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Yarmouth Old Gaffer Festival – Pete Bromwich takes a harbour stroll

My pal Pete Bromwich caught the sailing and boat building bug some time ago – and has kindly sent me some photos of the the boats attending the Yarmouth Old Gaffers Festival (YOGAFF) last weekend.

I think it’s a particular pleasure to learn that old pals you haven’t seen for a while have taken up one’s own interests, and that’s certainly the case with Pete.

Here’s what he says:

‘Unfortunately the wind was not with us this Saturday and I did not see any of the gaffer actually moving, but here are some in Yarmouth, hope they are of some use to you.

‘Yarmouth Harbour was full; I did not count, but there must have been well over 100 gaffers of all shapes and sizes crammed into the harbour over the weekend.

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It was lovely to see a friend I had met at Lyme Regis Boat Building Academy, Jeremy, a few years ago with Margherita, his Willow Bay Boats Shilling. She was rafted with Marjory, the first one built by Phil Swift in 1998. The Shilling has a cedar hull which is then sheathed, making her virtually maintenance free.

The build quality and thought that has gone into carefully making all use of the available space is quite stunning. She’s a lovely looking small gaff rigged yacht that sails well, according to her owner.

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Pilgrim was a big attraction at Yarmouth, seen here with Princess of Caithness rafted to her. She is the oldest surviving Brixham built and rigged sailing trawler. She is run by a trust who offer sailing experiences from ½ day to 9 day cruises. Definitely one of the many things on my to-do list. She is now completely restored and members of the public where invited on board to view her, which was greatly appreciated.

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‘Hope this is of some use to you. Pete’

It certainly is! Many thanks for some very nice shots. We had better winds to play with on the North Kent Coast last weekend, but I can’t pretend we had a fraction of the number of pretty boats to look at!

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How to fit gunwale cappings; Nick Smith fits them to the motor launch Mona Louise

Boat builder Nick Smith took these photos as he fitted the gunwale cappings onto Mona Louise, the new West Country-style motor launch he is building for a client. For an earlier post on this topic click here, and to  see his website or contact him, click here.

Here’s what he says:

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‘I fit the aft ones first, and scarph joint them so that scarph is ‘trailing’ – back in the day before good glues were available, if the edge of the scarph lifted it would not snag on ropes or lines running back along the side of the boat.

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‘Cutting the scarph joint on the bench, I use a lip scarph for certain structural members, while planking, oars and other spars especially those that have circular or oval sections use feather-edge scarphs.

‘I make them using a combination of paring chisels, block plane, rabbet plane and, more recently, a sanding block made of plywood with 60 or 80 grit glued with spray contact adhesive – using that to finish off gets right up to the lip, sands flat and roughs up the surface to key the glue.

‘I use epoxy resin to glue most things where glueing is appropriate – I have been using it since the mid eighties with great success and so I am sticking with it. [Yes, we noticed what you did there! - Ed]

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‘Years ago when using less resorcinol glues, the capping would also be nailed down with small copper boat nails, the head would be ‘bradded’ to make it smaller, that is flattened on an iron (or dolly) held in the vice and hit with a hammer, then when nailed it was punched-in below the surface of the wood and stopped in with putty. It was a nasty sort of process, and so instead I began to use 6 gauge screws with the heads countersunk and plugged using a dowel or a pellet. But now I use the epoxy glue only – the result is strong, there are no fixings involved and the work looks clean and neat.

‘See the transverse clamps, holding blocks with parcel tape on them (non stick) to keep the inside edge of the capping flush with the inside edge of the gun’l. I bevelled the inside edge of the capping in advance; the bevel changes throughout its length.

‘I have also as you can see masked the top edge of the gun’l and topstrake so any glue drips are not on the varnish. It’s a lot of fuss, fiddle and time for a relatively small piece of wood, but it has to be right. The outside edge will be trimmed off with a block plane when the glue has cured.

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‘Taking the bevel off the gun’l and offering it up to the capping, then the capping is held in the vice and appropriate amount of wood shaved off with a sharp block plane. It’s partly by geometry and partly by eye.

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‘A neat way of transferring the topstrake edge to the top of the capping.

