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Project whaler for sale, North Wales

Fancy a project , 25′ whaler?

There’s one lying at Gwynedd in North Wales, and it’s for sale. It has been in the Harlech family for many years and used to be moored on the Ynys opposite the village of Portmeirion.

It has been dry stored for quite a few years now. The seller, Mark Brookes, says that he has lots of gear to go with it including spars and a Seagull outboard. Mark is at brookesmark@hotmail.co.uk

The Canoe Yawl, by Richard Powell

The Canoe Yawl: From the Birth of Leisure Sailing to the 21st Century by Richard Powell from publisher Lodestar is great news.

There’s a lot of talk discussion about canoe yawls and a great sense that they are to be admired in the forums and magazines – but why and what’s the story? Probably for a couple of decades I’ve felt that a clear analysis of the type and a description of its history was sorely needed – and now we have it.

Canoe yawls were originally developed from sailing canoes in the late 19th century, in order to allow amateur sailors to sail in the conditions often found on UK’s estuaries and coastline.

Our weather is changeable and, even with modern weather forecasting it is still unpredictable in small boat sailing terms: for example, the wind is often a force stronger than predicted. Many small boat sailors have learned at first hand that shallow estuaries full of channels have strong currents and that as soon as the wind against the tide, the chop may become so fierce that beating to windward becomes nigh-on impossible unless you can creep into shallows. (You need to be an unusual sailor to manage this stuff and it helps to have the time available  to wait for suitable weather – read about Gavin Millar’s sailing canoe round the UK attempt.)

But back to the canoe yawl. What does the type offer? In this book, Albert Strange Association technical secretary Richard argues that the canoe yawl is still the best type for single- or short-handed coastal cruising sailor, and that a revival of interest in recent years underlines his point.

Why? You’ll have to read the chapter ‘Why the canoe yawl‘ for the full story, but in his preface Iain Oughtred says the rig ‘is particularly user friendly; the spars are short, the centre of effort is low, and the rig is quickly and easily shortened down or adjusted according to the conditions. In a sudden hard gust, the boat,  although heeling considerably, will remain balanced on the helm, and will not screw up into the wind in the way a tall bermuda rig is inclined to do… the double-ended hull has a lot to do with its good behaviour… These boats have a comfortable and reassuring quality… ‘

I think most folks would also agree that canoe yawls are usually very attractive little vessels.

For the princely sum of £15, this volume of 160 well illustrated pages is a fascinating read. Read a sample here. Buy it from all good nautical booksellers or directly from publisher Lodestar.



The infamous history Burntwick Island, as told by Rainham History

These days, it’s a low lying, marshy island Medway well known for its masses of noisy circling birds, but I had no idea it had so much history – or was was so ‘infamous’. I guess many small yacht and dinghy may not know either.

But thankfully the Rainham History website has come to our aid – check out the Burntwick Island story and more including this piece about Blower’s Wharf , this one about the HMS Princess Irene Disaster of May 1915 (caused by a faulty mine, it caused 350 or so deaths), and this one about Otterham Quay.

But back to Burntwick. It turns out the island was only cut off by the sea through erosion some time in the mid 18th century – and then became as great place for ships in quarantine – and smuggling and smugglers, who were also at times known as ‘owlers’.

In the early 19th century it became a base for the North Kent Gang,  of who were discovered by two government officials unloading contraband in Stangate Creek in 1820 and a fight followed. Eventually three of the gang were executed and fifteen transported to Tasmania.

A grave maintained on the island by the Royal Navy is that of assistant ship’s Sidney Bernard died from yellow fever from the crew of a quarantied ship.

Later shepherd appropriately named shepherd James Woolley and his wife lived on the island, and the remains of their house is said to exist there today. Later it became a rubbish dump, and still later it was the site of gun emplacements and a forces training centre.

PSWeblogger and across-the-estuary local sailor Nick Ardley has some points (and corrections) to make in the comments below. There’s more about Burntwick Island in his book  Swinging the Lamp.

And he kindly sent over this photo of Sidney Bernard’s grave as it appears today. Thanks Nick!

Sunset over Burntwick Island


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