The fabulous replica of Nelson’s topsail schooner HMS Pickle that featured in Tom Cunliffe’s TV series Boats that Built Britain has been bought by Mal Nicholson, owner of the magnificent Humber sloop Spider T.
After Trafalgar, HMS Pickle famously carried the news of Nelson’s great victory back to Britain – along with the news of Nelson’s own death.
The schooner is currently moored in Ocean Village in Gibraltar and is undergoing repairs. After many years of owning and running Spider T, I’m quite certain Mal knows what he’s in for – but great good luck to him and his helpers.
Previous owner Robin James’s family has owned Pickle for the past nine years. He said that the decision to sell the ship had been extremely difficult : ‘I have poured my soul into her over the past nine years, and in return she has carried me and many new friends safely through storms and adventures.
‘But after a difficult voyage to Gibraltar followed by a failure to get the much needed support to make her a success, this is the best decision to secure her future. The decision to sell Pickle has been made far easier by finding Mal, who I trust to continue to care for her and get her sailing again, while continuing to share her with everybody from her past, present and future.’
Mal said that during her time with Robin, Pickle had won many friends and supporters, and achieved amazing things.
Mr James added that that an unknown author once wrote the following lines, which summarised his feelings on Pickle’s sale:
‘I’d rather be the ship that sails And rides the billows wild and free; Than to be the ship that always fails To leave its port and go to sea.
I’d rather feel the sting of strife, Where gales are born and tempests roar;
Than to settle down to useless life And rot in dry dock on the shore. I’d rather fight some mighty wave With honour in supreme command; And fill at last a well-earned grave, Than die in ease upon the sand.
I’d rather drive where sea storms blow, And be the ship that always failed
To make the ports where it would go, Than be the ship that never sailed.’
Meanwhile, I will be casually dropping these words into the conversation at social gatherings: ‘I know a bloke who has a topsail schooner. Oh yes… ‘
The latest Shipshape Network newsletter brings happy news that the restoration of the Uffa Fox designed Flying 30, Huff of Arklow, is progressing rapidly and is to be relaunched on the 7th September.
An enlarged version of Fox’s wonderfully elegant Flying 15 design, Huff was was built in 1951 in Arklow by John Tyrrell & Sons (see list of Tyrell-built craft) for the well known yachtsman Douglas Heard. She’s an important boat in several ways – she was the first masthead rigged sloop designed to plane and the first ocean-going yacht designed to plane. And she is fast, certainly – she recorded a speed of 23 knots on a trip to Iceland in 1960.
PS – Martha’s Vineyard sailor and boat surveyor Ginny Jones wrote to tell me about this YouTube video about Huff, complete with Uffa Fox singing a stage sea song, some modern pop stuff with photos of kid’s and their models of Huff, and finally photos of her pre-restoration interior, with someone (I don’t know who) singing a proper sea song, the Sailor’s ABC.
West Country boatbuilder Nick Smith tells me that this carvel-built Clovelly picarooner hull constructed last year is for sale. Here’s the story from Nick:
‘I planked and framed this carvel hull a year ago, for a customer who changed his mind. It’s 3/4 inch Douglas fir on New Forest oak, and all copper fastened of course.
I took the sections and dimensions off an existing Clovelly picarooner, name and builder unknown. But she was a sweet shape and fair too. I had thought I would have to loft the hull fully, but on looking at the body sections I took off the old hull and the fairness of the original I realised it wasn’t necessary - she was built fair and hadn’t gone out of shape either.
That was born out when I turned the hull down side up, and found I did not need to ‘scuff off’ the planking.
I used a traditional belt sander sparingly then went all over with an orbital sander and 80 grit - there was no need to longboard it to fair it, which was very pleasing.
The original picarooners were, as I understand it, lost ship’s boats that arrived here with the Spanish square-rigged ships of the Armada. That fleet was chased around the unhospitable British coastline, anticlockwise, and most foundering on unknown rocks with an onshore blow.
Some got as far as the North Devon coast only to be wrecked and their tenders washed up near Clovelly, the locals of course picked them up, used and found them to be quick under lugs’l and used them to catch the silver darlings (herring), and quick to sail back to port loaded to the risers in fish, ready to be unloaded and quickly sailed back out.
Picarooner, as far as I can ascertain, is a corruption of a Spanish word meaning ‘sea chaser’ or ‘sea robber’.
The inside of the hull had three coats of marine grey primer, and the outside ditto under the waterline, while the topsides are up to two coats of the undercoat stage.
I would give the topsides two coats of enamel for launch, use her for a season then sand and recoat. Needs to settle in.
The hull is perfect for a 10 to 15hp diesel inboard, tiller steering, three athwartship seats and basic fit out. It could even carry a loose-footed tan lugs’l too !
The hull is heavily built, stable and suitable for fishing, picknicking and general messing about.
If you are interested in buying the hull please ring me and ask, and even come and have a look and a yarn, the boat is under a tarp at my workshop, which is near Ringwood Dorset.
If you’re interested in the boat, Nick’s can be reached on 07827644223, or via the email address on his website.
Two proper sea shanties that are highly suitable for the singing sailor.
I gather ‘noggin’ was a very rude word a century or two back but seems remarkably harmless now… And for that I guess we can thank Oliver Postgate, creator of the cartoon character Noggin the Nog.
PS – And here’s a forebitter about a common sailor’s fantasy – the young woman who dresses as a boy and goes to sea.
Here’s some classic footage of the square rigger Peking rounding Cape Horn – and some other bits and pieces. My thanks to regular reader Martin O’Scannall for sending this link over.
By the way – this YouTube is really rather poor and I’m told by regular reader Chris Brady that the Mystic Seaport Museum has a much better version on sale on DVD.