Category Archives: Suppliers

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.

The Marine Quarterly, summer 2014

The Marine Quarterly summer 2014

The summer edition of the excellent The Marine Quarterly came out a couple of weeks ago. If you have almost any interest in the sea, it’s well worth reading for its solid, informative and often entertaining articles on sailing, fisheries, adventuring, merchant shipping, conservation, natural history, culture and heritage, trade, naval matters, nautical books, and anything else that relates to life on salt water. Subscribe here.

In the latest The Marine Quarterly, you’ll find:

  • Richard Hopton describing the Tai-Mo-Shan’s 1933-4 voyage from Hong Kong to Falmouth via Japan,  where the unfortunate crew were suspected of spying because officials did not find women or drink on board
  • Nigel Sharp penetrates the mysteries of oyster dredging in the Carrick Roads on the River Fal, a place where oysters have been harvested since the middle of the nineteenth century, and where in order to preserve the stocks and protect the beds from overfishing, a bye-law prevents oyster fishermen from using engines while dredging
  • Rudyard Kipling describes fishing on the Grand Banks ‘The dories gathered in clusters, separated, reformed, and broke again, all heading one way; while men hailed and whistled and cat-called and sang and the water was speckled with rubbish… ‘
  • MQ editor Sam Llewellyn editor crosses the Pacific on a container ship and is woken by the shock of a big wave a thousand miles from land
  • Philip Marsden debates Marine Conservation Zones with Britain’s biggest trawler owner.
  • Roger Barnes writes a paean to the joys of small-boat cruising
  • Douglas Lindsay brings an antique across the Atlantic - the replica galleon Golden Hinde
  • Rod Heikell outlines the early history of yachting
  • Sophia Kingshill navigates in the general direction of the mythical island Hy Brasil, which somehow remained on the charts until 1853
  • Jonathon Green goes looking for linguistic lowlife and discovers the influence of the 19th century American merchant marine.
  • Oscar Branson goes us deep under some very cold water ‘At around three hundred metres there is no light at all. It is an ice-cold world, and it feels stone dead. Nothing could be further from the truth.’
  • And there is the usual The Marine Quarterly departments – North Sea News, Flotsam and Jetsam, book reviews, items on seamanship, eccentricity, and even the odd poem, all edited by the meticulous Sam Llewellyn and decorated with the drawings of Claudia Myatt

Chris Perkins’ photos from the Beale Park Boat and Outdoor Show

I’m most grateful to Chris Perkins for giving me permission to raid his impressive collection of photos from this year’s Beale Park Boat and Outdoor Show.

Chris is a lovely, meticulous photographer, and seems to have the knack of being unobtrusive when he’s shooting – no-one in his shots seems to pose for the camera! See his full collection at Flickr but please don’t use them without his permission!

From the top left they show three Watercraft magazine Amateur Boat Building Awards entries:

  • Agape a Nottage 12 designed by Fabian Bush and beautifully traditionally built by Richard Harvey (three photos)
  • Curlew, a Nick Smith-designed traditional launch built in the traditional way by Richard Pease (two photos)
  • Strummer, an Iain Oughtred-designed Ness Yawl built in clinker ply by Ian Prior
  • Polly, an Iain Oughtred designed Swampscott dory built in the traditional way by John Kingston (three pics – and isn’t she gorgeous!)

There’s also a general shot of the competition entries.

Also we have a currach (two pics); a Thames skiff set up for camping (two photos), the Old Gaffers Association menagerie of small boats on show, an oldish ply-looking river launch; Moiety, built by Nick Smith, a bit of repair work going on outside the International Boatbuilding Training College stand (principal Nat is wearing the black hat); Kipperman Mike Smylie playing the kipper xylophone (black hats are in fashion, gentlemen); and some typical scenes on the water at Beale Park (six photos).

HJ Mears Boat Builders work on a mahogany 25ft clinker-built motor launch

Alex Mears of HJ Mears & Son of Seaton in Devon has written to say that the 25ft mahogany clinker built motor launch they’re working on, Tarka, is coming along well.

You don’t see boats like this too often!

‘I’ve attached some photos of where she’s at currently. The owner has added a fair few extras compared to the original brief – laid decks, solid wood windbreaker/cuddy, but fortunately they appreciate that these extra tasks take extra time, which is especially important when the workload is heavy as usual at this busy time of year!

‘The Beta inboard engine has arrived and we’ve offered it up to the engine beds so the shaft, coupling, prop can now be ordered to correct sizes.

‘There is still an awful lot of varnishing to do (we’ve used over 3 gallons so far and that’s prior to thinning!).

‘The sea toilet and storage tank should be arriving this week. The sink and cooker have been offered up in the galley. The rudder, tiller, floorboards and various hatches are currently being decorated, which takes up a lot of time as the workshop has to limit the dusty work while decorating is going on, so we  we try to do that work at the weekends.

