If you don’t already know it, Moray McPhail’s Classic Marine website is an excellent resource. There’s an extensive catalogue for all the nice bronze and gunmetal bits and pieces that traditional boats require, including a wide range of fittings for rigging, as well as navigation lights, portholes and lamps, rowlocks and the rest, and there are also boat plans from Iain Oughtred.
Classic Marine homepage:
With Christmas coming up, I’d say the navigation and cabin lighting sections are well worth a look for possible presents.
Moray’s site offers more than a fascinating catalogue, however, for he has written a series of essential articles on every detail of a traditional boat’s running and standing rigging hardware. Perhaps the most useful to many will be his article Using Wykeham-Martin Furling gears – an Unofficial Guide.
Prepare to be awed! Lulworth is the largest gaff cutter afloat today, with a length of 46.30m (152ft) and a mast as high as a 17-floor apartment block. She is also widely considered to be breathtakingly beautiful – she was described by the great maritime photographer Franco Pace as ‘the last true gem’.
Perhaps she is above all else a magnificent piece of nautical history, as the sole survivor of the Big Class racing yachts from the 1920s, which included Lulworth, the Prince of Wales’ yacht Britannia, Westward, White Heather II and Shamrock.
The Big Class races were spectacular to watch: the boats had deep keels, long overhanging booms and powerful rigs. Around 45 races were organised in the regatta season from late May to early September, and the highlight came in early August when the fleet headed to the Solent for Cowes Week. Wherever they were held around the British Isles, however, Big Class events attracted huge crowds.
Seventy years after her last Big Class race, she was taken to Italy from a mud berth on the River Hamble and brought back to life during five years of restoration aimed at returning the yacht as far as possible to her original condition, based on a set of drawings dating from 1926.
For more on Lulworth and her restoration:
Large posters, framed photos and calendars of Lulworth and other classics from the early 20th century:
The painting of Lulworth battling it out with Britannia below is by marine artist Roger Davies. Roger sells prints of his splendid paintings from his site:
“The number of boating men who find pleasure merely in sailing a boat is small compared with those who delight not only in handling, but as well in planning, building, improving or ‘tinkering’ generally on their pet craft, and undoubtedly the latter derive the greater amount of pleasure from the sport. They not only feel a pride in the result of their work, but their pleasure goes on, independent of the seasons. No sooner do cold and ice interfere with sport afloat than the craft is hauled up, dismantled, and for the next half year becomes a source of unlimited pleasure to her owner – and a nuisance to his family and friends. We know one eminent canoeist who keeps a fine canoe in his cellar and feeds her on varnish and brass screws for fifty weeks of every year.”
So wrote WP Stephens in the preface to his classic 1889 manual Canoe and Boatbuilding for Amateurs. It was written at a time when the word ‘amateur’ meant something slightly different to what it says to us today, but we probably all recognise the typical boat owner’s compulsion to change and adapt. Go down to anywhere boats are moored on a Saturday morning, and whatever the tide you’ll probably find half of the craft have a happy tinkerer mooching around on board, armed with nuts and bolts, some odd fittings and a tin of varnish. What could be better, apart from actually sailing?
WP Stephens’ book is a fascinating way into the world of sailing canoes in particular, and will make your next trip to a maritime museum showing old canoes much more worthwhile. Perhaps its value lies in the way canoe designers of the time shared their designs in a way that is much less frequent now – the designs laid out in WP Stephens’ book are complete with their offsets and can be built straight off the page.
So I’d encourage you to find any excuse you can to spend an idle hour with an online book that will take you, for free, back to an earlier time: