Tag Archives: traditional boat

Sailing to the Longships Lighthouse in a 14ft traditional dinghy

Multiple award winning boatbuilder and designer and all-round interesting bloke Will Stirling is continuing his campaign to visit dramatic lighthouses using a traditional 14ft dinghy built by Stirling and Son - most recently with a trip to the Longships Lighthouse, built on group of rocks a couple of miles west of the notorious point of Land’s End.

With this August’s weather, I think he’s done well to find a window in the weather!

Here’s his story about the expedition:

‘The original plan was to sail from Sennen Cove just North of Land’s End down to the Wolf Lighthouse, back around the Longships Lighthouse and return to Sennen Cove.

‘I set off early from Plymouth to avoid any traffic. On the way down the A30 the windmills were gently turning. From high land the Isles of Scilly and the Wolf were in clear view. Light winds and good visibility augured well.

‘I arrived in good time at Land’s End and twisted my way down the lane into Sennen Cove. The tiny old harbour was very pretty. I backed the dinghy down a very steep granite slipway overlooked by a mighty lifeboat station.

‘Reversing on the sand was easy and the dinghy was soon afloat and anchored off - but driving forward on the sand was not easy and the van soon became bogged down. Two fisherman were watching and no doubt the odd curtain was twitching. I am used to feeling stupid.

‘There was the predictable sucking through teeth about the difficulties of recovering the van and when it would be possible to do so later in the day. No doubt King Cnut sat in his throne on the beach to demonstrate that the tide could not be defied, with a pair of stout thurls on hand to lug the throne up the beach when the old king’s toes started to get wet. I could see that the van would be a little more difficult to recover.

‘However, having played the lead role in many acts of foolishness I am pretty philosophical; things tend to get sorted out.

‘I had some time in hand in relation to the tide, so I prepared the dinghy, hauled the trailer up the beach and bought a parking ticket. By the time I was back the fishermen had rigged a warp around a turning block and back to the harbour-head capstan. We dragged the van up the beach, and with an extra burst of speed managed to claw up the slipway.

‘I didn’t bother to contemplate dinghy recovery at this stage, but gave the kind fishermen my thanks and some chocolate and set off.

‘Soon afterwards, I returned having realised I had forgotten the VHF and then pulled the zip off the drysuit. The zip was unrepairable but the VHF was now on board.

‘The trip was still within the tidal constraints for doubling the Wolf; however, the wind was very light and I began to doubt that I would reach the Wolf before the tide turned. I decided to sail to the Longship’s first and see if the wind would fill in away from the land or come up as time passed.

‘I sailed just South of the Shark’s Fin, a nasty rock to the North of the Longships, and despite the calm weather there were tidal overfalls. Strangely, the wind seemed to increase in each of the overfalls as the dinghy sailed through them quite fast.

‘Turning South and to seaward of the Longships I could see an alarming line of broken water to the West, indicating further overfalls. As the tide was pushing East, I had to hope I wouldn’t be sucked into them.

‘When I successfully got to the Longships, it seemed calm enough to consider a landing. I sailed among the rocks to the south of the lighthouse and anchored in a little cove where there were seals.

‘The dry suit was broken so I swam five metres to the shore in underpants and took some photos – very aware that if the main sheet did wind itself around the tiller and become jammed, trip the anchor and sail the dinghy out of the cove, massive embarrassment awaited. I didn’t waste any time ashore and took care to ensure I was always within a few seconds of regaining the dinghy.

‘In the second trip ashore to a small off lying rock the dinghy began to drag. I quickly clambered back aboard and sailed into deeper water away from the rocks before sorting everything out on board.

‘It was now 1130 with one hour until the tidal gate for arriving at the Wolf, which was 8 miles away to the South. The wind itself was now a steady F3 from the N. Ideal conditions for getting to the Wolf; not good conditions for getting back, particularly if the wind increased. I decided that it was not wise to attempt the Wolf with only an hour of tide, adverse wind for the return journey and a broken dry suit which made me vulnerable to offshore capsize. I was already quite cold after my swim.

‘I sailed back towards Sennen, through the overfalls just North of Kettle Rock and into the little harbour.

‘Charles Bush (the director of Mayflower Marina which is right next to our yard in Plymouth) happened to be standing on the beach with his family. He had been out catching turbot for supper.

