1934 bawley for sale at Chelmsford

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A little in love with a bawley

Bawley Vivid

Bawley Vivid Bawley Vivid Bawley Vivid

Bawley Vivid

Bawley Vivid, built in 1860

A friend of mine is secretly a little in love with someone else’s boat. His own is a sweet and well cared-for craft, but some small part of his tortured heart lies elsewhere, and his heart lifts as he sees the other object of his desires making way down the creek.

I won’t mention too many names to protect those who may already feel just a little guilty, but from looking at these photos you might just begin to see why he feels this way. I know I do, and I hope her owner won’t mind my sharing them with https://intheboatshed.net readers!

The boat in question is Vivid, and she’s certainly a very sweet small bawley at just 24ft. According to a page on the Old Gaffer’s Association site she dates back to 1860, which in itself is enough to make her special indeed.

Bawleys were built mainly for shrimping, and have a characteristic tall cutter rig with no boom. The lack of a boom means that their mainsails are reefed quickly using handy brailing lines, but together with a rounded hull form it also means that the boats aren’t so hot to windward. I’d guess that bawley sailors who belong to racing associations such as the OGA have to learn a certain serenity in the face of coming last almost every time they go out – but there must be a strong sense of satisfaction in sailing a boat as important, interesting and handsome as this one.

It’s not very easy to find sources of more information about bawleys, but there’s a good section on them in The Chatham Directory of Inshore Craft, and a few mentions in both Mike Smylie’s Traditional Fishing Boats of Britain and Ireland, and Eric McKee’s Working Boats of Britain.

And Derek Coombe’s The Bawleymen has a lot to say about how the boats were used and the lives of their crews – if you can find it.

PS I’ve learned from a forum that there is a very fast bawley called the Helen & Violet. I don’t claim to know everything, but I try to report the best of what I learn. Anyway, Googling reveals this Googlewhack including links to photos and this excerpt from John Leather’s classic The Gaff Rig Handbook. This is very useful – I’ve mislaid my copy after moving house just a few weeks ago – but what does it mean for the future of book publishing?

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