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‘Port and starboard cappings glued down; you can never have too many clamps in boat building. Tomorrow when the glue has cured I can release the clamps, trim up the edges and scarph and fit the forward pieces.

‘The increase in gun’l stiffness after fitting the cappings is marked – it’s like a rigid box section all the way around the sheer. I have also glued douglas fir packing chocks between each frame sandwiched between the topstrake and gun’l for extra strength, as the launch is to be a davit tender and will spend time slung over the side of the ship in choppy weather and otherwise stowed on chocks on deck.

‘These boats are labour intensive to build as we know, and as you can see. The working time for one of my sixteen footers is 660 man hours and for a twenty footer 880 man hours. But I love the work.’

Well, that’s good to hear. Thanks for an interesting post Nick!

Lend your voice to those supporting Faversham Creek, and see the FCT’s exhibition about alternative uses

Standard Quay, Faversham

Local councillors are currently engaged in developing a new neighbourhood plan covering the area that includes Faversham Creek – and it will come as no surprise to anyone that, as usual, the plan is to build still more housing on all the available industrial sites.

Now as this is supposed to be a democratic process, people are being asked to comment on the plan, and the Faversham Creek Trust is arguing strongly that the Creek should so far as possible be revived as a working waterway.

Here’s what the Trust folks say:

‘At present the Plan is essentially to allow the building of houses at all the key sites which up to now have been classified as industrial.

‘We don’t believe this qualifies as “regeneration”. Waterfront housing is luxury housing that does not meet local needs, and it doesn’t take many houses to make other uses impossible. The Plan needs a clearer vision about what the Creek is for: there are alternatives that we believe are more productive, and which build on the Town’s maritime heritage to enhance local skills, training for young shipwrights, industry, employment, tourism, leisure and recreation.’

Read more here, and see the neighbourhood plan consultation here. Also see some interesting points from an umbrella campaign including other local organisations here - this group fails to understand why the new proposals are so similar to proposals that were rejected just a couple of years ago, and argues for non-housing alternatives.

And there’s also the points made by contributors to the Visions of a Creek website to consider.

Having looked at the plan, it is curious that it seems to be so much at odds with the Council’s introductory argument that ‘regeneration of the Creek and the protection of Faversham’s maritime heritage could support businesses and tourism opportunities which will do much to revitalise the whole of Faversham’. Well it might, but it is difficult to see how the proposals to put expensive housing where it will flood and also prevent Creek-related activities will further that aim.

I’m reminded of the cartoon character Snagglepuss, who would always say he was going to go one way before running in the opposite direction. Of course, he did it to bamboozle his cartoon enemies.

Once the issue is decided, there will be no going back, and so the FCT is putting on an exhibition about the potential for alternative uses for the Creek-side sites at the town’s Alexander Centre tomorrow Saturday (31 May) and at the Purifier Building every Saturday morning during June. The exhibition includes various other ways of making your point.

If you’d like to have your say, see the FCT website, and have a look at the neighbourhood plan consultation website and fill in the survey – it’s the only way many of us have to be heard.

Restored Falmouth Quay punt Teal is sailing again!

Don’t you wish she was yours? Adrian Nowotynski has written to report on the progress of the century-old Falmouth Quay punt Teal, which is now back in the water and sailing again following her restoration of the boat at Hegarty’s Boatyard near Cork.

The fabulous photos were taken by Tim Cooke, who writes the weblog An Ilur in Ireland, and are used here with his permission.

Here’s what Adrian has to say:

‘She was relaunched a few weeks ago with great success. We made it to Baltimore two days before the annual Wooden Boat Festival.

‘We had our first attempt of sailing her during the harbour race on Saturday in over 20 knots of wind. It was fantastic and we were very impressed by her.

‘On Sunday we had lighter wind, competed in the race and took part in the parade of sail, this time under full sail minus the topsail ( need more rope for that one).

‘On Monday we sailed her to her home port of Union Hall where she is now sitting on her mooring ready for adventure.

‘The project has been huge, but a fantastic experience that I am missing already, and Teal is absolute gem.

‘Thank you for posting the updates and I will be in touch if we succeed in any big adventures,

‘I will be getting started with the Apple Pie dinghy soon so will let you know.’

Adrian also adds that she will soon be getting a nice new set of sails.

Read Adrian’s weblog for more about Teal.

Launch day inches closer for the restored motor launch Mary


Ben Wales has written with news of the progress of his restoration of the 18ft motor launch Mary.

The clinker built little boat was used by the smart Royal Lymington Yacht Club, and was also used in Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of the British Army from Dunkirk.

Ben reminds me that we’ve been following his project for four years now! Good for him – it’s great to see that his persistence is now so close to paying off.

Here’s what Ben says:

‘We had to take down the tent cover over the winter as it almost got destroyed by the storms in December and January.

‘While the main work was on hold we did a test engine line up, as I will need to make a new forward engine mount support bracket.

‘In March we set up the tent cover and began to lay the new solid timber forward deck in pitch pine – the planks are fitted tight and screwed down with A4 stainless screws finished with a dowel.

The deck will be sanded, caulked and varnished, and replaced with bronze deck fittings.

Work has now began on the aft deck; the steering blocks for the steering cables have been fitted and a fuel tank installed – this has to be done before the deck can be laid.

‘I hope to have a progress report later next month for you – and maybe Mary will be ready for a summer launch.

‘Regards, Ben’

Thanks Ben! It would be great to see Mary afloat and glistening with varnish in the coming weeks.

Row St Kilda has started

Row St Kilda crew practising

Great good luck you lot! The row St Kilda crew practising

They’ve set off - the 100-mile fund-raising row from Village bay St Kilda to Portree on the Isle of Skye in an open rowing boat built around 1890 began earlier today.

The rowers are raising funds for the RNLI and Skye & Lochalsh Young Carers. The link for donations is here; their website is here, the BBC has a story here, and track their progress here.

I wonder whether they’ll do it all again next year?

Margate’s time ball is working again

Margate time ball

Margate’s time ball on the town’s clock tower is working again, thanks to the efforts of Margate Civic Society and others including the Hollywood director and graphic designer Arnold Schwartzman.

Click on the thumbnail above to see a FaceBook video clip of it operating. I hope the chap who made it won’t mind…

Originally designed to enable seafarers to set their chronometers, the Margate Time Ball operated for the first time in over 90 years on Saturday 24th May at 1pm, and from now on will drop at 1pm each day.

There’s a nice article by Mr Schwartzman in this copy of the Civic Society’s newsletter from which we learn that the director grew up in the town, and that for many years he has for many years treasured a set of crested china Margate Clock Towersfor many years

Originally designed to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887, the Margate Clock Tower at the junction
of Marine Drive and Marine Terrace was not in fact  completed and brought into action .

Built by public subscription at the cost of £1,300, the 80ft Portland Stone tower is in the elaborate ‘French Renaissance’ style. The ball mechanism has not operated since the mid-1890s, when local residents complained about the noise it made.

The idea of the time ball was first proposed by Captain Robert Wauchope of the Royal Navy- a Royal Navy and were first introduced in 1829, when the Admiralty set up the world’s first time-ball at Portsmouth Harbour. In 1833 it was followed by another at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich.

Ramsgate’s Clock Tower was an obvious site for a time ball, not least because it would have been visible to many of the ships passing from the Channel to the Thames Estuary on their way to the great ports of London.

In his article, Mr Schwartzman reports that of the 150 public time balls installed around the world, notably those in Mauritius, St Helena, Cape of Good Hope, Madras, Western Australia, New Zealand, Poland, Bombay and Washington DC, more than 60 survive, including one at Deal, Kent that was first set up in 1855.

The Deal ball was the first to be operated by a direct signal via the South Eastern Railway: atAt 12:57 GMT, the ball was lifted to the top were it was held, then at 13:00 GMT an electrical impulse, sent down the railway’s wires from Greenwich released the catches so that the ball dropped.

Radio time-signals introduced in the 1920s made the time-balls obsolete.

PS There’s some smile-inducing British Pathé-style shenanigans involving young sailorsand young women on Margate beach here.

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