Seamew, Burnham Scow No 230

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Seamew Burnham scow Seamew, Burnham scow Seamew, Burnham Scow, sailing dinghy

Seamew, Burnham scow, sailing dinghy Seamew, Burnham Scow, sailing dinghy

Seamew, Burnham Scow, sailing dinghy

Seamew, built by Stebbings of Burnham on Crouch in 1953, and repaired and restored in Bob Hinks’ workshop

Clea Rawinsky has been busy fulfilling a long-held ambition to own and sail a Burnham Scow, with the help of boatbuilder Bob Hinks (link one, link two) and their mutual friend Mark. Here’s the story as she tells it:

I first saw Seamew, dusty and forgotten, in a boat shed near my home years ago. I recognised the class easily: she was a Burnham Scow: an 11ft 3in clinker-built sailing dinghy.

One of the local yacht clubs, the Royal Burnham, adopted the class for their cadet section some 50 years ago, and a small number of them continue to grace the River Crouch. However, Burnham Scows are very rarely found for sale and tend to be passed down through families.

Seamew had split planks, a bashed-in gunwhale and had obviously enjoyed a great history – but she also looked like she hadn’t been touched in decades. She needed more work than I was capable of, but just knowing she existed allowed me to dream.

Then, last year, I was introduced to Bob Hinks. He and our mutual friend, Mark, had a cracking day out sailing Cirrus, Bob’s strip-plank built 20ft day-sailer with an electric inboard motor. Bob was clearly a craftsman and I was intrigued by his modest view of his obviously outstanding talent as a boat builder.

One day I was showing Mark and Bob my own boat, a 26ft Polaris. She was in storage awaiting a new owner and by chance happened to be chocked off right next to Seamew. Both guys saw, as I had, the potential in the little elm-on-oak relic. As if by magic, Bob was heard to say how he’d been looking for a winter project.

That was last autumn. There and then the three of us tacitly agreed we’d be sailing her next summer. It has been a whirlwind time making it happen.

Seamew went to Bob’s workshop in London, a perfect, centrally-heated space at the bottom of his garden. We all chipped in but it was Bob’s skill that defined the project. He stripped out the damaged wood and made up the list of materials required to rebuild her.

The new timber arrived just before Christmas and Bob set-to, teaming planks and making up fittings that we couldn’t buy, sometimes using the workshop in his former company, Asylum. He used his own bandsaw to cut notches in a bronze bar that was destined to become our bespoke centre-plate handle.

He kept us up-to-date on the progress by regularly emailing new images, showing the skeleton of the boat, fresh copper fastenings, the next new plank, the new thwart knees and a sumptuously rich finish on the mahogany rudder cheeks.

As if the project wasn’t rolling along quickly enough, Bob moved up a gear when I mentioned there was an opportunity to have the boat at the RYA Volvo Dinghy Show. It was a bit of a long shot: the Royal Burnham had space booked at the show at the Alexandra Palace show in early March, but didn’t have a boat to put on the stand. Bob was more than willing and the club was too, as it turned out.

In the end she looked fantastic on the stand, and drew a lot of attention. I found myself thinking of her shipwrights, back in 1950s Burnham in the old Chapel Road boatshed… I fancy they may have smiled to see her, almost a lifetime later, under the bright lights, on show, up in the big smoke. In fact, it wasn’t her first experience of brief fame – she was put on show at the Earls Court Boat Show, 57 years ago.

Roll on the warmer weather and a champagne launch some time in May.

Thanks Clea – that’s a very cheering story. It’s particularly nice that you managed to get some history on the boat itself as well as the class.

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Interested in Bob Hinks’ Cirrus? Contact him to arrange a date to sail her

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Bob Hinks, who graduated from the Boat Building Academy a little while ago, is looking for commissions to build up-market day-sailors along the lines of his widely admired Cirrus.

He explains:

Cirrus was conceived as a classic gentleman’s daysailer, designed to be fast, sail beautifully and look a picture. A miniature J class yacht is what we set out to achieve, and I think we got pretty close.

‘She was designed with a particular sailor in mind – someone who might have a larger boat but who wants to get back to the fun and excitement of sailing a smaller boat on offshore and inland waters. She is unashamedly a luxury item built to exacting standards in everything from her teak decks to her purpose built fittings.

‘I think her market is Poole, Mylor and Chichester Harbours, the Norfolk Broads, the Solent, Western Isles of Scotland, the Caledonian Canal, Lake Windermere and many other beautiful locations worldwide. With a lifting keel and rudder, and a minimum draft of only 500 mm, she can easily be moved on her trailer from one sailing area to another.

‘The price of £40,000 might seem high – but she cost £20,000 in materials alone, and took 2400 hours to build. If I took the drive system out of the equation she would be £7000 cheaper – but it is such great thing I don’t want to. The electric motor just makes the boat very easy to control. Getting in and out of a harbour is quick simple and nearly silent. When motoring up a creek to the pub there’s no smelly fuel or exhaust, and the quiet engine is blissful.

‘I enclose some pictures of Cirrus at the Beale Park Boat Show, which was a great success. She was sailing most of the time and looked wonderful – we had as many as five and a dog on board at one point. The pond is only just over a meter deep so we had to sail with the board and rudder up but she still performed like a dream. She was described as the belle of the ball, and I spent my time doing interviews and sailing, and dealing with many interested enquiries.

‘There are various changes I plan to make on the next boat, including a slightly heavier keel with an electric winch, repositioned bilge pumps and a modified rudder lift device. If the orders come in, I’d like to build two or three boats, one of which would be similar but a bit longer and with a small cuddy.

‘I hope to sail the boat in the South of England this summer starting with Mylor harbour in a couple of weeks – if anyone is interested in the boat and would like an opportunity to sail have a go at sailing her, I’m sure we can arrange it.’

Bob can be reached by phone at 07785 346072 and by email at

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Cirrus publicity material

Bob Hinks and Ray Holmes build fast, shallow-draft dayboat Cirrus at the Boat Building Academy


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Launch day views of Cirrus


Designer and boatbuilding instructor Mike Broome, photographed with Cirrus

Boat Building Academy principal Yvonne Green has sent us some more photos from the big student launch day at Lyme in December.

Bob Hinks and Ray Holmes built Cirrus, a 20ft western red cedar strip planked, epoxy glass sheathed day sailer designed by Academy instructor Mike Broome.

‘She was designed to be shallow draught, equipped with a ballasted centreboard and lifting rudder to enable use either under sail or using auxilliary power.

‘She mixes traditional style with modern systems, and is equipped with an electric sail-drive with a two-blade folding prop. Batteries sit either side of the centreboard case to provide ballast as well as power for the prop. She also has a traditionally-laid deck and bespoke steelwork on chainplates, rudder and centreboard.

‘On her maiden voyage Bob, who was formerly owner and MD of  special effects company Asylum and electronic engineer Ray achieved 5.5 knots sailing in light airs.

‘Bob and Ray worked long hours, and Cirrus is a testament to their focus and determination.

‘Since the course ended in December, Bob has hired space in a yard near the Academy and over the next few months is going to refine and perfect Cirrus before going into production.’

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Cirrus in the workshop