Category Archives: Model boats

Does anyone know the background of this terrific model – or the yacht she represents?

Model yacht 2

Model yacht 3 Model yacht 1

The Faversham Creek Trust has been given this model to auction for fundraising purposes – and they would like to know more about it. The drawing shows the dimensions.

Can anyone help? Certainly if the full-sized version was ever built, it would certainly have been an impressive boat. Is it post-WWII or pre-war? And check out that wishbone high in the rigging!

I have a dim recollection that the canoiest and yacht designer Frederick Fenger invented the wishbone schooner and that designer, builder, racing helmsman and pop starn Uffa Fox wrote about them – so I have a sneaking feeling this may be one of his designs. Please email  any information to me at and I will pass it on the the Trust. Of course, I will also let readers know when the auction is to be held.

I should add that we’re nearly on the deadline (28th June) for submitting views about the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan.

The questionnaire for this can be completed online or via the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood plan website.

It takes some minutes and there are one or two questions that will likely garner answers that could be misinterpreted, but it’s still important and worthwhile to fill this thing in.  There’s no requirement to answer every question, and you can add comments, for example if you do not think that the right questions have been asked.

PS Historian and verteran campaigner for Faversham’s heritage Arthur Percival has written his own considered and clear submission to the Neighbourhood Plan steering group. Read it here.

How to make a ship in a bottle

Model of the barque Penang in a dimple whisky bottle

How to make a ship in a bottle, Clive Monk’s way. Making a model ship in a whisky bottle might be just the thing for these chilly wintry spring evenings when there’s now some light but nobody wants to go out.

The dimple bottle takes me back – when I was young I remember I had a yachting great uncle based in Ayr who was a director of Haig.

Sitting by the stove drinking whisky is nice, but surely spring and summer will come soon? Please?

Coniston Regatta 2013, 30th May to the 1st June

swallow 4


swallow 9 [1024x768] redwing 249, tideway and aurora 2 [1024x768] good wood 3 [1024x768]

The fourth Coniston Regatta 2013 runs from Thursday 30th May to the Saturday the 1st June, and everyone is invited – including traditional boat owners and their boats.

Organiser Greg Simpson has been in touch to say that among the boats booked in so far include a 1930s Peterborough canoe, a 1910s Thames sailing skiff, and numerous steam launches and model boats.

The events are based at the English Lake District home of Swallows & Amazons, Bank Ground Farm – which in the book is called Holly Howe and is the holiday home where the Swallows stayed each summer.

Attractions for boating enthusiasts and kids include exhibition stands presented by Windermere Steamboat Museum, Good Wood Boatbuilders, Patterson Boatworks and various other local craftsmen, and steam engines.

SY Gondola and Coniston Launch will be available for trips, there will be boats for hire and some boat owners attending the regatta will be offering sailing trips.

Children will enjoy a kids’ fishing competition and a miniature railway. The tea rooms open from 11am each day.

There are also a range of evening entertainments, including an outdoor screening of a film version of Swallows and Amazons.

Can anyone help Keith Johnston find out about his ancestor’s guano trade ships?

Chincha Guano Islands, Peru, engraving published by The Illustrated London News February, 21st, 1863, photographed by Manuel González Olaechea y Franco

This London Illustrated News illustration of 1863 shows ships in the guano trade anchored among the Chinca guano islands off Peru. Image from the Wikipedia and photographed by Manuel González Olaechea y Franco

Regular reader and contributor Keith Johnston has written in to ask whether anyone can help him learn more about one of his forebears, Liverpool shipping agent and ship owner William Cliffe, who specialised in guano.

It seems Cliffe had four sailing barques ranging from 200 to 600 tons gross, all of which are mentioned in the 1883 Lloyds Register of Shipping.

Their trade was mainly in the valuable commodity of guano, ancient nitrate and phosphate-laden deposits of the faeces and urine of bats, seabirds, and seals used as a fertiliser and as an ingredient in gunpowder. It was found on remote islands in low rainfall areas, where there is little rainwater to wash away the nitrate fraction.

In what seems to be a textbook example of how foreign policy is often decided by commercial interests rather than by any sense of right or wrong, during guano’s heyday in the mid-19th century, the United States of America passed a law permitting US citizens to claim any guano island they found for themselves, so long as the guano recovered was to be used by US citizens.

Keith says the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool has been very helpful in tracking down this information, but wonders whether any readers have come across the ships listed as belonging to Cliffe, as he would like to try and find more detail about the actual ships, crews, cargos, ports of call and definitely pictures or drawings of them so that he can make models, if at all possible.

