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Michael Maloney’s film: The Apprentice – Making Life Work

Faversham film-maker Michael Maloney is passionate about the value of apprenticeships to young people, and believes they are vital to the economic and social future of Britain.

He points out that about a million of our young people are currently unemployed – a point that which contrasts sharply with the some of the claims we hear about the healthy state of our economy.

I particularly like the quotation from Griff Rhys-Jones visit to Faversham Creek Trust’s apprenticeships project at the Purifier Building in Faversham last year: ‘The reward is in what you do.

(It had better be – in the same short speech he also revealed that the boat cost him £70 to buy, that he had spent a further £500,000 on her over the next ten years – and that on putting it on the market more recently had been offered how much? You’ve guessed it – £70,000.)

This Youtube is a trailer for a longer and more in-depth film that Michael is making on the subject of apprenticeships.

Read more about Michael’s project here: http://www.cwideprods.co.uk/the-apprentice/

Ruel Parker writes about the Chesapeake Bay brogans

Brogan lines

I hadn’t heard about the log-built Chesapeake Bay brogan before, but I’m very struck by their beautiful lines and proportions. Of course I realise that the low sheerline isn’t there to make the boat attractive but to enable the oyster fishermen to reach the water to do their work, but still…

Read all about them in traditional boat author, historian, designer and boatbuilder Reuel Parker’s article on the Woodenboat magazine website. Here’s a sample:

‘I learned about brogans from MV Brewerton’s excellent book Chesapeake Bay Log Canoes and Bugeyes. While bugeyes were large—up to 80? on deck — the brogans were small — around 30? to 35? on deck. I wanted to design a modern version of the brogan—adapted for cold-molded construction for shoal-draft cruising — but didn’t get around to doing it until December of 2011.

Brogans were double-ended, beamy, of moderate displacement, and shoal-bodied with centerboards. They carried free-standing masts, very raked, with the mizzen raked markedly more than the main.

‘The only lines drawing I have ever found for a brogan came from Brewerton’s book (shown below). They show a very lovely, nearly symmetrical, easily-driven double-ended hull of excellent proportions.’

Two more songs for singing sailors

Two more sample recordings of songs from my temporary bedroom recording studio: John Connolly’s widely sung Fiddler’s Green, which is today so beloved by real-life fishermen, accompanied by my pre-war Hohner Erika melodeon, and the classic broken-token-my-love’s-a-sailor-but-he’s-been-gone-seven-years piece The Dark Eyed Sailor, which like many people I learned from the singing of Fred Jordan.

The eventual aim is eventually to make a CD – working title ‘Songs for singing sailors’ – that will hopefully be available through the usual commercial channels. We’re months away from that result, but I hope these samples tickle someone’s fancy!

Blokes Up North – through the heart of the Northwest Passage by sail and oar

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Blokes Up North.

Blokes… Up North. They sound ordinary enough, and they and their publisher try to describe themselves that way – but ordinary they aren’t really.

They’re as tough as the old boots they probably keep in a cupboard somewhere.

For one thing, they’re Marines. For another, the authors of this account published by Lodestar, Kev Oliver and Tony Lancashire have sailed, rowed and dragged a 17ft open dinghy from West to East through the often frozen seas and islands that claimed so many explorers and crews in search of the North West passage during the 19th century.

Even today in the era of global warming and in the height of the Arctic summer, it’s not too strong a claim to say that in doing so they risked their lives, and that surviving and reaching their destination is no small achievement in a time when the age of exploration is otherwise largely over.

Oliver is clearly a big fan of Shackleton and fascinated by polar exploration generally. On top of that he had drawn inspiration from an old friend from the Marines who as a 19-year old with a pal had circumnavigated Spitzbergen, and was also a great admirer of the scarily determined dinghy cruising exponent Frank Dye.

Lancashire’s viewpoint seems to have been that he admired Oliver and liked adventuring with him in the Marines – and was hoping he’d be asked along for an unexplained scheme…

The boat they chose was the Norseboat 17, which seems like a very good choice, being long enough for two rowing stations and, in theory, just about light enough to be handled on shore or ice  - but was still going to need additional built-in buoyancy, and, in all that ice, reinforced bows.

And so, as the rest of the world continued to reel and totter in the months following the the banking crisis, in July, 2009 these two ‘ordinary’ blokes set off . Happily they were well equipped, as well as well trained, even if they were not hugely experienced small boat sailors or rowers.

The book recounts their adventures in their own voices – typically a few paragraphs from one followed by a few from the other. It’s a choppy sort of effect, but lends the book a novel conversational quality, and brings a new dimension to the narrative. It’s certainly an interesting approach, and I’m quite glad someone’s tried it.

