Category Archives: History

Weel may the keel row

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‘Nearly oval’ lighters on the riverbank at Newburn on the Tyne, image from Samuel Smiles’ book Lives of the Engineers, republished by Project Gutenberg. They’re a bit small to carry 20 tons of coal, but they might well be an artist’s slightly fanciful depiction of the keel

An outstanding recording of the tune known as the Keel Row popped up on my Facebook page the other day, and got me thinking about the keels of the River Tyne. The tune was played on an English concertina by a young man called Danny Chapman and must not be missed: hear it here.  You’ll notice that apart from the beautiful statement of the theme, in the way that’s traditional in the North East of England, there is a following series of stunning variations. There’s more of this stuff on this page. Well done Danny!

But what’s a Tyne keel? Believe it or not, it was an Anglo-Saxon boat type that lasted into the 20th century, though there are none around now and precious few pictures seem to exist. Still, there’s a nice history including the words of the song the Keel Row here. Jim Shead has a little more on the keel here, and the Samuel Smiles book has more to say about how the boats were used.

Finally, there’s a series of photos telling the story of the Keelman’s Hospital here. It’s a grand tale that demonstrates the independence and grit shown by the keelmen in the face of the ruthlessly capitalist coal owners, who seem to have been everyone’s enemy for centuries.

Water Craft magazine for March-April 2010 will be out very soon!

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The latest Water Craft will be with us any day

It’s almost time for the next edition of Water Craft magazine to land on our doormats – so what’s in store this time around? Lots of boating goodies as usual – including the first of two big features by our friend Ben Crawshaw in which he reports on his adventures sailing his Light Trow named Onawind Blue. That feels like a real privilege, I must say, even though I’d prefer to seem my design used for rather less extreme adventures…

Here’s what Water Craft editor Pete Greenfield has to say about the upcoming issue:

So – how has boat craftsmanship, amateur and professional, fared through the long hard winter and the much longer and harder recession? In W80, we seem to have some of the answers.

Interestingly, for many professional wooden boat builders, the answer seems to be they are managing rather nicely thank you… though mostly with repairs rather than new builds.

At Peter Freebody & Co, for example, spiritual home of so many traditional Thames craft, Melanie Freebody tells Kathy Mansfield there may be snow on the roof but the boatshops beneath have rarely been busier.

Giving up the well-paid but stressful job in IT to learn to build wooden boats is a good idea for some. Certainly, on a dark dank morning in December when the students of 2009 launched the fascinating variety of craft they’d built at the Boat Building Academy at Lyme Regis, our Dick Phillips detected little stress… though maybe the champagne helped.

No nerves on the part of our tame amateur boatbuilder Peter Goad either, when Messrs Phillips and Chesworth turned up to sail the Cape Henry 21. Perhaps, as Peter explains in his final fit-out article, a five-year project encourages a relaxed and patient frame of mind.

Watch, on YouTube.com, Ben Crawshaw’s reports on sailing a small boat in the Med and you’ll see rather more evident anxiety. And reading about how he built his first boat, a slender lugger called a Light Trow intended for more sedate waters, in a public garden in Spain, you’ll encounter few manyana moments.

More sail than oar but definitely a craft to cope with exhilarating sea sailing, we think Paul Gartside’s free plans, complete with lines and offsets, for his 20ft (6m) lugger will persuade many a putative backyard boatbuilder to stop saying manyana and take the plunge.

As may the editor’s outdoor boat….

But outdoors, as Colin Henwood of Henwood & Dean Boatbuilders explains in his masterclass on painting and varnishing is not the ideal place to give your boat the finest finish for the new season. You need a big tent, kind-of like Water Craft itself.

Buy a subscription now (see the link in our right-hand column here at intheboatshed.net and pay with your credit card via PayPal) or find the March-April Water Craft in your local newsagents – to find a stockist in the UK see http://availability.mmcltd.co.uk

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The First Melbourne Wooden Boat Festival

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Wooden Boat Association members of the Melbourne and East Gippsland areas out on the water – click on the image for a video of local members’ boats

The people of Melbourne are going to have fun this coming weekend – for their Victoria Harbour is to be home to the first Melbourne Wooden Boat Festival.

The event involves all of the major wooden boat and classic yacht groups in the area, and is intended to be a great event for boating enthusiasts but also connect the broader public with the spirit of wooden boats, boating and traditional boatbuilding.

It sounds like a big old do, with on-water and landside displays, model sailing and racing boats, trade displays, shanty singers, in-harbour sailing, working boats displays, boat maintenance classes, a shipwright’s conference. Naturally there will be sailing, rowing, steamships, tall ships, knot tying, boatbuilding, book stores, classic powerboats and, thankfully, the coastguard will be on hand to tell people how to do it all safely. It’s all being organised by the enterprising woodenboat.com.au.

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