Tag Archives: boating holidays

Nigel Royall’s Broads gun punt

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These shots are of a 18ft by 53in gun Norfolk punt named Shoveler made by Nigel Royall, of Royall’s Boatyard at Hoveton on the Norfolk Broads, and fitted with a rig from a Coypu. My thanks go to Nigel for his permission to use them.

As a boatyard operator hiring boats to holiday-makers, Nigel’s had a few dealings with gun punts over the years and finally decided to make his own; he’s put a long post about the project on the Royall’s Boatyard weblog.

As he points out, in the old days most Broadsmen could only afford one boat, so a gun punt was not just used for wild fowling in winter. For example, they it might be used for eel picking or transporting a marshman to or from the dykes where he was employed in dredging and clearing dykes – which is called dydling and fying in Norfolk.

Nigel also explains that gun punts were open until 1824 when a Colonel Hawker introduced his new half-decked design and that the punt has hardly changed since then. Slightly different types developed at Hickling and on the River Ant and Breydon Water, but they all tended to be around 18ft with a beam of between 3ft up to 4ft, with the larger beams on the tidal water of Breydon.

They all had a long foredeck, a short aft deck and narrow side decks with low combings and 9in high sides, and they drew about 1½in of water. Where they varied was in the details of the big punt guns, such as their bore, whether they were muzzle or breach loading, and how they were restrained.

Nigel tells me that he has recently recreated eel picking, and sculling and firing a punt gun from another gun punt for a local amateur film maker, and says he was intrigued to see how it handled with an eleven foot sculling oar and a large gun on board.

My hearfelt thanks go to HBBR member Ian Ruston for tipping me off about this story, and Nigel’s entertaining and interesting weblog.

PS Check out the Nigel’s post about  the Broads pleasure wherry Solace.

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Humber sloop Spider T, rescued and restored by Mal Nicholson and friends

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Spider T today – click on the thumbnails for larger images

Spider T before restoration work began

Some people rescue old yachts while some adopt smaller craft – but perhaps the bravest are those who take on big old working boats. Mal Nicholson has restored the wonderful Spider T, a 62ft Humber sloop described as a ‘super sloop’ that  he now operates as a charter boat offering holidays and day trips out of Keadby Lock, near Scunthorpe. See the Spider T website.

Spider T was launched in 1926, and was one of two similar craft built at Warrens Yard at New Holland. I’ll let Mal take up the story:

‘Her sister ship was the Zenitha, as we recently learned with the help of Peter Warrens, of the Warrens Shipbuilders dynasty. We recently welcomed him on board with his wife Marjorie and his two sons, and he has taken the Spider T to his heart, and we talk now on a frequent basis and much more information is coming together.

‘He recently told me that Spider T & Zenitha were designed by his uncle Frederick Warren just before he died, and that they encompassing everything they knew about hull design, I suppose that is why they were labeled ‘super sloops’.

‘His father and grandfather built the Spider T. She is 70.4 gross cargo tons, and was launched as Spider T for captain JJ Tomlinson for whom she was the pride of his fleet. The name Spider was his nephew’s nickname, while the T stood for Tomlinson.

‘I have all the documentation for her including the plans and registration documents showing her registered as a ship. She has always been referred to as a ship by her past masters, one quite famous old master was George ‘Buck’ Harness. George told me at the age of 92 that she was not a barge or a boat but a ship, and asked if I knew the difference? ‘No,’ I replied. ‘Well, ship is short for a shipment, which is a vessel that is capable of taking in excess of 100 tons to sea!’ So that was me put straight very early on in my tenure!

‘Many years later I discovered what he said was absolutely correct, as I found her registration documents, and there it was in black and white: she was registered as a ship number 149049, yard number 216.

‘Unfortunately the Zenitha no longer exists, but I have spoken to the son of the original owner and apparently she was very fast and came 2nd in the 1928 Humber Reggatta. He has sent me some details of vessels and owners.’

In recent years, Spider T has been restored, refloated and re-rigged for the first time since the 1930s, and her crew have sailed to Scotland and Holland, and have chalked up some notable achievements. She was the first vessel from the National Historic Fleet to attend the World Port Festival in Scarborough, and was the first Humber sloop to cross the North Sea directly since before World War II. I have a sense that there’s more of this story to come, so I hope Mal will keep me informed!

And, finally, I’d like to put out a message from the management. This post about Mal keeping Spider T alive is just the kind of story we like to put up here at intheboatshed.net. If you have a story about an old boat, traditional boatbuilding and design, boat restoration, boat history or even a modern boat with traditional features you would like to share, please let us know at gmatkin@gmail.com.