‘With a bit of Norwegian steam we dragged the dinghy up the beach and hitched her onto the van at the very bottom of the granite slipway. Charles’ family pushed, his son sat on the bonnet to give the wheels traction and with much revving the whole rig reached the tarmac at the top of the slip. One cream tea later at the Bush’s cottage over looking the cove and some local advice about a better launching spot for the next Wolf attempt concluded a very pleasant Longship’s circumnavigation.

‘Best wishes, Will’

Stirling and Son offers traditional yacht building and wooden boat repair and is based at the historic No 1 Covered Slip at Devonport. Also, follow the Stirling and Son Facebook page for news, some wonderful boats and great photos.

 

Will Stirling sails a Stirling 14ft dinghy to Godrevy Lighthouse

Multiple award winning boatbuilder and all-round interesting bloke Will Stirling recently sailed a traditionally built 14ft dinghy of his own design and building out to Godrevy Lighthouse.

As usual with Will, he found some photogenic scenes to capture along the way as the gallery above shows… Here’s what he says about the trip:

‘Having woken up at 3am on Saturday morning, driven for two hours to Hartland Quay and then aborted an attempt on Lundy Island’s two lighthouses due to bad weather, I was keen to salvage time by circumnavgating at least one lighthouse before the weekend was out.

‘For the rest of Saturday I planned a trip around Godrevy Lighthouse near St Ives, Cornwall.

‘Surprisingly it was very hard to find anywhere to launch on the North Western coast of Cornwall. During an afternoon of phone calls and refusals of permission to launch I was directed to the Carbis Bay Hotel, five miles to the West of Godrevy, who very kindly let me launch on their private beach near St Ives, and also waived their car park fee.

‘I planned to either return to Carbis Bay or land at Portreath five miles to the East of Godrevy.

‘Following another early start I was afloat by 0800 on a beautiful beach with crystal clear water. The course was NE to Godrevy; the wind NW F2. I set off across St Ives Bay. One particular surprise during this part of the trip was being able to stand on the foredeck for over 5 minutes whilst the dinghy maintained her NE course. (The sail shaded me from the sun when I was seated at the tiller and I had got wet launching the dinghy, so a few moments in the warm sun were very appealing.)

‘In order to go around the lighthouse I rowed between the two large rocks to the North of Godrevy and then dropped anchor on the South side of the bigger island. With my dry suit on I got myself ashore, strectched my legs and took some photos.

‘Having regained the dinghy I sailed along the cliff-bound Cornish coast to Portreath. The scenery was magnificent.

‘Portreath beach has a wonderful little harbour tucked into the cliffs which used to be full of sailing ships unlaoding Welsh coal for the mining engines and loading copper ore from the mines. It was too awkward to recover the dinghy from the harbour so I anchored beyond the surf and swam ashore to meet Sara and the kids for a day on the beach.

‘At the end of the day Sara gave me a lift to Carbis Bay to get the trailer. Having driven back to Portreath, I backed the dinghy through the surf and floated her onto the trailer. The RNLI had a 4×4 on the beach and they kindly towed the dinghy up to the roadside.’

There. See what a chap can do with the right boat! Many thanks Will!

Peter Radclyffe talks about restoring a many decades old traditionally built boat made for the Mediterranean

Peter Radclyffe

Down on Elba, Peter Radclyffe talks about the issues involved in restoring and repairing a many decades old traditionally built boat made for the Mediterranean. I hope folks can see it, because he has some interesting points to make…

Book review: Circle Line – around London in a small boat

Circle Line by Steffan Meyric Hughes

I’ve never read a book quite like Circle Line before. I’ve read many, many boaty adventures, but this tale of voyaging through central London on the Thames and completing a loop made up of canals in North London written by Classic Boat staffer Steffan Meyric Hughes is something else again.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth reading – certainly it is.

No-one in this book sails in fear of being smashed by a giant wave, or of hitting rocks, and the views he has to describe are mixed to say the least. There are some lovely stretches, especially along the Thames, but elsewhere the scenery varies from carefully crafted canal-age grandeur to neglected corners of  concrete jungle run wild with weeds and old barbed wire.

Pottering along in his boat borrowed from Swallow Boats, Meyric Hughes finds himself in a series of odd spots, camping out alongside his moored boat in forgotten places amid the city’s bustle. He meets a variety of interesting, helpful and entertaining river dwellers and Environment Authority employees, spends days with old friends, invents private games to entertain himself on the lonelier stretches, and generally enjoys a trip that must have been unforgettable – finding himself in a little viaduct he’d never previously noticed crossing over a familiar road was clearly quite a moment.

