Category Archives: Boating, boats, ships and the sea

BBA students build a glued clinker Christmas Wherry

Most of us, probably, have dreamed at some time of living by the sea and waking to the sound of waves on the shore. Thomasin Sage clearly has, and from December to February this year she was a live-in student at the Boat Building Academy on Monmouth Beach at Lyme Regis.

Before joining the 38-week boat building, maintenance and support course Thomasin spent a year living and working in Japan as part of her Japanese degree.

When her time as an undergraduate came to a close, she could no longer ignore the lure of boats, her need to work with wood and the sea and the day after graduating she went to the BBA for interview.

Thomasin said ‘It felt like coming home’. Her hope now is one day to open a boatyard and take traditional British boat building to Japan.

Thomasin chose to build a Christmas Wherry designed by Walter J Simmons of Maine, which is based on designs for Lincolnville wherries developed for the Atlantic salmon fishery in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

It has a flat keel so she can be beached easily and will stand upright when ashore, carries a 102sqft standing lugsail and can also be easily rowed.

The original plans were for a traditional clinker build but Thomasin opted for the lighter glued clinker method. Although easily sailed and rowed, the original design was not ideal for taking an outboard motor and Thomasin wanted the boat to be as versatile as possible, so overseen by Academy instructors Thomasin modified the design, reducing the steep angle (rake) of the transom so that it would take a motor.

During lofting, the Wherry’s lines were extended and slight alterations made to the rudder plan. The extra length should also make her slightly faster under sail.

Given the strong glued clinked build, further modifications could be made to reduce the weight and bulkiness of the gunwhale and inwhale, but when it came to the rowlock swellings the original chunkier measurements were used.

The boat’s bright finish shows the high level of aesthetic consideration that has gone into the detail and structural parts. The dark Khaya (West African mahogany) laminated frames have an elegant steamed oak thwart riser, with oak thwarts and black thwart knees and a walnut joggled transom. The spruce spar and spoon bladed oars were all also made on the course.

Assisting Thomasin on her student build of the Christmas Wherry were students Alfred Dalby from the UK and Stefanie Bielowski from Austria.

Alfie spent 10 years living in Costa Rica with his family, helping out with the family restaurant. He is an artist and is fascinated by the practical, craft element of boat building. He sees the course as the beginning of a lifelong relationship with boat building.

Stefanie was a project manager for an NGO in Vienna but, looking for a change, went on to sail and skipper cruising yachts around the world.

Thomasin is completing a trial period with a traditional boat yard on the Thames, Alfie is working at Lots Ait Boatyard, a London yard owned and run by BBA graduate John Watson, and  Stefanie began work at Spirit Yachts on the Monday after graduation.

 

The photographs are by Charlie Fawell, Emma Brice and Janine Cashin.

Cornish folks to try to rescue the Ocean Pride

Facebook has news, if you’re a Facebook user: a few weeks ago Penlee Lifeboat Coxswain Patch Harvey found the Newlyn-built counter-stern lugger, PZ 134 Ocean Pride, at Rye Harbour in Sussex. Naturally, she is desperately in need of care and restoration.

See the Facebook page for more photos and information.

The Ocean Pride was once owned by Patch’s grandfather, Ted ‘Chuggy’ Downing, and he hopes to bring her back to Newlyn in the near future.

This project is in it’s early stages but we hope to involve the whole community. Watch this space for more news!

My thanks to Kipperman Mike Smylie for pointing out this piece of good news.

Estuary, by Rachel Lichtenstein

As a regular Thames Estuary mudlarking sailor, I like the look of this!

The blurb:

The Thames Estuary is one of the world’s great deltas, providing passage in and out of London for millennia. It is silted up with the memories and artefacts of past voyages. It is the habitat for an astonishing range of wildlife. And for the people who live and work on the estuary, it is a way of life unlike any other – one most would not trade for anything, despites its many dangers.

Rachel Lichtenstein has travelled its length and breadth many times. Here she gathers these experiences in an extraordinary chorus of voices: mudlarkers and fishermen, radio pirates and champion racers, the men who risk their lives out on the water and the women who wait on the shore. Estuary is a thoughtful and intimate portrait of this profoundly British place, both the community and the environment, examining how each has shaped and continues to shape the other.

An extract:

‘As the light slowly faded on the longest day of the year I sat on deck with the rest of the crew drinking bottled beers, sharing stories and watching the cityscape transform. By dusk a low mist had begun to obscure most of the buildings. The iconic dome of St Paul’s temporarily disappeared before re-emerging, floodlit, against the London skyline. Red-flashing beacons began to appear sporadically through the fog, marking the tops of tall cranes and skyscrapers. The skeletal frame of the Shard came suddenly into focus as every floor of the tall skyscraper lit up simultaneously. At the same time the beautiful gothic structure of Tower Bridge behind us was illuminated from above and below, throwing a sparkling reflection into the black waters of the Lower Pool of London – a place where so many of the world’s most important ships must have anchored at different points in time. As night fell the lights inside all the flats, hotels and offices along the riverside came on. We floated in the dark void of the river between time.

‘On the water the sounds of the city seemed altered. I could hear the distant hum of traffic on the bridge, the clatter of trains rumbling past, the constant backdrop of sirens going off but it was as if they were coming from another place altogether, not the great throbbing metropolis above. I sat and watched the vast twin bascules of Tower Bridge being slowly raised. A Thames Barge sailed silently past and drifted beneath the bridge before quickly disappearing into the shadows on the other side. On the remains of a wooden jetty nearby, I could just make out the shape of a large black cormorant standing perfectly still with its great wings outstretched.’