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Howard Rice, off down the Straits of Magellan in a 12ft boat…

Hmmm… Howard Rice is about to sail an 11ft 11in Scamp sailing boat south through the Strait of Magellan from Punta Arenas down to the remote Southwest Islands of Tierra del Fuego…

He’s supposed to be setting off today. Great, good luck to him!

I hope he won’t mind my borrowing some of his photos of the loading process.  He’ll be carrying three months’ food and who knows how much water, along with everything else.

The boat is designed by John Welsford: the main change to the original design that I can see is that he’s got a two-stick rig. Well you would want a very controllable rig going down to pennyweight sails, wouldn’t you?

Howard’s done this before, as his Wikipedia page shows – that time he rounded the Horn in a sailing canoe equipped with a storm sail measuring only 2sqft – this time he’s got a storm sail of 5sqft.

Follow his progress on John’s weblog, on Howard’s weblog,  Howard’s Facebook page, on the  Scamp Sailboat Facebook page and doubtless quite a few other places as well.

Read about Scamp and get plans here.

PSListen to this interview with Howard on Boat Radio.

Small sailing cruiser modelled on a Zuiderzee fishing boat

Dutch sailmaker and weblogger Frank van Zoest (see earlier posts) has sent over this rather fetching photo. Here’s what he says:

Hi Gavin,

This picture was sent by an friendly customer. The boat isbased on a fishing boat from the Zuiderzee, the Staverse Jol. It was built by Bart Jan Bats, who also builds the BJ 17, a fine lugger designed by Nigel Irens.

The customer wanted an uncluttered interior with no frames, so the boat is built with foam, glass epoxy, and the planking is oak veneer.

The builder went far into details, and even used endgrain veneer for the top of the stemhead.

The mast is carbon so the owner can easily take off the rig and use her as a motor launch.

The magazine Spiegel der Zeilvaart ran a long article about her and published a photo of her on its cover.

Thanks Frank!

The Wreck of the SS London

Simon Wills has written to say that he has just published a book about the SS London disaster of January 1866, a very famous disaster of its time. It’s one that is sometimes said to have added to the pressure to make sbhips safer, and which led to the introduction of the Plimsoll Line.

Here’s a relevant paragraph from Simon’s book:

‘The initial public reaction to the loss of the robust and modern SS London was an understandable grief, but mixed with disbelief. How could this possibly have happened to a luxury liner so close to home? The number of dead was uncertain and quoted figures initially varied widely. In fact, at least 243 people had died – 167 passengers and 76 crew – although the precise figure may never be known. Even the press struggled to break the news… The reaction to the loss of the SS London washed over the country like a huge melancholy wave – incredulity, personal grief, lessons in faith, national sorrow, a charitable fund, memorabilia, poetry, sermons, criticisms, and messages in bottles.’

Simon adds that one of the more poignant things about the disaster was that desperate passengers who knew they were going to die put messages to their loved ones in bottles, which were washed ashore and then found…

It’s interesting to compare how people reacted to a national disaster in Victorian times – nobody sued over the London, for example, and people were keen to buy SS London disaster commemorative mugs! We do things differently these days…

Of course the disaster was now almost exactly 150 years ago… Apart from Sam’s book I wonder whether it will be marked in any way?

Readers may remember that some time ago I learned Sam Larner’s version of a broadside ballad written about the disaster.

PS – Nigel S  has pointed out that astonishing Dundee poet William Topaz McGonagall wrote one of his legendary doggerel ballads about the disaster. It’s well worth checking out – and it comes with some interesting details…

Old boats, traditional boats, boat building, restoration, the sea and the North Kent Coast – Gavin Atkin's weblog