Scaffie and zulus by Frank Mason, click on the picture for a large image
The recent post showing photos of Spindrift the surviving zulu reminded me that Frank Carr’s book Vanishing Craft includes some nice reading about scaffies, fifies and zulus, and the conditions in which they developed.
Carr reckoned that the three classes had canoe sterns because this enabled to boats to run well particularly when entering the narrow entrance of a harbour, because a sharp-stern boat type enables larger numbers of boats to crowd into the tiny Scottish harbours, and because the strength of the stem construction is particularly valuable in a tidal harbour where the boat will inevitably receive some hard thumps from the bottom of the harbour with every rising and falling tide.
As he says: ‘A sharp-sterned lugger can carry all sail until she enters the harbour, and on letting go the single halyard the sail falls into the boat by its own weight, and is down in a moment. The boat then surges on with her own impetus and wedges her bows between the projecting sterns of two craft already berthed. There is no bowsprit or other projection outboard to carry away, and a good hard squeeze does not matter when the boats are strongly built.’
There’s a long and interesting exchange of comments following an earlier intheboatshed.net post in which fishing boat expert, journalist, author and kipper king Mike Smylie argues that the zulu was the pinnacle in British fishing boat design during the sailing era, discusses the correct nomenclature for a 50ft zulu-type, and calls into question the often-repeated story that the first zulu was a boat called Nonesuch – he says he has seen evidence that the first zulu was an 80-footer, herself called Zulu. I see from Mike’s book 2002 Traditional Fishing Boats of Britain and Ireland that he lists a number of small surviving zulus, if you can get hold of a copy.
I’d like to add one more quotation from Carr: ‘Big zulus up to 84ft in overall length and of 61ft keel have been built, and in such a craft the enormous fore-lug, rising to a height of some 70ft, is truly a wonderful sail. The zulu skippers were as particular about the cut and set of their sails as any racing yacht skipper, and these fine craft could easily sail 10 knots in a hard breeze. Six big zulus are still working out of Stornaway under sail, and Colonel C L Spencer, the rear-commodore of the Clyde Cruising Club, has told me that he has seen these craft come romping in from sea, passing the steam drifters and leaving them standing. A splendid sight indeed, to see sail beating steam in these days of mechanical efficiency. May they long continue to uphold the tradition of sail in such a magnificent manner!’
And, finally, I have one more recent photo (below) of Spindrift to share, this time kindly sent to me by Adrian Perquage of Perquage Publishing, Beacette, Guernsey. Thanks Adrian! I think it’s useful to have this side-one view, not least because it shows clearly the striking stern of the zulu type.
Adrian is looking for information and history relating to RN45 MFV called Makalu, which I think is the boat discussed in this news story. If you have anything to share, please let us know using the comment link below of email me at email@example.com, and I will pass the message on.
Spindrift, clearly showing her sharply raked stern – my thanks to Perquage Publishing