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Sailing to the Longships Lighthouse in a 14ft traditional dinghy

Multiple award winning boatbuilder and designer and all-round interesting bloke Will Stirling is continuing his campaign to visit dramatic lighthouses using a traditional 14ft dinghy built by Stirling and Son - most recently with a trip to the Longships Lighthouse, built on group of rocks a couple of miles west of the notorious point of Land’s End.

With this August’s weather, I think he’s done well to find a window in the weather!

Here’s his story about the expedition:

‘The original plan was to sail from Sennen Cove just North of Land’s End down to the Wolf Lighthouse, back around the Longships Lighthouse and return to Sennen Cove.

‘I set off early from Plymouth to avoid any traffic. On the way down the A30 the windmills were gently turning. From high land the Isles of Scilly and the Wolf were in clear view. Light winds and good visibility augured well.

‘I arrived in good time at Land’s End and twisted my way down the lane into Sennen Cove. The tiny old harbour was very pretty. I backed the dinghy down a very steep granite slipway overlooked by a mighty lifeboat station.

‘Reversing on the sand was easy and the dinghy was soon afloat and anchored off - but driving forward on the sand was not easy and the van soon became bogged down. Two fisherman were watching and no doubt the odd curtain was twitching. I am used to feeling stupid.

‘There was the predictable sucking through teeth about the difficulties of recovering the van and when it would be possible to do so later in the day. No doubt King Cnut sat in his throne on the beach to demonstrate that the tide could not be defied, with a pair of stout thurls on hand to lug the throne up the beach when the old king’s toes started to get wet. I could see that the van would be a little more difficult to recover.

‘However, having played the lead role in many acts of foolishness I am pretty philosophical; things tend to get sorted out.

‘I had some time in hand in relation to the tide, so I prepared the dinghy, hauled the trailer up the beach and bought a parking ticket. By the time I was back the fishermen had rigged a warp around a turning block and back to the harbour-head capstan. We dragged the van up the beach, and with an extra burst of speed managed to claw up the slipway.

‘I didn’t bother to contemplate dinghy recovery at this stage, but gave the kind fishermen my thanks and some chocolate and set off.

‘Soon afterwards, I returned having realised I had forgotten the VHF and then pulled the zip off the drysuit. The zip was unrepairable but the VHF was now on board.

‘The trip was still within the tidal constraints for doubling the Wolf; however, the wind was very light and I began to doubt that I would reach the Wolf before the tide turned. I decided to sail to the Longship’s first and see if the wind would fill in away from the land or come up as time passed.

‘I sailed just South of the Shark’s Fin, a nasty rock to the North of the Longships, and despite the calm weather there were tidal overfalls. Strangely, the wind seemed to increase in each of the overfalls as the dinghy sailed through them quite fast.

‘Turning South and to seaward of the Longships I could see an alarming line of broken water to the West, indicating further overfalls. As the tide was pushing East, I had to hope I wouldn’t be sucked into them.

‘When I successfully got to the Longships, it seemed calm enough to consider a landing. I sailed among the rocks to the south of the lighthouse and anchored in a little cove where there were seals.

‘The dry suit was broken so I swam five metres to the shore in underpants and took some photos – very aware that if the main sheet did wind itself around the tiller and become jammed, trip the anchor and sail the dinghy out of the cove, massive embarrassment awaited. I didn’t waste any time ashore and took care to ensure I was always within a few seconds of regaining the dinghy.

‘In the second trip ashore to a small off lying rock the dinghy began to drag. I quickly clambered back aboard and sailed into deeper water away from the rocks before sorting everything out on board.

‘It was now 1130 with one hour until the tidal gate for arriving at the Wolf, which was 8 miles away to the South. The wind itself was now a steady F3 from the N. Ideal conditions for getting to the Wolf; not good conditions for getting back, particularly if the wind increased. I decided that it was not wise to attempt the Wolf with only an hour of tide, adverse wind for the return journey and a broken dry suit which made me vulnerable to offshore capsize. I was already quite cold after my swim.

‘I sailed back towards Sennen, through the overfalls just North of Kettle Rock and into the little harbour.

‘Charles Bush (the director of Mayflower Marina which is right next to our yard in Plymouth) happened to be standing on the beach with his family. He had been out catching turbot for supper.

‘With a bit of Norwegian steam we dragged the dinghy up the beach and hitched her onto the van at the very bottom of the granite slipway. Charles’ family pushed, his son sat on the bonnet to give the wheels traction and with much revving the whole rig reached the tarmac at the top of the slip. One cream tea later at the Bush’s cottage over looking the cove and some local advice about a better launching spot for the next Wolf attempt concluded a very pleasant Longship’s circumnavigation.

‘Best wishes, Will’

Stirling and Son offers traditional yacht building and wooden boat repair and is based at the historic No 1 Covered Slip at Devonport. Also, follow the Stirling and Son Facebook page for news, some wonderful boats and great photos.

 

Philip Risacher’s Ella skiff dream photos

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Reader Philip Risacher sent me these photos of a great 1/10th scale model he made of my Ella skiff design – and I am of course completely charmed. Here’s what he says:

‘I started the model about four years ago, but it lay as a brown cardboard model until a few weeks ago when reading through Ben Crawshaw’s blog got me back in the mood to build myself a boat. Of course the “everything needed to build a full size boat” is not yet within reach, but luckily my eyes fell on my little Cheerios box skiff and my brain said “oohh, that could be quite beautiful.”

