HJ Mears complete a new Beer lugger

Alex Mears of the long established Seaton, Devon boatyard HJ Mears has written to let us know about their latest project – this very handsome little Beer lugger. Here’s what he says:

‘She’s larch on oak, over 7ft in beam on her 16ft length so she’s a very broad boat, as ours always are.

‘Our boats are beamy because they are beach boats. To make the task of beach launching easier you want fairly flat bottomed, beamy boats with substantial bilge keels. Hence all of our boats fit this spec for the beaches around here – including Beer, Seaton, Sidmouth, and Branscombe and beyond.

‘The red top strake of the new boat will help distinguish her during lugger racing over at Beer.  She could win in racing when handicaps are being applied – there are carvel boats with larger sail sizes and which also have a longer waterline length. In general, the Beer luggers are a pretty variable fleet and people, but Hannah will fit in happily somewhere amongst the fleet.
‘It’s great to be adding to the fleet of Beer luggers and continuing the traditional boatbuilding in a traditional craft. We are lucky to have appreciative customers who ultimately keep the tradition going by paying our wages!
‘She will be moored at Lyme Regis and will compete with the Beer luggers on Monday nights during the summer.
‘The owner is someone who has followed our work for many years and previously owned a Ron Lavis-built clinker boat. Ron is an Exmouth boatbuilder who trained with my grandfather. The appeal of the Beer lugger for this particular owner is the flexibility – he can sail her, he can fish from her, he can go potting for lobsters with her,  go off for picnics on the beach, and so on. She is a multi purpose boat as the history of these has proved.’

Thanks Alex! We look forward to the next commission and set of photos!

HJ Mears boat builders, Devon

Alex Mears of Seaton boat builders HJ Mears sent over these recent photos of recent jobs in the yard. Here’s what he says:

‘Hello Gavin,

‘I’ve attached a few photos of the 25ft mahogany-built weekender for a chap at Dartmouth. We’re just starting to turn the bilge with the planking, and as a result she’s beginning to show her full Mears-style lines! We’re not known for sleek pieces of furniture; more the traditional beach working and harbour launches that require a sturdy old fashioned build.

‘There’s a couple photos in there of a Beer Lugger in Larch, that’s currently on the stocks too. She’s 16ft with an ample 7ft beam.

‘The owner of the 25ft boat said he came to us as he liked seeing the consistency of our boating lineage since the 40s. He also likes building by eye; as the project can evolve as he desires at every stage. We hope to have her planked and ribbed by new year, provided not too many other jobs get in the way!

‘We’re looking for a completion around July 2014 – it would be earlier but there’s a few commercial fishermen who don’t take ‘not yet’ for an answer!

‘Anyway hope you and your readers find these of interest. Feel free to ask any more questions.

‘Cheers for now,


It’s worth taking a moment to look at the HJ Mears site, by the way – each of the photos on the home page turns out to be a useful link to ‘Contact’, ‘Restoration and repair’, ‘Moorings’ and so on. It turns out that I’ll be travelling down to Sidmouth in the summer to play for the annual folk festival, so I’m hoping to get a chance to drop by and perhaps shoot a harbour stroll…

Thanks Alex!

BBA student Jonathan Palmer wins a big photography prize

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Beer Lugger 2010 Winning Photo

Boat builder Jonathan Palmer has won a first prize in the traditional maritime skills in action section of a photographic competition sponsored by National Historic Ships and Classic Boat magazine.

Jon’s winning photograph (above) was taken in May at the Boat Building Academy workshops where he has been a student.

Titled Beer Lugger 2010, the photograph from the building of the new Beer boat Steadfast by students on Jon’s course. He caught the boat on camera as it was awaiting the frenzied process of hot nailing, in which copper nails are quickly hammered into freshly steamed timber ribs and riveted into place.

The prizes were awarded at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich – after the ceremony Jon apparently enjoyed a game of croquet and a very civilised afternoon tea. He says he will spend the prize money on tools for LP Boatworks, a company that he and fellow Boat Building Academy graduate Ben Larcombe have set up in Colyton, Devon. They plan to offer traditional and modern boat building, restoration and repairs.

Jon’s photo can also be seen in the November issue of Classic Boat or on the National Historic Ships website.

Positioning the copper nails before hot nailing Holding the ribs in postion while the nails are being hammered

Readying the copper nails before hot nailing; the hot nailing process itself