Category Archives: Uncategorized

Two sea shanties for singing sailors

Two proper sea shanties that are highly suitable for the singing sailor.

I gather ‘noggin’ was a very rude word a century or two back but seems remarkably harmless now… And for that I guess we can thank Oliver Postgate, creator of the cartoon character Noggin the Nog.

PS – And here’s a forebitter about a common sailor’s fantasy – the young woman who dresses as a boy and goes to sea.

Mike Lowson’s Northboats restores beloved Nutshell dinghy

‘Sometimes it’s the smallest boats that give us the biggest pleasure,’ says boatbuilder and boat restorer Mike Lowson of Aberdeenshire-based Northboats.

He has just completed the restoration of a 9ft clinker ply Nutshell dinghy which was destined for the scrap heap. The photos above are a mix of before and after shots.

‘The dinghy, called Min, was produced some years ago by the Barrow Boat Company, most likely as a home-build kit. Her name is a clue to her age’ as her first owner was a big fan of the 1950s radio Goon Show in which Minnie Bannister was a popular character, played by Spike Milligan.’

The boat eventually ended up in Scotland but came close to being reduced to charcoal when the barn in which she was stored caught fire. The blaze left her with severely damaged paintwork and varnish and a badly-damaged transom which had begun to delaminate. The conflagration also accounted for her tiller, centreboard and an oar.

She was rescued by a new owner who then asked Northboats to see what could be done with her.

She might be little and getting on a bit but she’s full of character and I was delighted to take on the job, says Mike.

Now, following a com,plete restoration, she has a new centreboard, a new curved tiller laminated from ash, and a new oar of spruce to match the surviving original. An ugly rubber strip around the gunwale has been removed and replaced with a new iroko strip.

The transom has been fully repaired and the fire-damaged hull restored to near original condition.

All upper and interior surfaces were treated to multiple coats of Epifanes varnish and, after being stripped back, the repaired outside hull was given a series of coats of International Pre-Kote undercoat and Toplac top coat in black and white.

The sail was also given a once-over and the running rigging renewed and adjusted.

‘She now looks pretty as a picture and, like her owner, can’t wait to get back on the water,’ Mike added. ‘So that’s a nice wee story, in a nutshell.’

Northboats has had a busy year to date with repair and restoration work stretching from small dinghies to traditional loch fishing boats and commercial creelers. Work is also about to start on a new build of a John Welsford-designed Navigator.


Mike Lowson’s Northboats sponsors safe cycling team

A new Scottish cycling team that plans to combine competitive, leisure and social cycling with a strong safety message has been launched with the backing of Aberdeenshire-based boatbuilder Mike Lowson and his company Northboats.

Team Ecosse Northboats (T-E-N) aims to combine campaigning on safe cycling while supporting selected charities, including multiple sclerosis and cancer groups, through a range of cycling events.

It is the first sponsorship venture by Northboats, which was set up by Lyme Regis Boat Building Academy graduate Mike Lowson in 2008. Northboats is based at Old Leslie, 30 north-west of Aberdeen.

T-E-N is the brainchild of Mike’s son, Pete, 32, a keen amateur cyclist in both commuting and competing. His experience has given him serious concerns over the road craft of some cyclists.

Pete said: ‘We acknowledge that some problems on our roads are caused by poor cycling which gives the rest of us a bad name and can put our lives in unnecessary danger. Through our campaign, and people cycling sensibly, we hope roads will become safer for cyclists.

One of the charity events currently being organised by the team is the Boat/Bike/Ben Challenge. Carrying a specially-made commemorative baton, T-E-N members will row and sail a Northboats-built boat along the 70-mile Caledonian Canal from Fort William to Inverness before cycling back down the Great Glen and finishing by scaling Ben Nevis.

Boatbuilder Mike Lowson added: ‘Sailing and cycling are two green and healthy sports at which British athletes excel and they fit well together. I’m delighted to support Team Ecosse Northboats’ efforts to raise the profile of cycling safety and to encourage cyclists of all styles and abilities to become involved.’

T-E-N members have competed in a number of events so far this year, including major Scottish races such as the Caledonia and Loch Ness Etapes and the Cairngorm Classic, and also triathlons in the UK and Austria. Others recently completed a Lands End to John o’Groats ride and one team member is a two-time winner of the Scottish Coal Race.

