Seamew, built by Stebbings of Burnham on Crouch in 1953, and repaired and restored in Bob Hinks’ workshop
Clea Rawinsky has been busy fulfilling a long-held ambition to own and sail a Burnham Scow, with the help of boatbuilder Bob Hinks (link one, link two) and their mutual friend Mark. Here’s the story as she tells it:
I first saw Seamew, dusty and forgotten, in a boat shed near my home years ago. I recognised the class easily: she was a Burnham Scow: an 11ft 3in clinker-built sailing dinghy.
One of the local yacht clubs, the Royal Burnham, adopted the class for their cadet section some 50 years ago, and a small number of them continue to grace the River Crouch. However, Burnham Scows are very rarely found for sale and tend to be passed down through families.
Seamew had split planks, a bashed-in gunwhale and had obviously enjoyed a great history – but she also looked like she hadn’t been touched in decades. She needed more work than I was capable of, but just knowing she existed allowed me to dream.
Then, last year, I was introduced to Bob Hinks. He and our mutual friend, Mark, had a cracking day out sailing Cirrus, Bob’s strip-plank built 20ft day-sailer with an electric inboard motor. Bob was clearly a craftsman and I was intrigued by his modest view of his obviously outstanding talent as a boat builder.
One day I was showing Mark and Bob my own boat, a 26ft Polaris. She was in storage awaiting a new owner and by chance happened to be chocked off right next to Seamew. Both guys saw, as I had, the potential in the little elm-on-oak relic. As if by magic, Bob was heard to say how he’d been looking for a winter project.
That was last autumn. There and then the three of us tacitly agreed we’d be sailing her next summer. It has been a whirlwind time making it happen.
Seamew went to Bob’s workshop in London, a perfect, centrally-heated space at the bottom of his garden. We all chipped in but it was Bob’s skill that defined the project. He stripped out the damaged wood and made up the list of materials required to rebuild her.
The new timber arrived just before Christmas and Bob set-to, teaming planks and making up fittings that we couldn’t buy, sometimes using the workshop in his former company, Asylum. He used his own bandsaw to cut notches in a bronze bar that was destined to become our bespoke centre-plate handle.
He kept us up-to-date on the progress by regularly emailing new images, showing the skeleton of the boat, fresh copper fastenings, the next new plank, the new thwart knees and a sumptuously rich finish on the mahogany rudder cheeks.
As if the project wasn’t rolling along quickly enough, Bob moved up a gear when I mentioned there was an opportunity to have the boat at the RYA Volvo Dinghy Show. It was a bit of a long shot: the Royal Burnham had space booked at the show at the Alexandra Palace show in early March, but didn’t have a boat to put on the stand. Bob was more than willing and the club was too, as it turned out.
In the end she looked fantastic on the stand, and drew a lot of attention. I found myself thinking of her shipwrights, back in 1950s Burnham in the old Chapel Road boatshed… I fancy they may have smiled to see her, almost a lifetime later, under the bright lights, on show, up in the big smoke. In fact, it wasn’t her first experience of brief fame – she was put on show at the Earls Court Boat Show, 57 years ago.
Roll on the warmer weather and a champagne launch some time in May.
Thanks Clea – that’s a very cheering story. It’s particularly nice that you managed to get some history on the boat itself as well as the class.
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7 thoughts on “Seamew, Burnham Scow No 230”
Hi Clea and Gavin,
I've just come across your Seamew post and thought you might be interested in the photo below, from Earl's Court.
I'm a descendant of the Stebbings clan and have just started to try and catalogue a large box of photos of boats worked on by Stebbings over the years. It is quite possible that my late grandfather, Harry Stebbings, would have worked on your scow. He built one for for my mother and her sister in 1956, and named it BEEJAY, sail number 244.
My grandfather was always keen to hear of old boats from Stebbings and if they were still local he would visit them and chat with the shipwrights doing the repairs and restoration. Clea, he would approve very much of the work you've done on Seamew – it looks fantastic – and he'd have a smile as wide as the Crouch estuary.
For my own research, would you permit to take a copy of one or two of the photos you've posted above? If I dig up any more photos of Seamew I'll pass them on.
I have just imported “Clemency” (238) to Knysna in South South Africa! She was restored by John Claridge, Lymington and arrived here just before Christmas. I would love to learn anything, everything I can about her ‘Sisters’ and am compiling her history as best I can. Once it is more complete I will post my story here too, and ask John Claridge for his input about his work restoring her. In the meantime I would love to hear from you (Pete), Clea etc. I am so enjoying her! Pippa Jarman,
Hi Pete, I’m the Mark Clea mentions above and I would very much like a high resolution copy of the boat show photo. Sadly the facebook link you include no longer works and I haven’t saved it elsewhere. If you can help I’d be most grateful. For convenience my email is email@example.com Thanks Mark Berry
Fantastic! I just love that picture – with the Buchanan stand next to her and flying the burgee of the local Burnham Sailing Club. It looks like the Royal Corinthian insignia behind, perhaps that's the transom of a RCOD sticking out..?
Can you tell me what year that would have been? 52 or 53? Maybe later?
You are most welcome to any pictures I have of Seamew, and I have a lot more. And if you find yourself down this way I'd be delighted to take you out for a sail in what was perhaps your grandfather's boat! She still has the original Stebbings badge on her.
I really don't like using Facebook but I see you are on it. Mind if I make you a "friend"?
Thank you so much for getting in touch.
And thanks to Gav too for making contacts like this possible.
I'm glad you like the picture. And thank you very much for the offer of a sail, I'll get in touch next time I'm in Burnham.
At the moment I don't know the year of the show featured in the photo. I did a bit of Google work and think now that it must be from the London Boat Show at Olympia. Apparently the show didn't move to Earl's Court until 1957.
As for the transom of the boat behind, I'm not sure. I've squinted hard to try and read the boats name, which would be the giveaway, but I can't make it out. It doesn't look to begin with 'Cor' though. Another mystery to unravel.
I'm currently testing out better ways than Facebook to publish the archive that I've inherited. I'll post here when I've got something up and running.
4 years ago I retired to Knysna on the South Coast of South Africa, perfect or Dinghy Sailing.
I decided to link my Solent past with my Knysna future by looking for a wooden Scow to import into SA! Success!! Niki Lillie advertised a Stebbings Scow (No 238) on John Claridge’s Web Site, and I’ve just bought it! John will check it all over and overhaul where necessary, then out it comes to Knysna! The Yacht Club here is about to set up a Wooden Boat Section, so I can’t wait to get out on the water.
I read on this Site about Scow No 230 ….. anyone know more about 238? Niki said:-
It is amazing to think that the scow might be going to live in South Africa – and a lovely place, by the sound of it! She belonged to my father and we used to sail her in Chichester Harbour, from Itchenor. Also from the beach at West Wittering in Sussex. Having moved to Cornwall in 1990, my parents sailed her in the Fal Estuary, from Loe Beach, near Truro and Falmouth. My father died in 2004 and they had slowed down with their sailing before then. Mum now lives in a care home and we are regretfully selling the house and boats.
Seamew had to be laid up 2013 and has been gathering dust ever since but I and glad to announce this summer she will sail again. Tollsbury vs OGA May bank holiday. Come say hello. 07803585432 Mark Berry