Keep Turning Left film-maker Dylan Winter in the Walton Backwaters

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britain, cliff foot, coastwise cruising, dylan winter, fb cooke, harwich, keep turning left, oakley quay, walton backwaters, walton creek

Round Britain slow sailer and film-maker Dylan Winter has put up an 18-minute piece of film about sailing around the Walton Backwaters, and about the explosives dock at Oakley Quay.

The video is part of his ongoing Keep Turning Left video project and is his first paid-for film download – for the princely sum of $0.99. There’s a taster on his homepage.

Dylan calls the new video 18 minutes of pleasure and the next best thing to sailing. It seems a trifle hyperbolic as claims go – but as we emerge from yet another nasty winter of bad weather and grimmer news and disasters, I’d say that he definitely has a point.

Just looking at the taster, clock the lovely yawl pictured in evening light early on – do I recognise a well known and recently built Alfred Strange yawl? I think perhaps I do…

The Backwaters are a small area of estuary packed with islands and channels, and make an interesting sheltered sailing areafor visiting boaters with a series of quays and settlements around its perimeter. I haven’t been there myself, but it’s definitely on my agenda, and it happens that I’ve been reading about the area while travelling to work in London this week, along with the sad, tired army of London’s commuters.

My companion on the train has been FB Cooke’s unconventional pilot Coastwise Cruising, which turns out to be as refreshing as Dylan’s film. For more on Cooke, click here.

He starts for the Backwaters from the Stour, and as he setsoff I can just smell the sea and the hot summer day to come.

‘After studying the chart we come to the conclusion that we must start at about 8am to make sure of carrying the ebb out of the Stour and down Harwich Harbour to the Cliff Foot buoy… It is a jolly morning, with just a suggestion of haze which means heat later on. We are sorry to say goodbye to Wrabness, but at the same time we are anxious to visit Walton Creek and Hamford Waters which on the chart look intriguing.

‘Getting our anchor, we start away down the Stour close-hauled on the starboard tack.’

Ahhhhh! I think Dylan and old FB Cooke have a lot in common…

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Peter Baylis’s photos of Scoter in her prime

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Alan Buchanan, ceilidh of fife, fife, idle duck, maurice griffiths, phakoe, River Tay, scoter

Scoter in Norway, July 1962.  Colin Grierson has his foot on the tiller. Audry Grierson is bending down amidships. The guard rail of Peter Baylis’ boat Phakoe is just visible in the foreground

Alan Buchanan, ceilidh of fife, fife, idle duck, maurice griffiths, phakoe, River Tay, scoter

Scoter in Norway again, July 1962. The boy standing behind Audry is not her son Douglas, but Peter doesn’t remember his name

Peter Baylis has kindly sent us a collection of photographs of Scoter and the Grierson family and friends during the 1950s and ’60s. A family friend himself, he says he was much saddened to see the state she has been reduced to, but pleased to learn she is to be restored. (See the original post on Scoter here.)

Here’s what he has to say about Scoter’s story during the time he knew her:

Colin Grierson was a neigbour of mine both in Wormit and Tayport Harbour where my mooring was alongside Scoter. After Colin died, Scoter was taken on by his son, Douglas for a few years until he sold her to I know not who.

‘Colin converted Scoter for offshore sailing and had many cruises with his family to Holland and Norway. It fell to my lot on many occasions, to help Colin load and unload the many tons of pig iron ballast Scoter had.’

Peter, who owned Phakoe and Ceildh of Fife in these photos, is particularly interested to learn about the whereabouts and history of Ceilidh of Fife – if anyone knows her story, please contact me at and I will pass the information on to Peter.

Alan Buchanan, ceilidh of fife, fife, idle duck, maurice griffiths, phakoe, River Tay, scoter Alan Buchanan, ceilidh of fife, fife, idle duck, maurice griffiths, phakoe, River Tay, scoter Alan Buchanan, ceilidh of fife, fife, idle duck, maurice griffiths, phakoe, River Tay, scoter

(Left) Low tide in Tayport Harbour. The yachts float on very soft mud. The boat in the centre is Ceilidh of Fife, the boat Peter had after Phakoe. The stern of Scoter is lower left. (Centre) Scoter on her moorings at Tayport. The varnished boat is Phakoe. Lower left the stern of Seagrim is just visible; she’s the boat Hazel and Brian Kelly owned before they commissioned Idle Duck. (Right) Damaged slide of Tayport Harbour moorings. The varnished boat is Phakoe with Scoter next and then Seagrim. The photo was taken during the late 1950s; Peter says the harbour now is full of expensive looking yachts on pontoons

Alan Buchanan, ceilidh of fife, fife, idle duck, maurice griffiths, phakoe, River Tay, scoter Alan Buchanan, ceilidh of fife, fife, idle duck, maurice griffiths, phakoe, River Tay, scoter

(Left) This picture shows Colin Grierson, owner of Scoter, watching the first launch of Peter’s Alan Buchanan-designed yacht Ceilidh of Fife in June 1966. (Centre) First launch of Ceilidh of Fife from Woodhaven pier near Wormit, Fife. Colin is holding the port fore guide rope. Scoter is in the centre of the picture dressed overall. June 1966. (Right) Ceilidh of Fife dressed overall on the occasion of the opening of the Tay Road Bridge by the Queen Mother, August 18 1966. The bridge can be seen in the background

(Left)Peter’s first yacht Phakoe, 1961. Picture taken in the River Tay after returning from Norway: note the yellow flag to request Customs clearance. (Right) His second yacht Ceilidh of Fife alongside in Mandal, Southern Norway. The green boat is Seagrim, the yacht owned by Hazel & Brian Kelly prior to owning the Maurice Griffths-designed yacht Idle Duck. Brian Kelly acquired Seagrim from the Kiel Yacht Club, Kiel, Germany at the end of World War II

PS Check out the comments below for more information on this photos, and about Scoter herself.

Weel may the keel row

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‘Nearly oval’ lighters on the riverbank at Newburn on the Tyne, image from Samuel Smiles’ book Lives of the Engineers, republished by Project Gutenberg. They’re a bit small to carry 20 tons of coal, but they might well be an artist’s slightly fanciful depiction of the keel

An outstanding recording of the tune known as the Keel Row popped up on my Facebook page the other day, and got me thinking about the keels of the River Tyne. The tune was played on an English concertina by a young man called Danny Chapman and must not be missed: hear it here.  You’ll notice that apart from the beautiful statement of the theme, in the way that’s traditional in the North East of England, there is a following series of stunning variations. There’s more of this stuff on this page. Well done Danny!

But what’s a Tyne keel? Believe it or not, it was an Anglo-Saxon boat type that lasted into the 20th century, though there are none around now and precious few pictures seem to exist. Still, there’s a nice history including the words of the song the Keel Row here. Jim Shead has a little more on the keel here, and the Samuel Smiles book has more to say about how the boats were used.

Finally, there’s a series of photos telling the story of the Keelman’s Hospital here. It’s a grand tale that demonstrates the independence and grit shown by the keelmen in the face of the ruthlessly capitalist coal owners, who seem to have been everyone’s enemy for centuries.