Category Archives: Events

Events such as historical events, races, exhibitions, processions, regattas and so on.

BBA students build a traditional Thames skiff

Photos by Jenny Steer, Becky Josepth and Derek Thompson

The Boat Building Academy’s spring student launch at Lyme included this traditional clinker-built Thames skiff built by students Lawrence Shillingford and Brooke Ricketts.

Rosina May made a glamorous first public appearance, as she was decorated with gold balloons tied on by Lawrence’s friends.

Traditionally built in clinker mahogany on oak, 21ft Rosina May is based on a Hobb’s skiff as featured in the classic book Working Boats of Britain – Their Shape and Purpose by Eric McKee.

The design evolved from larger Thames Wherries which carried fare-paying passengers.

Lawrence spent a lot of his early years either on or beside the Thames. He now rows Cornish pilot gigs with Weymouth Gig Club. He wanted to combine rowing with a traditional Thames design, and says the skiff almost chose itself for the project.

Rosina May was modified to a single rowing position. It features moulded detailing typical of this type of boat and a decorative mahogany and oak sunburst design on the seat back and rudder.

Originally from Twickenham but now living in Bridport, Lawrence joined the course to learn new skills after a 30 year career in the London Fire Brigade.

From Maryland, Brooke worked for Inter-Rail Transport USA for 10 years before deciding to have a career change.

With a love of boats he started an apprenticeship at Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, and wanting to develop his skills further he relocated to Dorset with his family to join the Academy.

Since graduating, Brooke has returned to the museum to complete his apprenticeship and Lawrence is starting a small boat building and restoration business in the Bridport area.

Lawrence says the journey through the course from knowing virtually nothing to having completed this project, learning from mistakes along the way, has given him the confidence to take on new solo projects.

See the Thames skiff’s build diary here.

Pilot Cutters and the Victory: books from Seaforth Publishing

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I must read this book by seasoned sailor and writer Tom Cunliffe some time. Here’s what the Seaforth Publishing’s blurb says…

‘The pilot cutters that operated around the coasts of northern Europe until the First World War were among the most seaworthy and beautiful craft of their size ever built, while the small number that have survived have inspired yacht designers, sailors and traditional craft enthusiasts over the last hundred years.

‘They possessed a charisma unlike any other working craft; their speed and close-windedness, their strength and seaworthiness, fused together into a hull and rig of particular elegance, all to guide the mariner through the rough and tortuous waters of the European seaboard, bought them an enviable reputation.

‘This new book is both a tribute to and a minutely researched history of these remarkable vessels. The author, perhaps the most experienced sailor of the type, describes the ships themselves, their masters and crews,and the skills they needed for the competitive and dangerous work of pilotage. He explains the differences between the craft of disparate coasts – of the Scilly Islesand the Bristol Channel, of northern France, and the wild coastline of Norway – and weaves into the history of their development the stories of the men who sailed them.’

I notice that whoever wrote it has managed to capture the characteristic Cunliffe persuasive and salty style.

PS – A more recent release from Seaforth is Brian Lavery’s book Nelson’s Victory: 250 Years of War and Peace, which is published this month to coincide with the 250th anniversary of her launch.

Brian is also guest curator of an exhibition at the Chatham Historic Dockyard, if you have time to get over there.

The publisher’s notes promise the book is the most comprehensive book yet published on the topic and includes new and surprising revelations, including that:

  • she was almost wrecked on her launch
  • diplomacy conducted onboard her played a crucial role in provoking Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1912
  • 1914 Kaiser Wilhelm set the First World War in motion sitting at a desk made from her timbers

The book also tells the story of Horatio Nelson, who was born a few weeks before his most famous ship was ordered.

Sailing barge lifeboat rescue photos

EDP story of the Sepoy lifeboat rescue

Photos of the rowed lifeboat rescue mission to the sailing barge Sepoy 80-odd years ago published by the EDP show the reality of what lifeboatmen had to cope with.

Notice the surf, and the terrified barge crew hanging on in the rigging.

I find these photos very sobering… and even more so is the thought that the Sepoy was only a few hundred yards from shore, unlike many such rescues. Those crews were very brave and very tough – and still are.