A trip to the Plymouth Breakwater

They must have a different kind of sea at Plymouth – for at the end of November, just a couple of weeks ago, fearless Will Stirling actually went swimming in it and survived, as the photos above show. Ugh!

Here’s what Will has to say about the escapade:

‘We visited the breakwater in the summer in our new expedition dinghy.

‘Our anchor fouled and I had to swim out to the boat and cut the rope. Last week we recovered the anchor which had become caught under a rock but was none the worse after four months in Mr D Jones’ locker.

‘Best wishes, Will’

Will reports that the construction of Plymouth Breakwater began in 1812 and completed in 1841. It is 1,560 metres long, 13 metres wide at the top and 65 metres at the base, lies in about 10 metres of water and is composed of 4 million tons of rock.

The beacon on the Eastern End has a spherical steel cage on top that can accomodate six shipwrecked sailors – though Will is dubious about the the benefits of dying slowly from exposure in the cage rather than dying quickly by drowning.

Thanks for the photos and the story Will!

Traditional yacht Builders and wooden boat repairers Stirling and Son Ltd are at the No 1 Covered Slip, South Yard, Devonport, Plymouth and has a website at www.stirlingandson.co.uk. The 14ft Expedition dinghy is one of the company’s range of handsome clinker-built dinghies.

More information emerges about Jantje’s sails – but what about Nordhorn’s anchor?

Nordhorn anchor from Byers foundry, Sunderland

Nordhorn anchor from Byers foundry, Sunderland Nordhorn anchor from Byers foundry, Sunderland Nordhorn anchor from Byers foundry, Sunderland

A little more information has emerged about the source of Jantje’s sails. Hans-Christian Rieck has written to say that the sister of the previous owner, the late Mr Struik, has volunteered the information that they were purchased second-hand from a Frisian sailmaker. Now the Graf Ship Association’s volunteers are trying to find out which sailmaker was involved in supplying the steilsteven or sailing tjalk’s sails.

They’re also close to overcoming the last bureaucratic obstacles to obtaining a certificate to allow Jantje to work as passenger ship on her home waters.

However, it seems the good folks of Nordhorn have another question. It seems a local businessman gave an old anchor to the City as a display item for its now historic quay. The anchor was found in mudbanks of the mouth of the River Schelde near the port of Rotterdam during dredging works.

It’s clearly of British origin, as on one fluke it is possible to read the name of Byers and the place name Sunderland, and a serial number that is now impossible to decipher. The other fluke bears the code ‘VV’.

It seems clear that it was cast by a foundry named Byers, but is there a way of discovering which ship lost it in the mouth of the Schelde? Can any reader help? My guess is that it’s likely to be listed as an insurance loss somewhere, or on the foundry ledgers, if they still exist.

From its shape local experts think the anchor dates from the late 19th or early 20th century, and that it must be from either of a British or at least a British-built ship because at that time of overheated nationalism there is every reason to doubt that a Dutch, French or German shipyard would buy foreign parts for the ships built on their own yards.

There’s an interesting listing of Sunderland-built ships here.

PS – I’m grateful to Ian Wedderburn for writing this weekend to point out this link at the England’s Past for Everyone website, which is about a very similar looking anchor that’s now outside the maritime museum at Palermo, Sicily. Thanks Ian!


Model Julie skiff photos from Ben Crawshaw

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Ben Crawshaw’s model of the Julie skiff

Down in Spain, Light Trow builder Ben Crawshaw turns out to be the first intheboatshed.net reader to come up with a model of the Julie skiff. Well done Ben! I’m pleased that other people are beginning to see this little boat’s potential.

There has been some wild weather where he lives in the last few days, so perhaps he’s taken the opportunity to make the model. He writes:

‘Well done Gav, a pretty design in the best tradition of the lightweight rowing skiff. I like the design, a pleasing form, simple to build, light weight, plenty of buoyancy and possibilities for storage and the opportunity to titivate using pretty wood for the breasthook and quarter knees.

‘I particularly like the way the breasthook sits over the foredeck and the idea of storing an anchor in the slot between the two. The ample sternsheets give it a Ratty and Mole feel and I can imagine a wicker picnic hamper in there somewhere.

‘I’d be interested in seeing a sailing version with the mast stepped aft of the forward frame so as not to compromise the watertight compartment. One thing I’d also like to see on this rowing version is the possibility for two pairs oars and two rowers, maybe with temporary thwarts.’

I’ve been thinking about the same things Ben, and will have a go at working them in.

How about extending the sternsheets slightly forward, adding a seat back, and leaving a space behind the seat and the transom for that hamper?

One issue that I’d like to address a little further is how to balance the boat with a weight in the stern, and a possibility would be to make the central transom removable and include optional second transom further forward.

Something similar might make a second rowing position aft a possibility if the sternsheets were removed, but I’m not so sure that’s the way to go, as a 17ft version for two rowers might well be a much better way to use the rowing power of two people. I need to think about this a little more.

If you build this boat – even if it’s a model – PLEASE let me know by getting in touch via gmatkin@gmail.com

See Ben’s comments at his weblog theinvisibleworkshop.

Download: intheboatshed.net Julie skiff plans

See all posts so far on this boat:

Complete free plans package for the intheboatshed.net flat-bottomed 15ft 6in skiff
intheboatshed.net skiff – drawings and coordinates for stitch and glue
intheboatshed.net skiff – photos of our model, and maybe yours too?
Intheboatshed.net skiff – now we can make a model
Intheboatshed.net skiff progress
Early drawings for a 15ft 5in lightweight flat-bottomed American-style skiff

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