JMW Turner’s paintings can sometimes seem a bit theatrical – well, I suppose it helped sell his pictures – but as this YouTube shows, the sea really /can/ be the way he depicted it.
My thanks to author, campaigner and kipper magnate Mike Smylie for passing this one along.
One thing though… If you’ve ever wondered what Val Doonican’s 1960s hit might have sounded like in Icelandic, turn your speakers up. If not, it might be wise to turn them down…
Thanks to Hans Christian Rieck for pointing this one out.
The poem, by the way (isn’t the Internet wonderful!), the title comes from a poem by the American poet Longfellow, which turns up on the Poetry Foundation website among other places.
Poetry can be a complicated thing, and at a big distance in time its meaning can be lost if no-one explainsd it. So here’s a short quotation from the Poetry Foundation’s piece about Longfellow:
‘The Building of the Ship combines a tribute to the master builder who designed the ship with a love story linking the master’s daughter to the ‘fiery youth’ employed in its construction while making clear that the Union stood allegorically for the United States on the eve of secession. Fanny Kemble performed this poem in dramatic readings, bringing herself and audiences to tears in the memorable emotional crescendo of the last stanza with its invocation to an imperiled country that is nonetheless the best hope for the world: ‘Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State! / Sail on, O UNION, strong and great!’ President Abraham Lincoln, hearing these lines recited in the midst of the Civil War, is reported to have wept before remarking, ‘It is a wonderful gift to be able to stir men like that.’
Nowadays, of course, we tend to titter at ‘ship of state’ analogies and patriotic idealism, and instead of high hopes for the future, instead worry that our political leaders may be influenced a little too much by the rich and powerful. Such different times…
I also note that Longfellow clearly had an inkling about the aims of the ship designer – not too much tophamper, centre of gravity not too high, the importance of hull form in steering, and a stern designed to allow the water to close nicely aft…
(By the way – there’s a fairly recent post on this weblog about another famous nautical Longfellow piece, The Wreck of the Hesperus.)
The Building of the Ship
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
‘Build me straight, O worthy Master!
Stanch and strong, a goodly vessel,
That shall laugh at all disaster,
And with wave and whirlwind wrestle!’
The merchant’s word
Delighted the Master heard;
For his heart was in his work, and the heart
Giveth grace unto every Art.
A quiet smile played round his lips,
As the eddies and dimples of the tide
Play round the bows of ships,
That steadily at anchor ride.
And with a voice that was full of glee, Continue reading
Novelist Sam Llewellyn’s other project, the unfailingly beautifully edited The Marine Quarterly, continues to impress, and I’m enjoying the new edition as much as I have each of the previous nine editions. I say it’s essential reading, and that a full set – if one could keep them together – would be an asset when waiting for the tide.
This issue includes an illuminating history of pilots and piloting by Tom Cunliffe, Ken Duxbury’s account of visiting his first Greek island aboard his Drascombe Lugger Lugworm, and an introduction to the story of pier-head painting by artist and illustrator Claudia Myatt.
In fact, if anything it gives me even greater pleasure because it includes a piece from Ben Crawshaw. Ben, as regular readers may remember, built one of my small boat designs, the Light Trow, and his book Catalan Castaway recounts his remarkable adventures. (See the ad at the top right of this weblog.)
I’m also just beginning to read Mike Smylie’s latest book, Traditional Fishing Boats of Europe, which aims to tell the story of how the various types of fishing boats evolved over hundreds of years in line with the catches they were built to chase, the seas and climates in which they must work, and of course the cultural influences involved.
It’s a complicated story and clearly an important project, and I’ll be fascinated to find out just how he can cram all of that information between two covers! No doubt he can, though, because he’s done this kind of thing before and knows what he’s doing…
Jim Parnell’s Those Magnificent Men in Their Roy-Roy Canoes is clearly a must for anyone interested in the remarkable story of sailing in these little boats.
It’s really a historical record of the adventures of the three New Zealand canoeing Park brothers, George, William and James, who were active in the late 19th and early 20th Century, and includes material from their logs and from newspaper cuttings, and is written very much in the quite formal, slightly detached style of that era.
Still, the adventures they describe are quite something, and include crossing South Island (including a long portage, naturally) and crossing Cook Strait on a night with no moon. I needn’t mention how dangerous the Southern Ocean can be – but the Parks, particularly George Park, seem to have been indomitable.
Here are some more striking photos from Borneo of fishing boats, many timber built, that were taken by my photography enthusiast brother Matt Atkin.
Matt likes to use a miniature or small camera that he can carry easily, but insists that it should produce very high quality images.
For more of his photos from Vietnam, New Zealand, Hong Kong and India, click here - to see them click on the link and page through the ‘older posts’ links.
Simon and Cat Holman are taking the interesting step of building a sail-powered boat with the aim of using it to make a living from inshore fishing on the sea out of Portscatho in Cornwall – and they’re chronicling the whole thing at the weblog Teach a man to fish.
It’s an admirably low-impact idea, and no doubt the local restaurants and others will be pleased to take their catches. I’m sure we all hope they’ll bring enough back to make a living and that the wind never fails to bring them home after each trip.
The weblog describes their activities, which have included learning about fishing and the fishing trade, and their studies of examples of sustainable fishing. Simon Holman happens to be a marine designer, and the couple are now building a boat he drew up for the purpose – a pdf kit for making up a rather nice paper model of the proposed boat can be found here.
The Holmans recently completed a two-year voyage to the Mediterranean in their 28ft Heard gaff cutter named Planet, which is also described in a weblog.
The scaffie Obair-Na-Ghoal built by Alex Slater and Sinclair Young is one of the many traditional craft to have been accepted for inclusion in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant in London on 3 June 2012 organised to celebrate 60 years of Elizabeth the II’s reign.
Whether or not you’re a fan of state events, the pageant has shaped up to be the most conspicuous public showcase presenting traditional craft to the public I can recall – it will be amazing to have so many boats from around the country in South East of England, if only briefly.
Obair-Na-Ghoal - Labour of Love in English – is a good example. She’s a replica of an 18th century herring drifter, and a well-known veteran of many Scottish Traditional Boat Festivals, which are held at Portsoy on the North-East Scottish coast.
Slater learned boatbuilding at the Jones of Buckie shipyard, a few miles along the coast from Portsoy.
The story goes that he was asked to demonstrate sailmaking at the first Portsoy festival, and someone asked him what he was going to do with it.
‘I thought to myself, ‘Well, I suppose I had better build a boat,’ he says. And so he did, using drawings for the scaffie herring drifter Gratitude BCK 252, which can be found in the book Sailing Drifter by Edgar J March.
Gratitude was built in 1896 by George Innes of Portknockie and worked the inshore fisheries of the Moray Firth. Launched exactly 100 years later, Obair-Na-Ghoal is an exact replica of the older boat, 25ft in length, 9ft in beam, and a draft of 3ft, and has the original’s hallmark hollow floors and sharp turn to the bilges.
Unlike earlier boats, Gratitude was decked following rules brought in to reduce the heavy losses of fishing boats from Scotland’s East Coast.
Although parading in front of the Queen was not in his mind when he build his scaffie, Slater’s reported to be proud to be taking part in the pageant. ‘Obair-Na-Ghaol may not have all the mod-cons of some of the boats in the pageant, but she is a fine looking boat,’ he’s reported to have said. ‘Who knows, she might even overshadow the Royal barge.’
Indeed she might! I hope he has a great, grand trip to the South East.