Where does the romance of old boats spring from?


I sometimes think it comes as much from the books we read as children as from anything. A longstanding friend says that he already knew how to sail from reading Arthur Ransome – and that he astounded his the secondary school master who took him sailing for his first time by stepping smartly into a dinghy and sailing off without instruction. He’d learned all he needed from Roger Altounyan

For me, perhaps it started with the Broads boats my parents hired from time to time, or maybe the National 18 my father sailed off the Mumbles when I was a kid. Maybe it was the astonishing craftsmanship that went into making all those subtly curved pieces of timber that fitted together so tightly that they kept the water out. Or maybe it was the books we had in the house, many of which had boats in them somewhere, and 50 years ago they were nearly all what we’d now call traditional. Whatever it was that started it, all of these things certainly contributed.

I found the tinted photo above in an old book I bought a few years ago, and I’d say that it was pretty typical of the genre; I particularly like the cutesy rope fender.

The one below is certainly from my both my childhood and my mother’s – I was reminded of it only today as I cleared out one of my children’s bedrooms. Needless to say, my own modern-day child never even opened the book, though my mother and I adored it.


All of which reminds me that I have been intending to link to Wootton Bridge Industries website. Wootton Bridge make exactly the kind of small clinker built boats that the old books often show. They’re heavy compared with most plywood boats, dependable, solid and stable – the kind of boat you’d probably like to see your kids enjoy. Sad to say, most kids want something made of yellow plastic that looks like a soap dish, and which has Killer-thrilla-zinger or something written on the side. We can leave all that to them and get on with boating in our own way.

Wootton Bridge Industries’ website is here: http://www.clinkerboat.com


3 thoughts on “Where does the romance of old boats spring from?”

  1. I learned to sail on a boat just like that, on Easter cruises on the Broads with an organisation whose name eludes me but were wonderful Evangelicals. There was a regatta towards the end of the cruise and on one occasion I successfully gybed the boat to take the lead, gaining huge congratulations from the Commodore. I failed to mention that I had forgotten which way to push the tiller and panicked. The boat reared like a stallion, but I just got away with it.

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