The story includes the usual sailing expedition incidents – falling in, near capsizes, losing the mainsail halliard (which meant they couldn’t raise the mainsail and go to windward) in 9ft waves miles from land and being blown further North further out into open sea – but with the added spice that the cold Arctic water has the power to kill in moments. Happily, they figured out a way round the halliard problem - but then there was the time their tent got sat on by a polar bear…

I won’t spoil this story or any of the others. If sailing adventures are something you enjoy – and many of us do, especially in the dull dark days of winter – this book from Lodestar priced at £12 in the UK, £13 in Europe and £15 elsewhere won’t disappoint.

PS – Did I mention that one of the best half dozen Victorian and early 20th century books about cruising the Thames Estuary – arguably it is the best – previously available only in hardback is now available in paperback from Lodestar? H Lewis Jones’ Swin, Swale & Swatchway

The story of Ralph Munroe and the sharpie Egret

Chappelle Egret drawing

A nice telling of the story of legendary boat designer ‘Commodore’ Ralph Munroe, his boat building and designing, his role in introducing the sharpie to Florida and the legendary Egret by Paul Austin appeared a few days ago on the excellent Duckworksmagazine website.

It’s a story with lots of interesting elements. Munroe’s life included great adventures and terrible tragedies, and then there’s his famous Egret – a very successful flat-bottomed boat that Munroe designed after having success with a series of round-bottomed sharpie-derived boats he called ‘Presto sharpies‘, which to my eyes appear to have been about 100 years ahead of their time.

Here’s a short quotation:

‘In 1886 Munroe designed his famous Egret, a 28 foot double-ended sharpie… Egret was flat-bottomed, after Munroe had made his money with round-bilged presto sharpies.

‘With few roads in and around Miami, Munroe and Egret was busy. She had a reputation for being fast and seaworthy, running breakers, sliding among the shallow inlets, gliding up to low wood docks.’

The Egret remains a puzzle, however – there are no lines drawings, and photos of what is supposed to have been a half-model of her hull is said not to resemble photographs of the boat recognised as the Egret.

I think of the Egret legend as having something of the power of the story of Delta blues musician Robert Johnson – both are said to have been revolutionary, and both have been copied and revived by modern practitioners (the illustration above is Howard Chappelle’s version). We have photos of Egret and recordings of Johnson (and a single known photo) – but both are shrouded in tantalising mystery.

See Paul Austin’s account appeared a few days ago on the excellent here.

BBA students build 12ft Paul Gartside traditional style clinker dinghy

The Boat Building Academy celebrated the launch of six boats and seventeen new boat builders at Lyme a few weeks ago.

The boats were built by the BBA’s class of September 2013, who had completed its 38-week course. Although new to woodworking and boat building, the students built six boats and a paddle board using modern and traditional methods, completing every step from lofting board to launch in just nine months.

Some three hundred well-wishers gathered in the sunshine to celebrate the students’ achievements and give a resounding cheer as the champagne popped and each boat went into the water.

First in was the 12ft traditional clinker dinghy above, built by David Rainbow and Adam Smith to Paul Gartside’s 2001 design, #130 design, and planked in west African mahogany on oak ribs and backbone. (The photos are by Liz Griffiths, Becky Joseph, Jenny Steer, and John Pritchard.)

David, from Middlesex, worked at Heathrow Airport for 20 years in a variety of roles, most recently as baggage operational assurance manager, and first came to the BBA to do a three-day introductory course, and then decided it was time for a change of career and booked a place on the 38-week course last year.

David chose to build this row and sail boat as he felt the traditional clinker method would make a good test of skills, and felt the style and size of this particular Paul Gartside design was just right for him.

He made a couple of changes to the original design – he planked it in West African mahogany rather than western red cedar for aesthetic reasons, and chose a boomless standing lug rig designed by Paul Gartside specifically for David’s boat, rather than the original boomed rig.

Named Enfys – the Welsh word for ‘rainbow’ after David’s surname and his wife’s welsh roots - the boat is to be sailed on a lake at Hillingdon Outdoor Activity Centre, which is close to where David lives.

Adam Smith, originally from Canada, was David’s main build partner.

He was working with computers, but built a Selway Fisher dinghy in his spare time and enjoyed the process so much he decided to train for a new career. Adam made the most of the academy’s facilities and in his spare time on the course he made a cabinet, trestle table and chest. His latest spare-time project now that the course has finished is a strip-planked canoe.

Both David and Adam are start work in jobs on the Thames after a short break.

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