Tag Archives: boat

A classic flattie skiff on the river Vilaine, Brittany


Here are a few shots taken from the water of what seemed to me to be a classic small working skiff built from what looks like solid timber we sighted on the river Vilaine in Brittany while on holiday a few weeks ago.

It’s crude, heavy, basic and all the rest, but its interest lies in the fact that in England, just across the Channel from Brittany, we don’t really have boats like this – to the extent we often think of them as being exclusively North American boats, thanks to the work of American language authors writing in English such as Howard Irving Chappelle.

But I’m pretty sure the American models, some elegant, light and nicely made and some heavy workhorses, some called just skiff or maybe sharpie skiff, flat iron skiff or flattie skiff or a range of other names, must have developed from European craft like this one.

PS – In answer to Doryman Mike Bogoger’s query in the comments below, here are two photos of the interior of a somewhat different boat local to the same area as the skiff above. These are used for tending mussel beds etc in the Vilaine estuary. I don’t know how closely these boats are related, but I think their construction is broadly similar.


Dylan sails his Duck Punt for the first time – and loves it

Keep Turning Left sailor and film-maker Dylan Winter has launched and successfully sailed his new Duck Punt for the first time.

He’s absolutely delighted with the little sailing canoe, which slips along as nicely as those made by earlier Duck Punters on the Essex coast. And there is the added bonus that he seems to be able to sail and film at the same time without falling in – which I’m pretty sure is what would happen to me if I tried the same trick.

Here on the upper floors of Intheboatshed.net Towers, we’re cheering for several reasons.

It’s always great when someone successfully builds a little boat and enjoys it on the water, and the news seems even better when the builder is in the UK. Round here, amateur boatbuilding projects are nothing like so frequent as they should be, given how much water we have to play with.

I’m pleased, too, that the little Duck Punt shows clearly how effective narrow, flat-bottomed boats can be. The British tend to believe all boats must be round bottomed to be any good, and that therefore building a boat is just too complicated to be worth considering. Dylan’s little punt gives the lie to that myth, just as did all the other duck punts that came before it.

Still more than all this, the project is a tremendous example of cheap and simple sailing.

Here’s Dylan’s page linking to his Duck Punt film; links to John Milgate’s original plans are also available on his website.

PS – Fans of Dylan’s adventures should bag a copy of the latest issue of PBO magazine, which includes an excellent feature-length article by the man himself.

Rescue Wooden Boats starts restoration work at Morston

Rescue Wooden Boats Rescue Wooden Boats

Rescue Wooden Boats is a fairly new charitable trust established in 2010 with the aim of restoring and use old wooden craft, and to teach people about their history and the skills involved in their construction, maintenance and use.

The organisation, which has premises at Morston, has acquired three boats:

  • Lucy Lavers (pictured above in her heyday, and as work began in December 2011), a single-screw Liverpool-type lifeboat built in 1940 for Aldeburgh Lifeboat Station. Her first service was the Dunkirk evacuation in the early part of World War II. She later served as a relief lifeboat at Wells-next-the-Sea and elsewhere along the East Coast. She was donated to Rescue Wooden Boats by the Dunkirk Little Ships Restoration Trust
  • Black Beauty, a North Norfolk crab boat built in 1950 by Emery for Dick Davis. She was donated by Andy Frary, who used her as a crab boat until the mid-1980s
  • Bessie, a whelker provided by Trevor Farman. She was built by Johnson in the mid 1930s for the Cox family who whelked with her out of Wells-next-the-Sea for three decades. Squeakie Bishop then bought her and used her for angling parties from Blakeney and then Gorleston, where she continued to be used as a pleasure and fishing boat. She is one of only a few remaining Johnson-built whelkers but is said to be in reasonably good condition

As is the way with these things, the Rescue Wooden Boats folks need members, donations of money, materials and skills. They are currently searching for an original canopy for the Lucy Lavers – if you know about one, please contact them!

TV film about schooner sailing and racing on the coast of Nova Scotia

Schooner sailing and racing on the Nova Scotia coast

Here’s another nice film, this time about schooners, schooner racing and the people who build, maintain and race these fabulous working boats along the coast of Nova Scotia.

It’s a touch schmaltzy for British tastes, but takes me straight back to the times when I dreamed of working on these boats as a young teenager. By that time, of course, the days of working schooners were already long gone but no-one had told me, or if they did I wasn’t listening…

Thanks to Mike Goodwin for letting me know about this one.

Red Sails DVD is a cracker… get it for Christmas!

Stills from the film Red Sails about the working boats we call sailing barges Stills from the film Red Sails about the working boats we call sailing barges

Stills from the film Red Sails about the working boats we call sailing barges

Stills from the film Red Sails

Last night Julie and I finally grabbed some time to watch Mike Maloney’s splendid Red Sails film on DVD. I can report that it’s a cracker.

The new footage is wonderful, but the old footage Mike found is really something, not least because it reveals so much. I thought I’d read enough to know a little about these old working boats but had no idea, for example, that when they were loaded with bricks they were brought on board by hand, in small numbers by each man.

Again, I hadn’t realised that Conyer and Halstow had been such busy centres for the brick trade, and I’d forgotten if I ever knew it that the ‘rough stuff’ hearth ash brought down the estuary by the barges was mixed with clay to make the bricks. Presumably that’s what makes the dark markings that make the characteristic London brick so handsome.

The footage also of the old barge skippers Jimmy Lawrence and Don Satin adds to the value of the film – we’re so lucky it has been made at a time when there are still old barge skippers around to be interviewed. Needless to say, they’re both excellent value in this film – having seem Jimmy Lawrence telling his stories before I knew what to expect, but Don Satin’s a great find, for me at least.

I’d like also to thank Mike Maloney for taking the trouble to include some good, useful stuff about the last of the barge skippers Bob Roberts, including his role as a singer of old and traditional songs. This aspect of Roberts seems often to be neglected by enthusiasts for these old boats, and I think it’s a great shame. I remember him singing years ago, and it will probably surprise some readers that I sometimes take singer friends over to Faversham to show them the Cambria, as a kind of pilgrimage.

Red Sails, the new film about the story of the sailing barges, is available on DVD from the Countrywide Productions website.

A project – and some cheap daysailing fun for someone

It may not look much now, but I’d guess this 20ft Scimitar keelboatlisted on eBay could be destined to provide someone with some splendid daysailing fun.

She’s fibreglass, it’s true, but that’s no reason to be nose-in-the-air about her: she was built at a time when layups were heavy and hull shapes were much like the wood built craft, and she’s currently going for a song.

I’d guess that hull would clean up nicely, and looking at the description my guess is that the biggest problem will be moving her… I suppose there aren’t many of us who have friends from whom we can borrow a crane!

Thanks to traditional boatbuilder Marcus Lewis for pointing her out.

Brian Pearson’s photos of the latest Boat Building Academy student launch





Brian Pearson has sent over some of his photos of the Boat Building Academy’s student launch day on 7th December. Thanks Brian!

He seems to have had a good time: ‘It was a very joyful occasion, so thanks for the heads-up.’ He added that his party voted the Gartside-designed Skylark their boat of the day, though njo doubt others will have their own favourites.