Click on the thumbnails for much bigger photos!
The coast of East Anglia is well known for its crab boats, lifeboats, beach punts, beach yawls and Southwold luggers – but I can’t say that I’ve read much about the little boats with their sweeping sheers show in these shots.
These photos come from Orford, but similar craft can be seen along the Deben and on the Alde.
From looking at my copy of the marvellous but almost unobtainable Chatham Directory of Inshore Craft, I’d say that many of the small wooden working boats in these photos are relatives of what it calls the Felixstowe Ferry lobster boat, a lug-rigged 15ft open boat made at Woodbridge that died out in the 1950s.
There must be a story to be told about the history of these little craft. I’m struck that quite a few of the local modern plastic tenders have something of the same form.
Looking at these shots I can’t help but think they have more than a touch of the Norse about them, but it’s not just a matter of history: the advantages of that pronounced sheer line are obvious when you see the confused water of the bar they must cross to reach the sea (see below).
I was also tickled by the Laser converted for rowing by the addition of a sliding seat (which must be seriously wasted in a hull this short – see Rowing for Pleasure comment), and by this splendid shed.
We were mightily impressed by the Gone Fishing programme from the BBC’s Sea Fever series last night.
If you can find an hour, don’t hesitate to get the computer out and dial up the iPlayer to watch this hugely atmospheric programme including lots of home movie and documentary footage, and interviews with some great old boys.
Heard of a traditional boat type called the Wexford cot? Or seen footage of a gun punt in use? Neither had I until I caught up with Monday’s episode of Coast, a BBC-Open University series about our coasts that has been fascinating many people in this country for several years now.
The cot is a fairly basic double-ended flattie with rounded clinker sides developed for the shallow water of Wexford Harbour. These days they seem to be made with a small transom, presumably to take an outboard, but they’re traditionally rowed by two men with an oar each. I was strongly reminded of the Weston flatner, which is another flat-bottomed and round-sided boat type, and struck by the thought that Wexford and Weston aren’t so very far apart.
The gun punt footage mercifully saves squeamish people like me from having to look at any carnage in detail but it’s interesting to see the boats, which have just 10in of freeboard, being propelled and steered using a quant. More, it’s astonishing to see how little recoil the boats exhibit when the big gun mounted on their foredeck is fired.
The episode includes a nice interview with Larry Duggan, whose family has been building these boats for generations. Over at the Rowing for Pleasure weblog, Chris Partridge has picked up a Flickr photo set put up by Alan Duggan, which is well worth looking at.
If you’re in the UK and have access to the Internet, do try and catch it on the BBC iPlayer before it’s replaced by this coming Monday’s episode.
For a post about gun punts in the East of England including a splendid quotation from Victorian scholar and man of the cloth Sabine Baring-Gould, click here.