The extraordinary screw lift dock at Barbados

These photos by Chris Brady are of the remarkable screw lift dock at Barbados – the last remaining lift of its kind in the world. (I have his permission to publish, but he retains all rights.)

Screw lifts were invented in the early part of the 19th century to enable ship repairs to be carried out more quickly than using the traditional dry dock, and New York, Baltimore and Singapore each had their own.

Completed in 1893, it could lift up to 1,200 tons, and measured 240ft in length, 46ft wide beam and could handle vessels drawing up to 14 ft - it operated by steam, but was later converted to electric power.

Chris has more photos here, there is a brief explanation of screw lifts here, and read a more about the Barbados screw lift here and here.

Thanks for the shots Chris!

Posted in Culture: songs, stories, photography and art, History, Locations, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Adrian Morgan in praise of Iain Oughtred and Collano Semparoc polyurethane wood glue

Adrian Morgan The Trouble With Old Boats

Now we’re into the amateur boat building season, a series of posts from professional boatbuilder and writer Adrian Morgan about building an Oughtred Caledonia Yawl using a kit from Jordan Boats seem particularly relevant.

At the time of writing, the latest post is here – as the project progresses you’ll have to navigate his site to find earlier and later posts. 

Two quotes from Adrian’s weblog seem particularly worth bearing in mind. The first is a testament about Alec Jordan’s kits:

‘Well, Mr Jordan, the hull’s finished and that’s your job done. At which point I take my hat off to you. Thanks to whatever magic you managed to weave on your computer and cutting machines, all went together brilliantly, millimetre accurate. So well, that I would highly recommend anyone thinking of building any of Iain Oughtred’s boat from scratch to think again and buy a kit from Alec Jordan.’

And here’s a similarly fulsome point about the glue he’s using:

‘The garboards went on today and with luck a pair of planks tomorrow. Thoughts so far: the kit is dead accurate; you deviate at your peril. Unlike solid timber, there is little leeway and precious little edge setting. Which is as it should be.

‘The glue that we have been using, Collano Semparoc, is coming up trumps as I knew it would. No mixing, no mess, little waste and a curing time of around six hours. Bt it’s the lack of mixing I like best, plus it has a limited gap-filling ability. The proof is when it has cured to a hard, epoxy-like crust that is nothing like the Balcotan it is supposed to replace. Do not be fooled: this is nothing like Balcotan which cured to a crispy honeycomb that had no strength.

‘I can see this as an epoxy-beater for so many reasons.’

Well, that seems clear then… Thanks for the tips Adrian!

Posted in Boat plans and books of plans, Boatbuilders and restorers, Modern boatbuilding, Techniques, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Row St Kilda to Skye – 100 miles of very hard work

Row St Kilda to Skye

These folks’ project is to row the 100 mile distance from St Kilda – a remote island that was abandoned in 1930 – to the Isle of Skye in a boat that was built in around 1890, and which hasn’t been used since 1913.

The legend says that on that occasion a visiting lady had missed the scheduled steamer, and the boat was used to row her to meet the same steamer at a later stop at Stromeferry – and ever since that day, it has hung in the rafters of a boathouse.

Before she makes her first big outing for more than a century, however, she is being restored to her former glory.

The trip itself will be very weather-dependant: it will need a big high to calm the Atlantic seas to make it possible to row to Portree via the sound of Harris, around the top of Rhuba Hunish, down the sound of Raasay, past the Black Rock and into Portree harbour. There will be four crew members rowing at any time, each with one wooden hollow sculled oar and a fixed wooden seat, and a coxswain whose jobs will be keeping time, navigating, and bailing – out water! Another four rowers will be on a support vessel, and the two teams will change over at intervals.

The group is training – it has no previous rowing experience – and expects to be rowing for anything between 38 and 48 hours. Apparently, they expect blisters, back pain, sleep deprivation, exhaustion and a certain amount of chafing from the wooden seats… I guess long-distance rowers with some experience might well be able to offer them some useful advice.

There’s a charity dimension to the project also; money raised is to go to the RNLI and Skye & Lochalsh Young Carers.

Read all about Row St Kilda to Skye here.

PS Canoe and lute builder, Phil Bolger boat builder and astronomer and Bill Samson suggests has pointed out that some time ago the BBC Alba screened a TV programme about two women from the Stornoway Canoe Club on the Isle of Lewis, Dolina Swanson and Christine Stewart, recreating a 1965 canoe journey by Hamish and Anne Gow.

The Gows became the first kayakers to make the treacherous 40-plus mile sea journey from the Western Isles to the mystical islands of St Kilda.

Lewis boat builder Angus Smith re-create the original plywood and canvas Clyde double kayak – for the trip… See the BBC’s page of information, a clip and photos here. Thanks Bill!

Posted in History, Locations, Restoration and repair, Rowing boat, Traditional clinker, Uncategorized, wooden boat, Working boats | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment