Fowey wooden boatbuilding specialist Marcus Lewis has written to say that he has acquired a genuine 18ft Percy Mitchell-built Mevagissey tosher built around 1932 that he is offering as a restoration project with himself doing the work.
Despite a few soft areas, he says she’s basically sound and would make a lovely day boat for any South West harbour or further afield. He’s planning to start stripping out the grotty bits shortly followed by a programme of work put together to ensure the survival of a classic craft. Contact him directly on 07973 420568 if you would like more information or would like to view her.
For those from outside the area, I should explain that Percy Mitchell of Portmellon was a very highly regarded boatbuilder in Cornwall. Claude Worth, for example, described him as ‘an artist in wood’.
Mitchell took over his employer’s yard in Mevagissey in his twenties and later moved the yard to Portmellon for easier launching. During World War II he built motor cutters and boats for the Admiralty. After the war his boats were in great demand; one of his most famous builds being the 28 ton Windstar, which the late King George V often sailed on, as did the young Princess Elizabeth, now Queen Elizabeth II.
Marcus tells me that Mitchell went on to write a well-known book, A Boatbuilder’s Story that covers his entire working life and the struggles and successes of a wooden boatbuilder. Copies are rarely available, says Marcus, but feels strongly that it should be reprinted.
See Marcus’s website: http://www.woodenboatbuilder.co.uk
Claude Worth’s book Yacht Cruising includes many
charming pen and ink drawings
Claude Worth became a legendary cruising yachtsman, but everyone has to start somewhere – and Worth’s description of sailing his first yacht in his legendary book Yacht Cruising is highly entertaining. Click on the thumbnails below for readable scans.
‘We who adventure on the sea, however humbly, cannot but feel that we are more fortunate than ordinary people, and that we have something which we could not tell nor they understand.’
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Claude Worth’s drawing of the Auray punt
The Auray fisherman’s dinghy used described by Claude Worth early last century is one of the dinghy forms most fancied by amateur builders. It has also attracted the attentions of several notable small boat designers, including Murray Isles and the mighty Phil Bolger.
Worth called it a punt, probably because it had a scow bow and stern, and I’m sure that then as now a large part of its appeal is the simplicity of its construction. Sadly, however, he doesn’t seem to have recorded the name used by the local fishermen of the time.
Intheboatshed.net readers might like to see Worth’s original description, and to read his thoughts on yacht dinghies generally. These pages come from the 1926 edition of his splendid book Yacht Cruising.
A little less than a century later, I had the great luck to go to the Douarnenez maritime festival, where I saw a small Auray punt in action, albeit in rather un-testing conditions. See the photos at the bottom of this post, which show a simple, load carrying box piloted by the most piratical-looking Breton I’ve had the privilege to see – but sadly I still don’t know the proper name for these boats.
There are two sets of plans for modern boats derived from the Auray punt in my book Ultrasimple Boatbuilding: one’s a simple rowing and small outboard boat, while the other is a multipurpose 8ft dinghy with a sailing option designed by the splendid Murray Isles.