Category Archives: Culture: songs, stories, photography and art

Traditions and culture relevant to the world of real boating and sailors

Will Stirling at Morewellham

Cutters & Smuggling Luggers Cutters & Smuggling Luggers Cutters & Smuggling Luggers

Cutters & Smuggling Luggers Cutters & Smuggling Luggers Cutters & Smuggling Luggers
Stirling & Son 

http://www.stirlingandson.co.uk/

Will Stirling is fascinated by the boats of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Small boats of this era have no equal in beauty, he says: the bluff shapes of the 18th century had become finer for speed, while the deep sections, firm beam and strong forefoot speak of a good grip in the water and lots of stability to stand up to a large rig.

Since early September Will has been building the lugger Alert at Morewellham in Cornwall, with reference to plans he has studied at the Science Museum, the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich and at Exeter University, where he is also doing a part-time MA in Maritime History.

Alert has clinker planking, a lute stern, and typically bold curves that make the transition from buoyant hull above water to a fine entry, long keel and smooth run aft below. With 80 square foot of canvas per ton displacement, Will says she’ll be a powerful little vessel.

Will’s site includes some excellent reading, and his photo gallery is a treat. I’ll be coming back time and again over the next few months to follow his progress with this project.

Will also makes and sells clinker rowing dinghies at a cost of £220 per foot, including leathered sweeps, a choice between thole pins or rowlocks, a ring-bolt through stem and stern post and removable sole boards.

 

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Forest & Stream skiff

Just about everyone who comes to these pages is some kind of boat nut, and I’m a boat nut too. I’d like to make this weblog as interesting and useful to us all as possible, and I want to fill it with news and photographs about:

•Projects about old boats, historic boats, traditionally-built boats, and traditionally-derived boats.

•Boating history and traditions.

•The skills involved, the craftsmen and the available training.

So, whether you own these kinds of boats, work on them, sell them, build them, paint or photograph them, write about their history, design them, run a club or organise events, or collect old songs and stories connected with them – if you would like to bring your projects to the attention of a wider public, email me now at gmatkin@gmail.com!

John MacAulay, Hebridean boatbuilder with an interesting theory

Like many Brits I’ve been enjoying the BBC television series Coast, which is made up of interesting segments about various stretches of our coastline. It’s been good stuff most of the time, and has covered areas of our coast most people never get near, such as Spurn Point, and it has often been illuminating and informative.

If I was to make a complaint it would be that at times I have felt the influence of middle-class London youngsters laughing just a little too hard at people who live or holiday at Northern seaside resorts. Directed largely from London as it is, I suppose we should not be surprised that the BBC should be like this from time to time.

Watching this otherwise very enjoyable piece of television couple of weeks ago, I noticed a segment on the Hebridean boatbuilder John MacAulay, and was inspired to use Google to see what I could discover about him.

Here are the BBC’s notes from the programme:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/coast/programmes2/07-outer-hebrides.shtml

Here’s what I found when I Googled for John Macaulay. First, here’s a picture of his yard:
http://www.pbase.com/dwerner/image/50645025

Here’s a scrap of video from the film Am Baile in which he talks about boatbuilding and his ambition to pass his skills on to a younger generation:
http://www.ambaile.org.uk/en/item/item_videofilm.jsp?item_id=18182

The way that Google can broaden one’s perspective of people can be wonderful. Here’s a review of MacAulay’s book making the plausible argument that all those songs, stories and legends about seal people were based on real encounters with a kayak-using people who used to be seen along the Scottish coast:
Seal-folk and Ocean Paddlers: Sliochd Nan Ron

I’m reminded of all those Australian Aboriginal stories about giant creatures that seem to be supported by fossil evidence – or was it that the fossils were the source of the stories?

Anyway, in case you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about, here are some sites that may give some insight:
http://www.orkneyjar.com/folklore/selkiefolk/index.html

There are lots of these stories and ballads. Here’s one recorded by the Oxford book of ballads of 1910:

http://www.bartleby.com/243/31.html

And here’s the Child Ballads version:
http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/eng/child/ch113.htm