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Dunkirk Little Ships gather at Chatham and around the Thames Estuary

Medway Bradwell Brightlingsea Pyefleet trip 5

The Dunkirk Little Ships were gathering this weekend for their rally at Chatham, and their planned trip to Ostende voor Anker in a day or two’s time.

They made a fine sight this weekend in the River Medway, at Chatham and off Brightlingsea.

Read about the Little Ships and the amazing Operation Dynamo here.

PS – The Manston campaigners are asking everyone interested in World War II to sign their petition calling for the airport to be compulsorily purchased rather than turned into a large housing estate.

Nick Smith builds a 17ft clinker motor launch

Nick Smith is building a 17ft khaya motor launch for a Swedish customer based in San Francisco, who is having a hundred foot-plus steel sailing yacht built in Rotterdam. Mona Louise is to be one of his davit tenders.

Read about Nick here.

Here’s what Nick says about the project:

‘I am fitting twin lifting eyes on the transom, while the forward purchase is a bronze strut bolted through the keel and apron, and through the foredeck to a bronze shackle eye.
‘I have fitted the very popular and reliable 2YM Yanmar 15 hp twin diesel inboard.
‘Drilling for the stern tube is a job I have done many times but always requires total concentration.
‘The after davit lifting eye arrangement, transfers the weight through the transom to the keel. The area under the after deck has been properly coated, due to the amount of condensation the wood is exposed to.
‘The decks have been fed with a mixture of white spirit and boiled linseed oil; it’s 6mm iroko planking laid on a 6mm marine ply subdeck, glued with epoxy, and payed with a polyurethane rubberoid compound. The khaya mahogany king plank and cover boards are to be to be fully varnished.’

Great Uncle Floaty, born with a caul

Great Uncle Floaty at the foot of the lookout steps Broadstairs

This photo taken at the foot of the steps of the lookout at Broadstairs belongs to my old pal Pete Stockwell, and shows his Great Uncle Floaty with what look like a lifeboat crew.

Floaty was himself a lifeboatman.

His nick-name ‘Floaty’ came from having been born with a caul – a remnant of the amniotic sac that is present in one in 80,000 births, and which by legend is supposed to mean the baby will never drown.

Perhaps he was photographed in his suit in honour of his being un-drownable. True to the superstition, poor Floaty didn’t drown but came to a sad end when he was crushed between two barges on the famous ‘starvation moorings’ near Deptford, some time in the 1920s. (During the Depression, many barges were kept on the moorings during periods when there was no work for them.)

That lifeboat crew at Broadstairs were hugely important and the lookout lists ships whose crews and passengers that they aided; the small town and harbour is opposite the famous Goodwin Sands, which have swallowed hundreds of ships over the centuries. There’s some material about the lifeboat on the Wikipedia page about Broadstairs, which remarkably includes a reference to Great Uncle Floaty himself!

It also references a ballad written in the 1850s about a then-famous rescue: Song of the Mary White. So who knows the tune folks used – or a really grand one to match the song’s theme?

Thanks Petie!

HJ Mears Boat Builders work on a mahogany 25ft clinker-built motor launch

Alex Mears of HJ Mears & Son of Seaton in Devon has written to say that the 25ft mahogany clinker built motor launch they’re working on, Tarka, is coming along well.

You don’t see boats like this too often!

‘I’ve attached some photos of where she’s at currently. The owner has added a fair few extras compared to the original brief – laid decks, solid wood windbreaker/cuddy, but fortunately they appreciate that these extra tasks take extra time, which is especially important when the workload is heavy as usual at this busy time of year!

‘The Beta inboard engine has arrived and we’ve offered it up to the engine beds so the shaft, coupling, prop can now be ordered to correct sizes.

‘There is still an awful lot of varnishing to do (we’ve used over 3 gallons so far and that’s prior to thinning!).

‘The sea toilet and storage tank should be arriving this week. The sink and cooker have been offered up in the galley. The rudder, tiller, floorboards and various hatches are currently being decorated, which takes up a lot of time as the workshop has to limit the dusty work while decorating is going on, so we  we try to do that work at the weekends.

‘She is destined to spend this season on one of our swinging moorings on the River Axe, then next year she’ll head to Kingswear. I think the owner would like a brief change of scene but personally I think the River Dart has a lot to offer!

‘We’ve had a lot of interest from people; visitors to the yard, tweets, e-mails and phone calls; everyone appreciates a classic wooden boat, but not everybody wants one though!

‘Anyway I’ll keep you updated with progress.

‘Take care and keep up the good work, Alex’

Thanks Alex!

Artist Stanley Spencer on Clydeside

Stanley Spencer programmme


We thought this a very nice programme about Stanley Spencer’s painting projects on Clydeside during World War II – if you think you might enjoy it and can see it from where you are, you’ve got five days!

Restored 1841 whaler Charles W Morgan makes her first trip in over 70 years

Maine-built 1841 whaling ship Charles W Morgan has been towed down river from Mystic Seaport, where she has been kept since 1941, to New London. Read all about her story and find many more photos here.

Happily over the last five years she has been restored at Mystic’s Henry B. du Pont Preservation Shipyard.

At New London she will be ballasted and tested for stability, and her sails will be bent. The photo above shows her crew throwing heaving lines as the ship tied up – the davits all round her will shortly bear her magnificent new whaleboats.

She’s about to set out on her 38th voyage, which will take place this summer in company of two tugs provided by Tisbury Towing of Martha’s Vineyard and the Seaport Museum’s eastern-rigged dragger Roann.

I saw the Charles W Morgan at Mystic many years ago and wondered what her future might be. This seems like a great result - and makes me wonder how it would be if we in the UK got around to building a new clipper. Now wouldn’t that be something…

PS – And how about a string of new small workshops and yards around our coast building and maintaining boat types local to their areas using traditional methods, teaching people to sail them and training youngsters while they are at it? The Faversham Creek Trust seems to me to be an excellent example of what could be done much more widely, and they’re not the only ones. Think of Rescue Wooden Boats… In the past with only a few teaching establishments, they haven’t always had that local focus.

It may be controversial to say so, but I do feel that – sailing barges aside – sailing the larger traditional boats is only open to folks who can afford to keep them and the friends they invite to help sail them - it seems like a closed kind of club, and in the long term I worry that situation will not help in keeping the boats going…

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