Category Archives: Traditional clinker

Clinker plans and boatbuilding

A proposal: a Kent Traditional Boat Association

Watermen’s skiffs

Maritime historian Edward Sargent has a dream – that there should be an organisation celebrating the wide range of traditional boats that have been used and developed in the County of Kent.

The proposed Kent Traditional Boat Association would be to carry out research into the various types of traditional boat used in Kent in the past, produce a register of the types and also a register of surviving boats. It would encourage and support those wishing to restore and preserve existing Kent boats, and if possible would set up workshop and storage facilities where the boats could be kept and worked on.

Other aims would be to encourage the building of replicas of traditional Kent boats, and organise events to promote the project and to engage the supporters.

Here’s what he says about the plan:

‘The Kent Traditional Boat Association is a project that grew out my interest in the Gravesend skiffs and a general interest in the historic working boats of Kent. There are so many different types of working boat around the Kentish coasts and, while some types are well-catered for by existing organisations such as Kentish Sail and the Thames Sailing Barge Trust, others are not catered for especially the smaller craft.

‘I would like there to be within the Association a series of local groups that would cater for different areas. One of these would be based at Gravesend and deal with the Gravesend waterman’s skiffs.’

Edward’s an interesting chap. He has largely retired from a career as an architect specialising in historic building conservation, but comes from a family with a long maritime history stretching back to about 1800 – his father, grandfather and two great-grandfathers were master mariners, and he has a strong interest in maritime history. During 1980s he was conservation officer for the London Docklands Development Corporation. He is currently chairman of the Docklands History Group, and is personally working on a history of the building of the docks in London up to 1909, as well as an in-depth historical analysis of the ropery at the Chatham Historic Dockyard.

He’s also been active on the water. For three decades he has also been involved in helping with the running of historic steamship VIC56, which built at Faversham in 1945 for the Admiralty (it spent its working life up until the 1970s supplying ammunition to warships at Rosyth) and has competed in each of the Great River Races, many of them in waterman’s skiffs – and owns and maintains two  Gravesend waterman’s skiffs originally built for the Gravesend Town Regatta Committee.

For more information about the proposed Kent Traditional Boat Association, click here.


The year at HJ Mears of Seaton, Devon

Alex and Paul Mears of the long established Seaton, Devon boatyard HJ Mears have written to tell us about their year. Follow the link for some history, boats for sale (including a nice small yacht… ) and some nice photos among other things.

‘We’ve been fortunate to have had a rather hectic year; so I thought I’d update you and your readers on some of our projects.

‘The first one to be completed earlier in the year was our 25ft clinker launch Tarka.

Her owner has had a cracking season exploring the river Dart and going further afield. She is certainly distinctive among the GRP of modern day marinas – and is ven distinctive when set among other wooden boats. Mears builds traditional clinker boats that are strong enough for beach launching day after day, and also very seaworthy. Beamy, strong and very capable, they can provide a versatile platform for a lifetime of boating.

The next completion was, dare I say it here, a Cygnus 21ft GRP fishing boat for a local single-handed fishermen in Axmouth Harbour- in the photo she is in the background, while in the foreground is one of our 16ft Beer lugger launches from the 1980s.

We had a lovely surprise when one of our 10ft clinker dinghies from the 1940s turned up for restoration.

She needed several planks (the elm was difficult to source!) and ribs, then a full strip down and finish. The owner was delighted how she was brought back to life at a approximate age of 70 years!

We then had a full restoration on a local 19ft GRP fishing boat. She arrived in an awful state but is now back out fishing safely with many more years service to clock up.

One of our current jobs is to pop a tidy little Beta engine in a boat we built in the 1960s. This will give her a new lease of life and offer the owner peace of mind.

We have a variety of jobs in the pipeline including one of our 16ft clinker launches suitable for use as a Beer lugger. She is at her most beautiful stage where the planking and ribs are all visible, the next stage is the strengthening structure.

Wishing all your readers a great Christmas and a prosperous 2016!

Alex and Paul’

Mid-19th century photos of Great Yarmouth

Nick Stone has published some stunning mid-19th century images of Great Yarmouth on his weblog, and has kindly allowed me to include some of the more boat-related ones here.

I guess it’s a good time to mention that if you click on the images, you get a carousel image viewer type thing. Underneath each one you’ll find a link to a larger and nicer image…

They remain his copyright, as he has not only scanned them but also done a good deal of detailed restoration etc.

Of this group, I especially liked the folks on the jetty with the lifeboat, and what I take to be one of the famous East Coast beach yawls in the background. There’s a story told that one challenged the America to a race but the Americans declined on the grounds that the boat was a professional thing, not an amateur corinthian kind of operation, though I can’t dredge up a reference just now.

Maybe I’ll recall where I read it in the next few days. In the meantime, please click on the images to enjoy the actors by the boats, the fisherman with his impressive hat and barrow of nets, and of course the fishing boats on the beach by the jetty…

Thanks Nick!

PS – It’s been pointed out to me by boat builder Nick Smith that the vessels on the beach show a characteristic hump in the sheerline forward – look at the line of the top-most planks. In one pic I reckon I can see the famous ‘Yarmouth hump’ in a stern also. Thanks for the tipoff Nick…