Multiple Olympic and world champion Sir Chris Hoy is among those to congratulate the new initiative on its launch. He said: ‘I just wanted to wish you all the very best with your team. I’ll be keeping an eye out for you. Good luck.’

Below: founder members of the T-E-N cycling team launch the initiative with an Iain Oughtred Elf design faering built by Mike Lowson of Northboats. Pete Lowson is second from right

TEN launch 018

Catro Vellos Mariñeiros musica tradicional de Galicia

My thanks to Martin Calpe for sending this one over. The two types of sailing vessel you see here are the lancha, used for transport, and the dorna, much smaller and used for fishing.

BBA students build a new design composite sailing canoe

Boat Building Academy students Richard Lyford from Portland and Steve Roberts built and launched a newly designed 14ft 5in composite sailing canoe as part of a 38-week boatbuilding course. The photos are by Janine Cashin, Liz Griffiths, Becky Joseph, John  Pritchard, Grant Morris and Jenny Steer.

Richard took a career break to attend the course.

Richard believes that with interest in the Victorian idea of sailing canoes is growing in the UK and that we’re on the way to a real revival. So he worked with sailing canoe specialist company Solway Dory to develop and design a new light-weight composite sailing canoe and built a prototype as part of his course.

Water sports enthusiast Steve joined the course from a career in the Royal Navy where here worked as a mine clearance diver.

The two created a tulip-wood hull plug, which was then glass and epoxied to create the mould, which was lifted off the plug, polished and used to create the canoe.

Rock Pipit can be paddled or sailed, and has an unstayed Bermuda rig, which Richard argues is simple to rig and easy to reef.

She looked elegant in white and royal blue, so much so that BBA technician Steve Hewins, a man who has seen countless boats, watched her go out and said ‘One day I’m going to have one of those… ‘

Richard returns to his job as a Submarine Systems Engineer in July. Steve has already started work at Compass Tenders, Port Hamble, building bespoke tenders for superyachts.

The Rock Pipit design will become part of the Solway Dory range. If you are on the Devon or Cornwall coast or estuaries look out for Richard, who intends to use his new sailing canoe as often as possible.

Veler El•La’s sailing Ella skiff starts her summer adventure for 2014

Veler El•la is a community  group on Facebook based in Barcelona who built an example of the sailing version of of my Ella skiffs, and now sail it in stages along the coast of Taragonna. This week they even called for folks to put their hand up to sail her for a day – hopefully I got that right as I don’t speak that language and we can’t trust the online translators!

Here are some photos of what I take to be the first leg of this year’s voyage, mixed in with some great harbour shots from her launch last year. Thanks for the photos folks!

Fabian Bush builds a François Vivier Aber dinghy

I’ve just remembered that I haven’t yet shared these photos to share of Lodestar publisher Richard Wynne’s new sail and oar dinghy – so here they are.

It’s an example of the very appealing François Vivier-designed Aber built for Richard at Rowhedge  by Fabian Bush, who showed it at the Beale Park show last month.

Naturally, there was a bit of a party in and around Fabian’s yard on when she emerged into the light. Richard’s delighted with the boat I gather – that day he and Fabian took the little boat for a sail out past Mersea, and found that it both sails and rows like a dream. (It has two rowing positions.)

It’s striking to think that François designed this elegant and well developed looking boat as long ago as 1985.

There are more photos of examples of Abers built around the world here.

Michael Maloney’s film: The Apprentice – Making Life Work

Faversham film-maker Michael Maloney is passionate about the value of apprenticeships to young people, and believes they are vital to the economic and social future of Britain.

He points out that about a million of our young people are currently unemployed – a point that which contrasts sharply with the some of the claims we hear about the healthy state of our economy.

I particularly like the quotation from Griff Rhys-Jones visit to Faversham Creek Trust’s apprenticeships project at the Purifier Building in Faversham last year: ‘The reward is in what you do.

(It had better be – in the same short speech he also revealed that the boat cost him £70 to buy, that he had spent a further £500,000 on her over the next ten years – and that on putting it on the market more recently had been offered how much? You’ve guessed it – £70,000.)

This Youtube is a trailer for a longer and more in-depth film that Michael is making on the subject of apprenticeships.

Read more about Michael’s project here: