined the project. He stripped out the damaged wood and made up the list of materials required to rebuild her.
The new timber arrived just before Christmas and Bob set-to, teaming planks and making up fittings that we couldn’t buy, sometimes using the workshop in his former company, Asylum. He used his own bandsaw to cut notches in a bronze bar that was destined to become our bespoke centre-plate handle.
He kept us up-to-date on the progress by regularly emailing new images, showing the skeleton of the boat, fresh copper fastenings, the next new plank, the new thwart knees and a sumptuously rich finish on the mahogany rudder cheeks.
As if the project wasn’t rolling along quickly enough, Bob moved up a gear when I mentioned there was an opportunity to have the boat at the RYA Volvo Dinghy Show. It was a bit of a long shot: the Royal Burnham had space booked at the show at the Alexandra Palace show in early March, but didn’t have a boat to put on the stand. Bob was more than willing and the club was too, as it turned out.
In the end she looked fantastic on the stand, and drew a lot of attention. I found myself thinking of her shipwrights, back in 1950s Burnham in the old Chapel Road boatshed… I fancy they may have smiled to see her, almost a lifetime later, under the bright lights, on show, up in the big smoke. In fact, it wasn’t her first experience of brief fame – she was put on show at the Earls Court Boat Show, 57 years ago.
Roll on the warmer weather and a champagne launch some time in May.
Thanks Clea – that’s a very cheering story. It’s particularly nice that you managed to get some history on the boat itself as well as the class.
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