The vessels are:

  • Boldonsailing barque, 656 tons net, 689 tons gross, 628 tons under deck; 168.1ft LOA 32.2ft beam 19ft depth, built at Sunderland by Crown in January, 1873
  • Guatemala Packetsailing barque, 201 tons net, 326 tons gross, 110ft LOA 25ft beam 16.5ft depth, built by Harrington in 1852
  • Nimroudsailing barque, 670 tons net, 693 tons gross, 135ft LOA, 30ft beam, 20ft depth, built at Scarborough by Tindalls in 1853
  • Quito, sailing ship, 503 tons net, 503 tons gross, 117.5ft LOA, 28ft beam, 18.7ft depth, built at Sunderland in 1850

If you have any information, please pass it on to me at, and I’ll forward it to Keith.

PSHugh Jenkins has written in with some snippets of information about the guano trade that might be of interest. They turned up during his research into a sailing ancestor who worked for a Liverpool guano shipper. Hugh comments that the company mentioned, WJ Myers, was quite a substantial business, and yet today finding any reference to it is now very difficult.

Thanks Hugh!

Merry Christmas, happy holidays and a healthy and prosperous New Year everyone!

Spider T sailing on the Humber, winter 2010

Spider T, winter 2010 Spider T, winter 2010 Spider T, winter 2010

Spider T, winter 2010 OMSSC Spider T in ice

Click on the thumbnails for much larger images

We wish readers of every religious creed and none all the best happiness this holiday season can bring.

And, for the new year, let’s hope 2011 will be a time in which hope, optimism and an idealism that is generous to others replaces the sordid selfishness and tribalism we usually see so much of. If not, we’ll just have to fix up or build boats and go sailing…

The splendid photos above are of the Humber sloop Spider-T. At the beginning of loast year I did not imagine that any such craft still existed, so owner Mal Nicholson’s email in January was one of the year’s boat-related high points. For several informative posts about Spider T, click here.

The photo by Dave Everett below is of the inaugural evening of one of Mal’s newest enterprises, the The Old Maritime Secret Supper Club with various boaty people from the region including folks from the Humber Keel and Sloop Preservation Society and the Humber Yawl Club. There’s a nice piece about it in the online magazine Towpath talk. Thanks for the photos and the information Mal and Dave!

Spider T winter 2010

BBA student launch day December 2010

Boat Building Academy class of March 2010 in crab and lobster boat Witch of Weymouth

Boat Building Academy class of March 2010 in crab and lobster boat Witch of Weymouth. They make a heroic load for a 14ft boat

Boat Building Academy crab and lobster boat Witch of Weymouth Boat Building Academy student launch 2010 Boat Building Academy student launch 2010

More photos from the day – explanations will no doubt follow in the next few days

Boat Building Academy principal Yvonne Green has written to tell us about the student launch day at Lyme last Thursday. If you’re outside the UK, you may not know what we’ve had a generally horrible winter up to now – but that’s the reason for Yvonne’s enormous relief that once again the big launch event was blessed with good weather.

Here’s what she has to say:

‘It was a another brilliant launch day with boats and bright sunshine. We’ve had so much luck over the years that the Great Boat Builder in the Sky must be on our side

‘Nine students launched five boats, including Witch of Weymouth, and one student proposed to his girlfriend, on bended knee, in the middle of the harbour and on his boat’s first time out… It was a risky business but all went well and she said yes.

‘The boats were:

  • cold-moulded 13ft 6in electric motor launch
  • glued clinker 14ft Whitehall skiff
  • strip planked 15ft Chestnut canoe
  • 18ft strip planked gaff rigged daysailer
  • traditional clinker 14ft Dorset crab and lobster boat Witch of Weymouth

‘The BBC filmed Witch of Weymouth’s launch because of a piece they’d run about her build earlier in the year, but the other boats deserved just as much attention.

‘The motor launch is now on her way to Australia, the canoe was last seen heading for Norwich on a roof rack and the daysailer is stored in a garage until the summer. Witch of Weymouth will grace the workshop until after Christmas, when she’ll go home to Portland before heading off to the National Maritime Museum Cornwall at Falmouth.

‘Attached are some photographs of the day – our favourite is the class of March 2010 all looking jolly in Witch of Weymouth. More will follow next week.’

Chris Partridge of Rowing for Pleasure has more on the Whitehall skiff and it’s builder’s amazing public proposal here. There’s also a Youtube video including photos from the workshop here.

Thanks Yvonne! We’re looking forward to hearing more shortly. Also if anyone has any further photos, Youtube videos or anything else they’d like to send in, please let me know at