Tag Archives: portsmouth historic dockyard

Can anyone cast light on this rowing gig, currently being restored at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

David Griffiths who is leading a team of volunteers working the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard’s Boathouse No 4 to restore what they believe to be an old Royal Navy rowing gig.

However, David and his co-workers know little that is certain about her and he hopes an Intheboatshed.net reader might be able to help with the history and perhaps some construction details. If anyone can help, please either add a comment using the link below or email me at gmatkin@gmail.com, and will direct your message to David.

Here’s what David has to say:

‘The boat is 15ft 5in stem to stern, with a beam of 4ft. She has no construction plate or details on her, other than that her transom is marked with an engraved ‘204/17’.

‘She has two thwarts for one man each, two oars each, and would have had a coxswain’s seat with backrest. Thus, in rowing terms she was a coxed, double sculling skiff.

‘She also had a small thwart toward the bow, but whether this was intended to carry another person is not clear. It may have been structural only, or perhaps supported a towing post.

‘We have no records on her. She is commonly and affectionately known as the Dartmouth gig, and the rumor is that she was built by (or for) the navy for use by cadets at Britannia Royal Naval College.

‘I understand that there was a time when the navy believed that every man should know how to pull (row), and that boats of this kind were built in quite large numbers.

‘We believe that after her life in Dartmouth she was brought up to Whale Island, here in Portsmouth, where she sat as surplus for some years before being obtained, maybe some twenty-five years ago, by the Naval Base Property Trust.

‘Sadly she has been greatly neglected over the years, and even subjected to deliberate sabotage, but now, with perseverance, my team is bringing her back, plank by plank.

‘I believe she is built in white pine on oak: a visitor came in one day and said this was the case, adding that he was a historian with expertise in wood construction.

‘It certainly has some of the feel and appearance of being old, and but her knees, stem and stern post are all laminated.

‘I have managed to locate some photographs of a boat that appears to be identical to ours, and which was for sale on-line some years ago. Named Bluie, it apparently had a plate indicating that she was built by shipwright apprentices in Devonport, but it had no date. I’m hoping this might be a clue…

‘Our boat is currently replanked up to number ten on each side, so we are at the point of fitting new sheer strakes then framing her out. From that point though, we are lacking the details which will allow us to fulfill an authentic restoration.

‘If anyone out there among your readership can cast any light on our delightful little boat, I would be most grateful.

‘Best wishes, David Griffiths’

Bid to restore Portsmouth Dockyard Boathouse and open Portsmouth branch of the IBTC gets initial approval

Photo: Peter Facey, via Wikimedia Commons

Heritage Lottery Fund officials have announced that a bid to develop Portsmouth Historic Dockyard’s Boathouse no 4 to include a traditional boat building training centre run by the International Boatbuilding Training College has successfully passed the first stage of its application for funding.

If the bid is successful, Boathouse no 4, which was constructed during the massive 1930s period of re-armament and used for constructing the secret three man midget X-Craft submarine during World War II, will be restored and opened to the public as the Boatbuilding & Heritage Skills Training Centre.

Visitors will be able to watch traditional boat building in action, as well as enjoy exhibitions on the story of small boats in the British Navy.

As well as securing the future of Boathouse 4, the project is expected to help produce the craftsmen needed to preserve iconic ships such as HMS Victory and HMS Warrior, although graduates will leave the academy with carpentry and engineering skills to enable them to develop careers in the marine and heritage sectors more generally.

The Portsmouth branch of the IBTC will be in addition to the long-established college near Lowestoft in Suffolk.

See the Heritage Lottery Fund announcement.

Sadie Snowdon builds a John Gardner dory

[ad name=”intheboatshed-post”]

Sadie Snowdon

Sadie to the sea Sadie workshop 1 Sadie workshop

Sadie’s 14ft Gardner dory project Dolly

Boat Building Academy student Sadie Snowdown built this 14ft Marblehead dory skiff designed by John Gardner, and launched it along with her fellow students’ projects back in June.

It’s a double-chine plywood rowing skiff with oak details that she has set up for two rowers with modern gates and pins rather than the more usual traditional rowlocks.

Sadie joined the course at Lyme after working at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard as a volunteer, during which she decided she wanted to develop her boat building skills. See the Portsmouth Dockyard website for information about the work volunteers undertake.

John Gardner’s books are a tremendous body of work if you’re interested in American boat types, and some of them have been available at very keen prices in recent years it’s well worth checking Amazon Johnny Tyson builds a 14ft Whitehall at the Boat Building Academy.

My thanks once again to Academy principal Yvonne Green for the photos.

For more on student launches at the Boat Building Academy, click here.

Don’t miss something good – start receiving the free weekly intheboatshed.net email newsletter now!