The spring’s always a busy time here at Intheboatshed Towers, but in between the rushing about and the chores, I’ve been greatly enjoying A C Stock’s volume, In Shoal Waters, published by Dick Wynne’s excellent Lodestar Books imprint.
The book’s available in hardback (£18) and paperback (at a democratic £10), and well worth every penny in either edition.
I think this short extract about Barking Creek exemplifies the careful way old Charles Stock, now sadly departed, was able to mix his history and his impressions…
‘Sunday dawned cold and overcast, with a strong wind from the north. I prefer a head wind for exploration as it makes it easy to get out again if you don’t like the place. The creek entrance was blocked by the construction works for the new flood barrier but open marsh on the western edge has allowed a temporary bypass to be cut, which I looked into at low tide. There didn’t seem to be much water there and it was too narrow to beat in comfortably so I brought up and ate a lazy breakfast. An hour later, with the first of the flood, Shoal Waters turned her bows towards Barking Mill.
‘In days long gone I would have been crossing tacks with a mass of other craft all working in on the young flood, but today I was alone. A coaster lay dried out against one of the busy wharves dominating the eastern bank where new machinery contrasted with ancient buildings. The western banks were still open and marsh fringed with Norfolk reed, and lively with duck. Barking, I reflected, was once an isolated village two miles upstream, a place where artful fishermen had their nets burned publicly in 1320 because the mesh was too small.
‘The centre-plate whispered as it touched the shallows each side and I pushed the helm down with one hand and lifted the plate a few inches with the other to bring her round on the other tack. The tide was running strongly now. The first of the bridges, the one carrying the A13, came into view and although it marks the limit for coasters, being so early on the tide I was able to sail straight through, where crumbling buildings merged with modern office blocks. A few weathered motor cruisers were being fitted out and a small lighter sat waiting patiently to be rigged as a spritsail barge. One thing was clear, the bricked-up doorways along the riverside indicated that they had all turned their backs on the river in favour of the motor vehicle. Yet here was once the largest trawler station in the kingdom – if not the world. Barking men claim to have been the first to make use of the trawl.’
‘The centre-plate whispered… ‘ That’s exactly what they do as they slice the mud.
Barking was once famous for its trawlers and colliers… And there’s an old song about it. Hear it performed by our great friends Annie Dearman and Steve Harrison. (By the way, they’re performing during the afternoon and evening of the Frittenden Old Fashioned Night Out on the 6th April.)
[THIS BOAT HAS NOW BEEN SOLD AND IS BEING RESTORED] By coincidence, down at Fowey, boat builder and restorer Marcus Lewis tells me one of his clients has a Fairey Falcon for sale. I guess it could either be returned to its former condition as a good-sized, good performing dinghy (there don’t seem to be too many around now, so she might appeal to a vintage dinghy enthusiast), or converted in much the same way as Shoal Waters was just 50 years ago.
The Falcon hull is a big boat for its 16ft length, was what Stock started with when he built his own boat - to the hull he added a small cabin, and fitted the gaff rig from his previous boat. (I should add that Shoal Waters is still sailing and doing well in the hands of ‘Creeksailor’ Tony Smith.)
Here’s what Marcus has to say about the Falcon:
‘Hi Gavin – I have a customer who has a Fairey Falcon dinghy in need of some serious tlc. She is getting on a bit, and some of the interior ply is a bit soft, but the hull seems strong, as proved recently when she spent six days underwater, after sinking on her mooring during the gales and floods.
‘There are some bits, mast boom, old mainsail, but her jib and spinnaker were lost. The owner is keen for her to have a new home where she will be looked after and cared for. She is available at very low cost to a sympathetic purchaser, so is there one out there? (Combi trailer not included.)’
For information, contact Marcus via his website.