‘She is destined to spend this season on one of our swinging moorings on the River Axe, then next year she’ll head to Kingswear. I think the owner would like a brief change of scene but personally I think the River Dart has a lot to offer!

‘We’ve had a lot of interest from people; visitors to the yard, tweets, e-mails and phone calls; everyone appreciates a classic wooden boat, but not everybody wants one though!

‘Anyway I’ll keep you updated with progress.

‘Take care and keep up the good work, Alex’

Thanks Alex!

Blockmaker Steve Whitby tells his story

Blockmaker Steve Whitby 1 Blockmaker Steve Whitby 2

Enthusiastic wooden blockmaker Steve Whitby has been in touch to tell us about how he got into making blocks.

‘My Dad built a boat when I was a boy, and I’ve been sailing ever since. Down the years I’ve made all sorts of rig bits and bobs, mostly racing and cruising dinghy systems, a few sailing canoes, couple of dodgy International Moths… you get the idea. (Though I’m now way too old for International Moths!)

‘Somehow wooden blocks just drew me in – I got hold of a few worn out blocks, took them to bits, copied them, tried to improve them. For me its a chance to create something that I think is actually rather beautiful, but also practical and with a real heritage.

‘There are a few web resources that are helpful – a page on the Duckworks site among others, but the best I’ve found is on Traditional Maritime Skills, which is a terrific site.

‘Learning to make these things has involved quite a lot of trial-and-error too of course – I have a sizable box of rejects that I can’t bring myself to put on the fire. But along the way I have developed my own techniques – my one-piece blocks are routed from a 30in blank that makes up a set of eight, which are then cut off and shaped.

‘Initially I was very taken with a one-piece design, but they use rather a lot of wood (especially making larger ones) and I hate the router.

‘The laminated blocks are made with a template for every part (including all the holes for dowels and spindles), they are glued and doweled (or copper riveted) before being sanded on a big old linisher to get a neat oval. All the blocks are hand carved for profile and to gouge out the score (for the strop).

‘I have made a few with internal bindings, but somehow strop blocks are just so much more elegant an approach.

‘The latest developments have been roller-bearing sheaves (which I am quite pleased with as they are much easier to make than ball-bearing ones, but are better at taking load and still run very nicely).

‘I’ve been making fiddle-blocks with cleats (for mainsheets, kicking straps etc). I have just finished one with a Tufnol V-jammer “hidden” inside the swallow – I was going to just rough it out to test it, but somehow I had to finish it properly and leave it in linseed for a few days… I still don’t know if it will actually work yet but it looks nice!

‘Also in the works are swivels, specially made to take the bottom of a strop (and so make a strop block stand upright) – I will post pictures soon (that might make more sense than my description).

Steve seems to have got a bit carried away… for in September he leaves the day job to join the International Boatbuilding Training Centre to do a full year’s traditional boatbuilding course.

Thanks for getting in contact Steve, and great good luck with the course and whatever comes next!

Marcus Lewis makes the Fowey River dinghy and Troy class keelboat racers ready for the season

Fowey boatbuilder Marcus Lewis has been in touch to tell us about the work he’s been doing – and here’s been a lot of maintenance, repair and painting work to do on the local Fowey River dinghy and Troy class keelboat racers, as you might expect during the run-up to the new sailing season.

Here’s what he says:

‘It’s fairly busy in my boat shed! We have finished all the woodwork on a new Fowey River sailing dinghy, and the owner has taken it away to do his own varnishing and painting.

‘We’ve also been getting on with the sanding and painting of several of the Troy Class keelboats – we currently look after or maintain about ten of these, and they all need to be back afloat ready to race by the first Saturday in May.

The photos (above) show Ruby (no. 6) and Aquamarine (no. 16) in my workshop, and then there is the yard at the Fowey Gallants Sailing Club, where we have the masts out for varnishing, and Troys nos 1,3,7,18,19 and 23 almost done.

Ruby is now afloat, (pictured on the water above) and we have 10 days of launching and rigging of these boats ahead right now, as well as some varnishing and antifouling on a few Fowey River dinghies.

‘Also, a couple weekends ago, I organised a lifejacket clinic at the sailing club, with service engineers from Ocean Safety in Plymouth. Folks could bring their lifejackets along for a once over, and hopefully learn a bit about them. The checks were free, but any spare parts fitted had to be paid for.

‘We had a huge attendance , with 248 lifejackets looked at over six hours.

‘Attached is a pic of a typical poorly treated jacket, left in the locker all winter to decay. the rusty cylinder can chafe through the bladder, and is not recommended. The RNLI sea safety team were also there to answer questions on EPIRBs, kill switches, mob devices, and any other safety queries.’

I must say running a lifejacket check sounds like a great way to get folks minds focused on safety at a time when they’re getting their boats ready, and setting out on their annual shakedown trips.

Thanks Marcus!

Working Sail – a short film by Stephen Morris

My thanks to Mike Goodwin for the tipoff!