Refreshingly, he describes it all without making a meal of being deliberately odball – unlike another well known small boat voyager of recent years whose book I couldn’t finish. Readers will likely know the one I mean…

Meyric Hughes also embarks on a series of writerly diversions that illuminate bits of London and boating history, as well also his own mind. One of the best is determined rant against the plague of plastic boats that is no doubt inspired by his day job of comissioning, editing and writing material about traditionally built craft. Here’s a sample:

‘GRP is not, as it’s commonly assumed, the superior successor to wood for boatbuilding. It has virtually no insulation against the cold, it sweats condensation in the cabin, and through its thin walls you can hear everything… GRP boats are easier to maintain and cheaper to buy, being made out of poison and pressed in moulds. At the end of their lives, they sit in their hundreds up every creek and river and marina in the land. The owner might have stopped using their boat years ago, and he’s still paying his yearly mooring fee. What else can he do? It’s too strong to break up and too big to take to the tip. If you really don’t like someone, leave him a yacht in your will.’

And so on and so forth. What he has to say about plastic boats is no word of a lie, but there’s an irony here of course… the author behind this words is himself a canoeist who learned to sail in a rotomoulded Topper on Bewl Water, and made his journey through London in a plywood boat held together by epoxy and waterproof glue. But, let’s be honest, lots of us who are interested in traditional craft actually sail plastic craft for very good practical and economic reasons.

We’ve had some dreadful weather lately, and I gather it’s set to continue for a bit longer. I suggest you buy a copy of Circle Line to read when stuck indoors on a wet weekend afternoon, or as a diversion for the train. You’ll be entertained and likely something new about our capital city and its strange, turtle-infested waterways – and you might think of some similarly easily accessible but interesting journey of your own.

It got me thinking of dusting off an old dream of navigating from the top to the bottom of all the rivers that run to the sea around Kent and Sussex in a little plywood rowing dory. Maybe when I finally get to retire I’ll still be fit enough to do something of the sort…

Coniston Regatta 2013, 30th May to the 1st June

swallow 4

 

swallow 9 [1024x768] redwing 249, tideway and aurora 2 [1024x768] good wood 3 [1024x768]

The fourth Coniston Regatta 2013 runs from Thursday 30th May to the Saturday the 1st June, and everyone is invited – including traditional boat owners and their boats.

Organiser Greg Simpson has been in touch to say that among the boats booked in so far include a 1930s Peterborough canoe, a 1910s Thames sailing skiff, and numerous steam launches and model boats.

The events are based at the English Lake District home of Swallows & Amazons, Bank Ground Farm – which in the book is called Holly Howe and is the holiday home where the Swallows stayed each summer.

Attractions for boating enthusiasts and kids include exhibition stands presented by Windermere Steamboat Museum, Good Wood Boatbuilders, Patterson Boatworks and various other local craftsmen, and steam engines.

SY Gondola and Coniston Launch will be available for trips, there will be boats for hire and some boat owners attending the regatta will be offering sailing trips.

Children will enjoy a kids’ fishing competition and a miniature railway. The tea rooms open from 11am each day.

There are also a range of evening entertainments, including an outdoor screening of a film version of Swallows and Amazons.

Lovely Youtube video of classic Troy racing yachts off Fowey

There’s a high definition version featuring different music here. The film was taken by Troy class racing yacht skipper John Forsyth, who captured his material by strapping a camera to various parts of his boat.

We’re glad he did. My thanks to Fowey traditional boat builder Marcus Lewis for pointing out this one!

PS -Max, who writes the Bursledon Blog has a post on the Troys, and a few nice photos.

Modern-built Victorian racing cutter Integrity impresses at the Southampton Boat Show

 

Chris Partridge was mightily impressed by the Stirling & Son-built 43ft gentleman’s racing cutter named Integrity at the Southampton Boat Show, and took these photos.

‘The boat is really lovely, superb craftsmanship and materials and supremely stylish with it. I definitely can’t afford to buy Integrity, but now I really want one of Stirling’s little rowing boats. Even for one of them, Ernie will have to oblige, however… ‘

Rowing for Pleasure weblogger Chris normally responds to sailing boats in a measured kind of way – for him a boat without oars is something of a missed opportunity, so this is pretty high praise.

I guess he must also have been impressed with what I think must be the poshest jakes ever seen afloat.

Integrity is for sale through brokers Sandeman Yacht Company - do check the company’s sales details as they include a stunning set of photos.

Many thanks for the photos Chris.

I should mention that Stirlings supply sets of plans for many of the craft they build.