Category Archives: History

Square rigged sailing ship Peking rounds Cape Horn

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.

Ruel Parker writes about the Chesapeake Bay brogans

Brogan lines

I hadn’t heard about the log-built Chesapeake Bay brogan before, but I’m very struck by their beautiful lines and proportions. Of course I realise that the low sheerline isn’t there to make the boat attractive but to enable the oyster fishermen to reach the water to do their work, but still…

Read all about them in traditional boat author, historian, designer and boatbuilder Reuel Parker’s article on the Woodenboat magazine website. Here’s a sample:

‘I learned about brogans from MV Brewerton’s excellent book Chesapeake Bay Log Canoes and Bugeyes. While bugeyes were large—up to 80? on deck — the brogans were small — around 30? to 35? on deck. I wanted to design a modern version of the brogan—adapted for cold-molded construction for shoal-draft cruising — but didn’t get around to doing it until December of 2011.

Brogans were double-ended, beamy, of moderate displacement, and shoal-bodied with centerboards. They carried free-standing masts, very raked, with the mizzen raked markedly more than the main.

‘The only lines drawing I have ever found for a brogan came from Brewerton’s book (shown below). They show a very lovely, nearly symmetrical, easily-driven double-ended hull of excellent proportions.’

The story of Ralph Munroe and the sharpie Egret

Chappelle Egret drawing

A nice telling of the story of legendary boat designer ‘Commodore’ Ralph Munroe, his boat building and designing, his role in introducing the sharpie to Florida and the legendary Egret by Paul Austin appeared a few days ago on the excellent Duckworksmagazine website.

It’s a story with lots of interesting elements. Munroe’s life included great adventures and terrible tragedies, and then there’s his famous Egret – a very successful flat-bottomed boat that Munroe designed after having success with a series of round-bottomed sharpie-derived boats he called ‘Presto sharpies‘, which to my eyes appear to have been about 100 years ahead of their time.

Here’s a short quotation:

‘In 1886 Munroe designed his famous Egret, a 28 foot double-ended sharpie… Egret was flat-bottomed, after Munroe had made his money with round-bilged presto sharpies.

‘With few roads in and around Miami, Munroe and Egret was busy. She had a reputation for being fast and seaworthy, running breakers, sliding among the shallow inlets, gliding up to low wood docks.’

The Egret remains a puzzle, however – there are no lines drawings, and photos of what is supposed to have been a half-model of her hull is said not to resemble photographs of the boat recognised as the Egret.

I think of the Egret legend as having something of the power of the story of Delta blues musician Robert Johnson – both are said to have been revolutionary, and both have been copied and revived by modern practitioners (the illustration above is Howard Chappelle’s version). We have photos of Egret and recordings of Johnson (and a single known photo) – but both are shrouded in tantalising mystery.

See Paul Austin’s account appeared a few days ago on the excellent here.

Russian project to build a new Cutty Sark

Replica Cutty Sark project

A group based in Russia has emerged with plans to build a new, sailing Cutty Sark – and even more extraordinary plans to revive tea clipper racing. Read about the original Cutty Sark here.

I’m amazed and impressed, and hope it all works out!

The initiators are led by Captain Vladimir Martus, owner and builder of the Shtandart, a replica of Russia’s first naval vessel, which was built by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703, and was also named Shtandart. She was launched in 2000 and has sailed ever since – so I guess they know what they’re doing.

The plan is to lay the keel of the new vessel in 2017, and to launch the new Cutty Sark in 2019. As the site says, the first step is to acquire copies of as much documentation as possible to make it possible for the project to go ahead.

Tilman medal winner Alasdair Flint and business partner Gerry Jeatt rescue historic London chandlers Arthur Beale

Arthur Beale shop

Arthur Beale old shelves

High latitudes Vertue sailor Alasdair Flint and business partner Gerry Jeatt have given up their summer sailing in order to breathe new life into the centuries-old Shaftsbury Avenue yacht chandlers Arthur Beale.

(If you don’t know London, Shaftsbury Avenue is at the heart of London’s theatreland.  See the location here. )

In 2011 Alasdair sailed his Vertue, Sumara, together with Tim Loftus sailing his yacht Thembito Jan Mayen Island, a fascinating volcanic outpost of Norway, and climbed the volcano Beerenberg. Read about that trip here.

