Very nicely made by my friend Faversham boatbuilder Alan Thorne, this John Welsford-designed Joansa is on eBay now.
David Griffiths who is leading a team of volunteers working the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard’s Boathouse No 4 to restore what they believe to be an old Royal Navy rowing gig.
However, David and his co-workers know little that is certain about her and he hopes an Intheboatshed.net reader might be able to help with the history and perhaps some construction details. If anyone can help, please either add a comment using the link below or email me at email@example.com, and will direct your message to David.
Here’s what David has to say:
‘The boat is 15ft 5in stem to stern, with a beam of 4ft. She has no construction plate or details on her, other than that her transom is marked with an engraved ‘204/17’.
‘She has two thwarts for one man each, two oars each, and would have had a coxswain’s seat with backrest. Thus, in rowing terms she was a coxed, double sculling skiff.
‘She also had a small thwart toward the bow, but whether this was intended to carry another person is not clear. It may have been structural only, or perhaps supported a towing post.
‘We have no records on her. She is commonly and affectionately known as the Dartmouth gig, and the rumor is that she was built by (or for) the navy for use by cadets at Britannia Royal Naval College.
‘I understand that there was a time when the navy believed that every man should know how to pull (row), and that boats of this kind were built in quite large numbers.
‘We believe that after her life in Dartmouth she was brought up to Whale Island, here in Portsmouth, where she sat as surplus for some years before being obtained, maybe some twenty-five years ago, by the Naval Base Property Trust.
‘Sadly she has been greatly neglected over the years, and even subjected to deliberate sabotage, but now, with perseverance, my team is bringing her back, plank by plank.
‘I believe she is built in white pine on oak: a visitor came in one day and said this was the case, adding that he was a historian with expertise in wood construction.
‘It certainly has some of the feel and appearance of being old, and but her knees, stem and stern post are all laminated.
‘I have managed to locate some photographs of a boat that appears to be identical to ours, and which was for sale on-line some years ago. Named Bluie, it apparently had a plate indicating that she was built by shipwright apprentices in Devonport, but it had no date. I’m hoping this might be a clue…
‘Our boat is currently replanked up to number ten on each side, so we are at the point of fitting new sheer strakes then framing her out. From that point though, we are lacking the details which will allow us to fulfill an authentic restoration.
‘If anyone out there among your readership can cast any light on our delightful little boat, I would be most grateful.
‘Best wishes, David Griffiths’
The skiffs built by schoolchildren at Faversham got launched this weekend! (Click here to read about their building.)
The workshop builder explained about safety, the boats went in the water, the youngsters took turns to get to grips with using the oars, the designer got a turn in one of the, and his brother and wife Julie (after whom the design is named) had a go too.
I should explain that the plans for these boats are free and available from Intheboatshed.net. Well – that was all very good then!
By the way, the little boats are light and easy to handle out of the water and perform just as expected, with little wake and good directional stability – I’d say a little too much and will be arguing that a diagonal cut to the skeg near the stern might be a good idea.