Charles Stock is a national treasure to those of us who sail around the coasts of the UK, particularly those of us on a small budget.
Stock, you see, has sailed over 70,000 nautical miles in Shoal Waters, a little gaff-rigged 16-ft centreboarder he built in 1963 using a hull designed by Uffa Fox and hot-moulded by Fairey – and all without an engine.
Like the good farm manager he used to be, through it all he has kept a meticulous log of his voyaging and his costs, and written one of the best and most endearing manuals of small-boat cruising that I know: Sailing Just for Fun. This book is simply bursting with good advice and encouragement for owners of small sailing boats, and could not have been written with more authority. From the first page you know that Stock has been there and done it, and knows exactly what he’s talking about – 70,000 nautical miles in a small boat like Shoal Waters adds up to more days sailing than most people could pack into several lifetimes.
It probably goes without saying that in his home waters on the Essex coast he long ago became a legend for sailing almost all year round, often in conditions that send other, much larger boats scurrying home.
For Charles Stock’s website:
I was lucky enough to have a boating father, and I learned early to love rowing on the Thames, picnicing under weeping willows and watching the world go by, as my dad did all the rowing work while the rest of the family lay around the boat watching the water ripple around our fingers. Great days, and beautiful, elegant boats. Those family outings were forty-odd years ago and many of the skiffs have now been replaced by plastic boats. However, there are still skiffs on the Thames, many are treasured by doting owners, and a few can even be hired (see below).
So as we face up to winter arriving here in the UK, I’d very much like to take this opportunity to take www.intheboatshed.net readers back to the river for a few minutes to the often sunny world of rowing skiffs.
Clubs devoted to racing skiffs:
Hire a skiff:
The traditional Swan Upping event, during which skiffs and other boats are used to mark swans to show who owns them:
Traditional boat rallies on the Thames:
Built by James Weir of Arbroath, the Isabella was launched on the 15th September 1890. With an overall length of 45ft, 13ft 9in beam and a draught of 6ft, the vessel was built for line and drift-net fishing, and powered by two big lug sails, a jib and five oars.
In 1919 a 15hp Kelvin engine was fitted but by 1928 greater power was needed for seine-netting and a Kelvin K2 44hp engine was installed. This was upgraded again in 1932 when a Kelvin K3 66hp engine was fitted, and this engine continues to power the boat today. At that same time the name was changed to Fortuna.
In 1997 the Wick Society bought the boat, which by this time had been renamed Isabella Fortuna. A pictorial record of the vessel and the restoration is available from The Wick Society link below.
The Isabella Fortuna is normally berthed in Wick Harbour but during the winter she is housed in the old Lifeboat Shed on the South shore of Wick Bay. With a voluntary crew the vessel visits ports for festivals and other sea-based events. By the way, there really are coracles (tiny skin boats) in the photo below…
Wick Heritage Museum site:
Isabella Fortuna at the Caithness Community website:
If you can add to this story – perhaps links to more photos, details of the restoration or the boat’s history – please email us at email@example.com .