My thanks to Chris Brady for letting me know about this tremendous late 1940s herring fisheries documentary made by the government’s Central Office of Information available on YouTube. Don’t let that Orwellian-sounding organisation title put you off though – there’s some great footage here.
This article by David Henshal about post-War racing dinghy development is well worth reading, and can be seen on the Yachts and Yachting website.
‘One of the most notable changes that have taken place in the sport of dinghy racing in the last 40 or so years has been the impact of the spreadsheet and ‘business model’. Until then, much of the development within the sport had taken place within what could best be described as a ‘cottage industry’. Though this may have looked disorganised and unstructured, the old ways of working did have one key advantage over today’s production lines, as many of the great thinkers and ‘do-ers’ of the day all knew each other well. This friendship allowed for an unprecedented level of interaction and cross fertilisation of ideas that helped drive the ‘big-bang’ of expansion in the sport in the 1950s through to the end of the 1970s. This sharing of ideas can be seen very clearly in the lives of three of our great innovators, people who could almost be described as the ‘Three Wise Men’ of British dinghy sailing… ‘
My thanks to Australian boat designer Mik Storer of Storer Boat Plans in Wood and Plywood for spotting this one.
It turns out that Poole Harbour’s famous Pool canoes were not always flat-bottomed skiffs developed for use with a small outboard motor – in their earlier versions they were double ended rowing boats used for wildfowling.
There’s some interesting history about punt gunning here, including some stuff about the dangers of dealing with all that recoil when your boat is light and tiny, and the gunner is likely on their own, and some slightly disturbing stuff about ‘droppers’ and ‘cripples’ and ‘your man’ collecting the spoils.
PS – Retronaut has some good gun punt images here
PPS – And there’s a striking illustration of the power of these guns here. And no, it’s still not something I’d want to do.
Talking of storms as most folks probably were last night, I happened to mention Captain Washington RN and his report to Parliament following the Moray Firth fishing disaster of 1848, in which 124 boats were lost, many while trying to enter harbour, and 100 fishermen lost their lives.
Captain Washington’s enquiry proposed improvements to both harbours and boats, which had largely been undecked up to that time. There was a certain amount of resistance to the idea of decking boats partly because the craft would not be able to carry as much fish, and partly, it was argued, because fishermen feared being washed off the decks.
However, what followed was that increasingly fishing boats tended to be decked, and larger so that large catches could still be carried – a trend that led to the development of the baldie and some say to the powerful Zulu. (Also see Kate in Suffolk.) There’s an entry on the Wikipedia that’s worth reading: Moray Firth fishing disaster.
Captain Washington’s report is also important in another way – because he (and presumably his team) also surveyed boat types from around our coasts, including the Deal luggers (see below) and fishing boats at Hastings, and in the process recorded some boat types that would have known rather less about today. It’s a shame, however, that I can’t find a copy of Captain Washington’s report online. If anyone knows where there is one, please let me know in the link below, and I’ll link to it.
This may not look like much to most folks – but it shows the brickie barge Westmoreland returning to Lower Halstow a few days ago.
The next step in bringing her back to life is to put in a bid for a Heritage Lottery grant – but in the meantime the trust looking after her could do with some donations to help pay for towing her to her new berth, and the insurance the job required.
Built in 1900 in Conyer (just a few creeks away off the Swale), the sailing barge worked from Lower Halstow for 60 years, taking bricks up to London. She’s also Kent’s last brickie barge – generally small barges these were built specifically for the job.
The aim of the Westmoreland Trust Community Interest Company is to restore the barge and to use her to tell the story of the brickfields and barges that carried the bricks used to build London.
Read more about the SB Westmoreland here and here.
These fabulous historical shots come from the National Library of Ireland on The Commons – a collection that’s well worth a bit of time, and not just for the boat and sea related shots.
And this set:
This is well worth reading, and something of a window into the non-politically correct, not to say disgraceful minds of young naval officers of years gone by. Here’s a short sample:
‘It was common that the Loyal Toast be followed at mess dinners by several toasts that had to be formalized and used on a rotating basis, a separate naval toast for each day of the week:
‘On Sunday “To Absent Friends!”, on Monday “To Our Ships at Sea!”,
‘On Tuesday “To Our Men!”, and on Wednesday “To Ourselves!”
‘On Thursday “To A Bloody War or A Sickly Season!”
‘On Friday “To A Willing Foe and Sea Room!”
‘And on Saturday “To Sweethearts and Wives!”‘
They reveal a surprising – to me – interest in having a fight, partly because the British Navy generally expected to win and partly because a good battle could lead to deaths and sickness, which would in turn lead to promotions for some of the younger officers and crew.
And I gather that the toast ‘To Sweethearts and Wives!’ traditionally prompted the scurrilous response ‘May they never meet!’.
PS – I’ve just noticed we’ve just passed 4m hits. Here’s to the next million…