‘So I started back at it, first gluing on some mahogany gunwales, then sealing the whole thing with shellac, painting, thole pins, Samson post, and the hand made oars complete with Turk’s head knots and eyes to scare the sea monsters away.

‘Just this weekend I brought her out on the lake to take some pictures, you’d think she were big enough to sit in, but alas it is only an illusion. I hope some day to make a boat I can sit in. Thank you for the great design(s), so kindly shared with us out here in dream land.’

Here’s the giveaway:

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See more shots here.

Ella skiff plans are here.

BBA students build a Don Kurlyko Alaska beach cruiser

These photos are of an 18ft Alaska beach cruiser designed by Don Kurlyko and built by students – now graduates – of the Boat Building Academy’s 38-week long course, Reuben Thompson and Tony Corke.

The photos were taken by Jenny Steer, Becky Joseph and Liz Griffiths.

Reuben first saw this design at the Beale Park Boat Show where he entered a small sailing boat he’d designed in the Amateur Boat Building Competition.

He fell in love with the Alaska beach cruiser’s shape and efficient sail design, and when asked if he’d like to build a boat at the Academy, he jumped at the opportunity to build one for himself.

It is strip-planked in western red cedar, and has two masts and a yawl rig. Just two adjustments were made to the original design, which is based on the American Whitehall skiff: instead of building internal frames the boat was fibre-glassed inside and out to provide more internal space (the fibreglass providing the strength the frames would have), and extra water-tight compartments were added to prevent the boat from sinking should it capsize.

A week’s work experience with Thames boatbuilders Henwood and Dean convinced Reuben that boat building was the career for him, and he decided to join the Academy for ‘some advice on how to get there’.

A keen sailor, he taught sailing at Frampton Sailing Club and became involved in teaching at the Lyme Regis Club while on the course.

Tony worked as an activity instructor and group leader at PGL Travel in Wiltshire before attending the Academy.

With a passion for kayaking and working towards a two star canoe and kayak qualification with the British Canoe Union, he also built a modern skin on frame kayak while on the course. Tony found the design for kayak on the website Yostwerks.

Its frames were made of marine ply and western red cedar was used for the stringers.

The kayak’s coating was made of Dacron, a layer of glass fibre and epoxy.

Reuben is now working at Cockwells in Falmouth and Tony at  Mussett Engineering  in Norfolk where he’ll use his new composite skills working with F1 racing cars rather than boats.

Reuben looks forward to exploring the creeks in his beach cruiser and once it is complete, Tony plans to paddle his kayak on the Norfolk Broads.

Howard Chappelle 23ft 8in Tabloid cruising boat from the book Boat Building

These photos are of an example of the 23ft 8in Tabloid cruiser designed by Howard Irving Chappelle and included in his classic Boat Building: A Complete Handbook of Wooden Boat Construction.

They were sent over by Ronald Glen, who with his brother Peter built the boat at Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, in 2004 . He reports that the Sydney Museum has shown interest in her, as well as an American museum looking for Chappelle-designed boats for a planned centenary exhibition.

If you’ve read Chappelle’s book, you’ll know this design, which I would think owes something to New England lobster boats and Hampton boats of the past.

Thanks for the photos Ronald!

To see an earlier post of photographs sent by Randal Cooper of Goolwa Masts, Australia, of another boat built to these plans, click here.

Are any examples of these boats to be found in the USA? Or of the intriguing ketch Southwind?

Bantry Bay yoles and the Atlantic Challenge

ATLANTIC CHALLENGE TEASER from Betel Studio on Vimeo.

Thanks to legendary boat designer François Vivier for spotting this one!

Every two year Atlantic Challenge International sponsors a friendly contest of seamanship in Bantry Bay gigs. They are held in a different host country each time. The events began in 1986, when gigs from France and the USA competed under the Statue of Liberty – now 12 nations and involved and 55 Bantry Bay gigs have been built worldwide.

The gigs are wooden replicas of late 18th century longboats, and are modelled after an existing original gig left behind in Bantry Bay Ireland by the invading French fleet of 1796,. The boats are said to have exhilarating performance.

Read more here: Atlanticchallenge.org.

Uffa Fox designed Flying 30 Huff of Arklow relaunch in September

Huff of Arklow

The latest Shipshape Network newsletter brings happy news that the restoration of the Uffa Fox designed Flying 30, Huff of Arklow, is progressing rapidly and is to be relaunched on the 7th September.

An enlarged version of Fox’s wonderfully elegant Flying 15 design, Huff was was built in 1951 in Arklow by John Tyrrell & Sons (see list of Tyrell-built craft) for the well known yachtsman Douglas Heard. She’s an important boat in several ways – she was the first masthead rigged sloop designed to plane and the first ocean-going yacht designed to plane. And she is fast, certainly – she recorded a speed of 23 knots on a trip to Iceland in 1960.

Read about Huff of Arklow and her restoration here and here. Oh, and there are a Facebook page and a Twitter account to follow too!

PS – Martha’s Vineyard sailor and boat surveyor Ginny Jones wrote to tell me about this YouTube video about Huff, complete with Uffa Fox singing a stage sea song, some modern pop stuff with photos of kid’s and their models of Huff, and finally photos of her pre-restoration interior, with someone (I don’t know who) singing a proper sea song, the Sailor’s ABC.

Sorry to be so quiet at present – we’re waiting for BT to fix our telephone line, which stopped working around the time of the thunderstorms of the 20th July.

Sorry to be so quiet at present – we’re waiting for BT to fix our telephone line, which stopped working around the time of the thunderstorms of the 20th July. I’ve no idea whether the problem is connected with the weather, but it’s making us pretty cross!