Regular visitors will remember I recently put up a photo of Nick Gates’ boat Ocean Pearl, which he believed to be a zulu skiff because of her vertical stem and raked stern. I must say that I thought the same – and was very pleased to be able to publish a photo of her.
Nick acquired her as a motor-powered fishing boat some years ago, brought her back to a condition where she could again put to sea, and added a sailing rig. The result is that she’s a handsome vessel, as the earlier photo shows.
However, the ex-trawler skipper and authority on marine history Jay Cresswell, who has for many years lived near Aberdeen, recently saw the photos and got in touch to put the matter right.
It seems that Ocean Pearl’s stern is not sufficiently raked and that she was built too late to allow her to be called a zulu. In support of his point, Jay sent us a fistful of photos of zulus shot while he was trawling in the ’70s and ’80s.
I’ll let him explain.
‘If Ocean Pearl was berthed up here in the North-East of Scotland, there is little or no doubt that she would be regarded as a fifie and, to confuse the issue further, a yawl too.
‘The boat below is a case in point – a fifie called Poppy on the Caledonian Canal, and one with the same rake to her sternpost, give or take a degree.
Fifie Poppy on the Caledonian Canal
‘The next photo shows clearly how, even on a fifie, the sternpost could be modified to reduce the rake by adding to it. This is the fifie Harvest Reaper at Burghhead; she was a smart boat just a few years back.
‘Both have the same rake between waterline and post as the Pearl.
Fifie Harvest Reaper
‘The rule is that for the classic zulu, the angle between keel and sternpost is around 135degrees, but if you add in further keel “drag” due to the boat being trimmed down aft, the resulting angle could be quite dramatic.
‘Many of the boats that were motorised required major surgery aft to create an acceptable propeller aperture, or were fitted with twin screws.
‘Later intermediate (45-50ft class) zulus like Spindrift were built as motorboats and had a less pronounced rake in their sternposts, but still had much more than Pearl.
‘A sailing zulu that worked very successfully as a motor boat for many years was Violet, and another was True Love, which had some very neat surgery carried out to give her a semi-balance rudder.
Zulu True Love
‘Vesper and Evangeline lasted a long time too. Both had classic rakes to their sternposts, but were extensively modified below the waterline with false deadwoods to accommodate a shaft and screw.
‘An another that lasted into the 1970s at least was St Vincent (another zulu, Spray, is on inside.)
‘And here’s the big zulu Springwell.
‘The angle between the keel and sternpost of a fifie varied in a range between 90 and 110 degrees approximately – and that rake made the difference between a bog ordinary fifie and a jaunty boat like Pearl.’
For the record, Nick reports that Ocean Pearl’s sternpost is set at 115 degrees, which would presumably make her very jaunty indeed – but not a zulu.
Jay asked the members of a fishing industry website forum what they thought Ocean Pearl’s true identity might be. He reported:
‘The firm view is that this is a fifie, more particularly a motor fifie or baldie. I hadn’t twigged the build date, but it’s 1933, which puts the boat squarely in baldie land, moreover Fraserburgh baldie land.
‘A few intermediate zulus were built as late as the early 1920s but that was the end, save for a few tiny yawls that worked handlines, one of which was near here until recently.
‘One of the guys on the forum (many are retired fishermen of considerable age) who responded to my post suggested a hybrid … or bastard … but, as I said, the generaly view is that she’s a fifie.
‘I live just south of Peterhead, which is where Ocean Pearl fished until the 1960s. Pound to a penny I’ll be able to track down the family that owned her, especially since Nick has a nice pic on his yard website of her working as a seiner.’
Finally, I asked whether any other zulus that might still be around.
‘Research is at the Scottish Fisheries Museum, a sad carcass of what was, even as late as the 1980s, a salvable example of her type.
‘The only other big zulu I knew was Radium. She lay for a long time at Bowling Basin at the Clyde end of the Forth-Clyde Canal, but, if my memory serves me, it eventually sank.
‘There are a couple or so big hulls lying in Loch Dochfour on the Caledonian Canal, but that’s about it.
‘The one pictured below was captured here in the North East in the mid 1960s. She’s the Fisher Lassie, and in the photo she is still rigged for herring drift netting, which is what these boats were conceived to do.
Zulu Fisher Lassie
‘There are at least two large fifies extant, Reaper and Swan, and there are several intermediate examples, such as Family’s Pride, which is at the big end of intermediate. She worked out of Arbroath as late as the 1980s, but was converted to a charter ketch, painted red and based at Skye. I don’t know where she is now.
‘I rather think there are further large fifie hulls lying in muddy creeks in the South-East of England. Fifies lasted longer than zulus, partly because they were easier to motorise, and plenty of intermediate fifies were scratch-built as motorboats right up to World War 2, and a fair number of small motor yawls were built well into the 1950s, even early 60s.’
Thanks Jay – I think that ranks as one of the most interesting and informative intheboatshed.net posts I’ve read. Please don’t hold back from making contact whenever you have something you’d like to tell us!