For that trip they won the Bill Tilman medal, a Royal Cruising Club honour in memory of mountaineer and Arctic explorer Bill Tilman.

Here’s what Alasdair has to say about his new adventure:

My summer sailing has been curtailed after a friend and I decided I to try to salvage an historic nautical relic which was about to hit the rocks.

Mind you, this was no feat of daring-do in the surf - our nautical relic was Arthur Beale, a 400 year old ships chandlers in Shaftesbury Avenue, London and the rocks were the nasty liquidators. I had got wind that this national maritime monument was not doing too well and so I wrote to them to see if there was anything we could do to help.

As it happened the letter arrived at a critical moment and the manager said that we would need to act fast! Neither myself or my partner in crime Gerry Jeatt had any intention of acquiring an ancient chandlers’ shop, especially as we were both busy on other projects, but if we did nothing then the wonderful shop would have definitely closed within weeks - and another Starbucks Coffee Shop would have been added to the map.

Against all advice we decided to plough in our savings and see what we could do to save the company.

We paid off all the suppliers, the tax and VAT and started to restock. Soon it was time to find out what exactly we had acquired! The stock was quite amazing, chests full of galvanised rowlock sockets, bronze pulley castings, ancient flags, patented Arthur Beale blocks and even holy stones. Old hand written ledgers showed sales to Arctic Expeditions and Everest Climbs. All fascinating stuff.

The history of the company isn’t very clear but we are endeavouring to piece things together. Our understanding is that the company started trading as John Buckingham Ropemakers on the banks of the River Fleet about four hundred years ago. They moved to the current premises about 125 years ago. Rope is the core activity of the company and Arthur Beale used to make a rope called “Alpine
Club Rope” which was the preferred rope of climbers worldwide. We still have the original test certificates and telegrams demanding that the rope be sent on the next steamer to Greenland.

Arthur Beale also supplied ice axes, climbing slings, and rucksacks.

In the 1930s the company was booming. Their catalogue shows a huge range of yacht stoves and they even had a department providing flags and decorations for civic ceremonies. They also supplied many theatres and film companies. We have found half guinea gift tokens and the old printing blocks for all their advertisements.

In recent times sales had declined. Arthur Beale had no website and no advertising. They wouldn’t post out goods or take payment over the phone, and even closed at lunchtime on Saturday.

We needed to make urgent changes to enable the company to survive.

So what can you expect from Arthur Beale’s in the future? I own a varnished wooden yacht and have a penchant for sailing into the Arctic. So you can perhaps imagine the kind of things we will be stocking – good quality varnishes and paints, tough practical kit that will also look right on classic craft, heavy weather clothing, interesting books and unusual tools and equipment. The old drawers full of intriguing fixtures and fittings will remain but there will also be attractive display boards so you can actually see what is in the drawers!

We won’t make much money selling caulking cotton, copper tacks and tarred marline on Shaftesbury Avenue but we will sell these things  nevertheless.

Gerry is an IT expert and we already have a smart new website
www.arthurbeale.co.uk and we will be introducing on-line sales in the near future. We are going to have regular evening talks with our first one being – Learn to Splice at 1845 on 10th July. Other scheduled dates are Varnishing tips and demonstrations 4th September  and Sailing to Arctic Jan Mayen and climbing Beerenberg on the 9th October. See the website for details.

Outside the shop you will now find the Thames Shipping Forecast and high water times for London Bridge. Inside we are busy renovating upstairs to make way for all the new stock. The shop is now open until 2000 on Thursday Friday and Saturday.

We have a long way to go before all the work will be finished but every week more stock arrives and by the autumn we reckon we will have a shop to be proud of. We would love to see you there!

Alasdair Flint maintains his own weblog Sumara of Weymouth.

British Pathé film: Grimsby’s Trade Stimulant (1934)

My thanks to Liam Robinson for passing on the link to this video about the openin of a new fish dock to boost Grimsby’s fishing industry.

Digging about on YouTube also reveals the following British Pathé clips.