Category Archives: wooden boat

The incomplete tale of a Norfolk racing launch

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Rocinante at Reedham

Keith Johnston has kindly written in with some photos and the story of a boat that’s often moored at Reedham on the Norfolk Broads. It’s an intriguing boat that looks like a Thames slipper launch, but which nevertheless has a completely different background. I’ll let Keith tell the story:

We were approaching Reedham on the Norfolk Broads when I noticed a boat which looked rather like a slipper launch and, as I had just finished building one, I decided to make enquiries because this appeared to be a boat out of its normal habitat.

There are two boat yards at Reedham so it didn’t take a lot of searching to find the background to this good looking vessel. I found Steve Sanderson at Hall’s Old Boatyard and he was kind enough to tell me the story of this particular boat.

Rocinante as her reincarnation is called, is not a slipper launch at all but a 23ft Norfolk racing launch, the original of which Steve found on a Yarmouth demolition site in an extreme state of dereliction – and about to be burnt.

However, being a proper wooden boat enthusiast he decided that the boat should be restored or at least saved. He brought the remains to his boatyard in Reedham and he began talking to his friends and neighbours about the boat in general.

On the way back to Wroxham I found the other hull, now fully fitted and moored in Horning. From the river and with a cover on she looks virtually identical to Rocinante – however, I am told that she has been fitted with an American marine diesel engine of 4.8 litres, which should put this launch very definitely back in the racing category!

I did some research and found that launch racing started on Thursday 23rd August 1903; the inaugural race was during Oulton Broad Sailing Regatta Week that year organised by the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club under the auspices of the Norfolk Automobile and Launch Club. Six boats competed in a single heat, and the race was won by a steam launch named Monarch – but by 1910 there were big changes. There’s an interesting club history on the website

For more on this no much more complete story, click here.

A traditionally built Tideway at the RYA Volvo Dinghy Show

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The new Tideway in build at Good Wood Boat – click on the thumbnails for a larger photo

Traditionally built 12ft Tideway dinghies are available to order after a gap of ten years – and the new version of the boat will be on show at the RYA Volvo Dinghy Show.

The new Tideways are being built by Good Wooden Boat Company after the company’s Stephen Beresford met the Tideway Owners Association (TOA) at last year’s show and was impressed by the boat itself, and by the association’s activities and enthusiasm. Good Wood Boat specialises in building boats using Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) certified approved sources. (The company also builds Uffa Fox’s Redwing sailing dinghy, of which more later.)

The TOA says that the new boat has already been bought by an existing Tideway owner and its members are very excited by the prospect of the new boat joining the fleet.

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Water Craft magazine for March-April 2010 will be out very soon!

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The latest Water Craft will be with us any day

It’s almost time for the next edition of Water Craft magazine to land on our doormats – so what’s in store this time around? Lots of boating goodies as usual – including the first of two big features by our friend Ben Crawshaw in which he reports on his adventures sailing his Light Trow named Onawind Blue. That feels like a real privilege, I must say, even though I’d prefer to seem my design used for rather less extreme adventures…

Here’s what Water Craft editor Pete Greenfield has to say about the upcoming issue:

So – how has boat craftsmanship, amateur and professional, fared through the long hard winter and the much longer and harder recession? In W80, we seem to have some of the answers.

Interestingly, for many professional wooden boat builders, the answer seems to be they are managing rather nicely thank you… though mostly with repairs rather than new builds.

At Peter Freebody & Co, for example, spiritual home of so many traditional Thames craft, Melanie Freebody tells Kathy Mansfield there may be snow on the roof but the boatshops beneath have rarely been busier.

Giving up the well-paid but stressful job in IT to learn to build wooden boats is a good idea for some. Certainly, on a dark dank morning in December when the students of 2009 launched the fascinating variety of craft they’d built at the Boat Building Academy at Lyme Regis, our Dick Phillips detected little stress… though maybe the champagne helped.

No nerves on the part of our tame amateur boatbuilder Peter Goad either, when Messrs Phillips and Chesworth turned up to sail the Cape Henry 21. Perhaps, as Peter explains in his final fit-out article, a five-year project encourages a relaxed and patient frame of mind.

Watch, on, Ben Crawshaw’s reports on sailing a small boat in the Med and you’ll see rather more evident anxiety. And reading about how he built his first boat, a slender lugger called a Light Trow intended for more sedate waters, in a public garden in Spain, you’ll encounter few manyana moments.

More sail than oar but definitely a craft to cope with exhilarating sea sailing, we think Paul Gartside’s free plans, complete with lines and offsets, for his 20ft (6m) lugger will persuade many a putative backyard boatbuilder to stop saying manyana and take the plunge.

As may the editor’s outdoor boat….

But outdoors, as Colin Henwood of Henwood & Dean Boatbuilders explains in his masterclass on painting and varnishing is not the ideal place to give your boat the finest finish for the new season. You need a big tent, kind-of like Water Craft itself.

Buy a subscription now (see the link in our right-hand column here at and pay with your credit card via PayPal) or find the March-April Water Craft in your local newsagents – to find a stockist in the UK see

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