Tag Archives: wooden boat

Row St Kilda to Skye – 100 miles of very hard work

Row St Kilda to Skye

These folks’ project is to row the 100 mile distance from St Kilda – a remote island that was abandoned in 1930 – to the Isle of Skye in a boat that was built in around 1890, and which hasn’t been used since 1913.

The legend says that on that occasion a visiting lady had missed the scheduled steamer, and the boat was used to row her to meet the same steamer at a later stop at Stromeferry – and ever since that day, it has hung in the rafters of a boathouse.

Before she makes her first big outing for more than a century, however, she is being restored to her former glory.

The trip itself will be very weather-dependant: it will need a big high to calm the Atlantic seas to make it possible to row to Portree via the sound of Harris, around the top of Rhuba Hunish, down the sound of Raasay, past the Black Rock and into Portree harbour. There will be four crew members rowing at any time, each with one wooden hollow sculled oar and a fixed wooden seat, and a coxswain whose jobs will be keeping time, navigating, and bailing – out water! Another four rowers will be on a support vessel, and the two teams will change over at intervals.

The group is training – it has no previous rowing experience – and expects to be rowing for anything between 38 and 48 hours. Apparently, they expect blisters, back pain, sleep deprivation, exhaustion and a certain amount of chafing from the wooden seats… I guess long-distance rowers with some experience might well be able to offer them some useful advice.

There’s a charity dimension to the project also; money raised is to go to the RNLI and Skye & Lochalsh Young Carers.

Read all about Row St Kilda to Skye here.

PS Canoe and lute builder, Phil Bolger boat builder and astronomer and Bill Samson suggests has pointed out that some time ago the BBC Alba screened a TV programme about two women from the Stornoway Canoe Club on the Isle of Lewis, Dolina Swanson and Christine Stewart, recreating a 1965 canoe journey by Hamish and Anne Gow.

The Gows became the first kayakers to make the treacherous 40-plus mile sea journey from the Western Isles to the mystical islands of St Kilda.

Lewis boat builder Angus Smith re-create the original plywood and canvas Clyde double kayak – for the trip… See the BBC’s page of information, a clip and photos here. Thanks Bill!

Storms, and Captain Washington’s report following the 1848 storms

Washington_Boat_Map

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.

Captain Washington Deal lugger Captain Washington Deal lugger 2

 

 

‘Build me straight’ 1963 Scottish documentary about the building of a fishing boat

[This has been pulled from YouTube but is still available from the Scottish Film Archive. My thanks to Iain McAllister of the Peggy Bawn Press for letting me know.]

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

The Kentish Sail Association’s Swale Match 2013 – part 2

Stirling and Son move into a new yard at Devonport, while Victorian racing yacht Integrity adds to its collection of awards

Alert & Integrity on the slip

On 1st March Stirling and Son Ltd acquired the lease for the No 1 covered slip at South Yard, Devonport, Plymouth.

Sited adjacent to the dockyard wall, Slip No 1 is the oldest remaining covered slipway in any royal dockyard in the world, and dates from around 1763 – 250 years ago this year. The roof was added in around 1814.

The slipway is 53m (173ft) long and the roof is supported by a double line of 23 trussed wooden pillars. At the north end, the roof is apsidal in shape in order to accommodate the bowsprits of larger craft.

By the water just outside the slip is the famous statue of King Billy – actually ship’s figurehead from the warship Royal William. King William IV reigned from 1830-7 – read about the statue here.

Although the slipway was re-laid in 1914 it has undergone few alterations and is still used as was originally intended – and is now a scheduled ancient monument, which means that it has the same protected status as Stonehenge.

As it turns out, Will Stirling has a family connection to Slip No 1: his great, great, great, great grandmother, Eliza Barlow, launched Nelson’s flagship, the Foudroyant (80 guns) on this slip in 1798. Admiral Sir Robert Barlow was an Admiral in Nelson’s navy and his and Eliza’s daughter, Hilaire, married Nelson’s brother William Nelson.

An unusual condition of the lease is that only traditional wooden boatbuilding and repair must be undertaken – which I gather seems a rather wonderful rule to the Stirling and Son folks.

There are lots of plans for upgrading the slip to provide a fantastic deep water boatyard facility including re-installing a winch and cradles, repairing the double slip rails and reinstating the dockside cranes.

Yacht repair work has already started: three yachts have arrive on the slip so far; Pierette an 1899 Fife, Alert Will’s first build of his own design, and Integrity which will remain at the top of the slip until she is sold through Sandeman Yacht Company of Poole.

Stirlings collect the Classic Boat Best New Build Award

On the 7th March Will and Sara drove to London for the Classic Boat Awards party in Mayfair, where Griff Rhys Jones presented them with their award for Best New Build Over 40ft for Integrity, voted for by readers

This is the 3rd award they have received for Integrity, and is in addition to one for Alert and one for Stirling and Son’s 14ft sailing dinghy.

Overall, the Stirlings’ display case now contains:

  • Integrity Voted Best New Build Over 40′ Classic Boat Awards 2013
  • Integrity Voted People’s Choice Plymouth Classics 2012
  • Integrity Awarded Best Traditionally Built Craft Plymouth Classics 2012
  • 14ft Sailing Dinghy Voted Best Dinghy Plymouth Classics 2012
  • Alert Awarded for Exceptional Research and Boatbuilding SWMHS 2009

Contact Stirling and Son via its website or follow the company’s Facebook page.

Integrity & Alert on the slip King Billy at the entrace to the slip No. 1 Covered Slipway, Devonport

Integrity sailing Integrity Pierette 1899 Fife

Sara & Will receiving award from Griff Rhys Jones

32ft modern timber built sailing lugger for sale on eBay

Modern built sailing lugger for sale on eBAY

She looks nice and comfortable as well as good fun to sail, and she’s on eBay now. Go on – you know you want to!

My thanks to John Lockwood for alerting me to this one.

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…