Duncan Sclare pours 19ft Gartside cutter keel

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Duncan Sclare pours the lead keel for his 19ft Paul Gartside-designed cutter. Click on the thumbnails for larger images

Duncan Sclare in County Mayo, Ireland has an advantage over many amateur boatbuilders: 30-odd years of experience as a furniture-maker, cabinet-maker, carpenter and joiner. See his website here to see what I mean.

Talented and practical man though he is, I still think the story of how he cast his own lead keel this week is quite something. Here’s what he says:

‘Hi Gavin. Your readers may be interested in my project to build Paul Gartsides cutter design 163. This build is going to take some time as it has to be fitted in around making wardrobes, kitchens and other stuff I do to make a crust. I have been working on it for almost a year now with little to show exept lofting, lists, stacks of timber and so on.

‘Last weekend however work for real started with the casting of the keel. The pictures show the mould made from MDF and softwood and buried it in sand. Just short of 1 tonne of scrap lead was then melted down in an old cast iron bath. This took about three hours, but then the plug was pulled and the molten lead allowed to run into the mould. There was some singeing of timber and my hair, but otherwise it seems to have been successful!

‘The keel now needs shaping up and we can start to add the oak timbers on top. It will be great to get into some woodwork after that messy job!

‘In the background of the picture of the mould shows larch boards (planking) air seasoning and my battered Orkney Strikeliner still used for day trips around our West Coast.

‘I will keep you posted on (slow) progress. BTW, I love the site – great work keep it up. Best wishes, Duncan.’

Wow Duncan. With so much danger and excitement going on, I’m astonished you found time to take the shots! The result looks excellent, by the way 😉

See Duncan’s striking photos of Inishkea in an earlier intheboatshed.net post.

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Photos from the Inishkea Islands

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Deserted village on the Inishkea south island. As usual, click on
the thumbnails for much larger images


Barnacle geese in flight

A couple of days ago, I found this very welcome message from intheboatshed.net reader Duncan Sclare in my inbox. It has got me thinking that it’s more than high time I made a return trip to the West of Ireland to see some more of its wondrful remote Atlantic islands.

‘Hi Gavin,

‘Having read and enjoyed reading intheboatshed for some time now I thought I ought to add a little bit for others to hopefully enjoy.

‘One of my family’s favourite boating destinations is the Inishkea Islands, three miles off the west coast of Co Mayo, where we live.

‘The islands have an interesting history. They were inhabited up to the mid 1930s, but the community never really recovered from the great storm of 1927 when about 45 men mostly fishing from curraghs were drowned off the Mayo and Galway coast, ten of them from the Inishkea Islands.

‘The islanders moved to the nearby mainland and continued to graze animals and fish around the islands, as their descendants still do today.

‘Further back in time around 1900 there was a Norwegian whaling station on the south island. There are many myths and storys including tales of piracy and civil war, and stone-throwing incidents between north and south islands and, of course, various legends about poitín brewing.

The two villages on the one on each island are now slowly being reclaimed by nature, as can be seen in the photos.

‘I had the pleasure of meeting one of the last surviving people born on the island this summer. Her daughter and son in law had spent a couple of years doing up her old home, and brought her out on a beautiful August day to see it close up for the first time in almost 70 years.

‘There is a wide variety of wildlife including many grey seals that come ashore in the late autumn to have their pups. Barnacle geese, which give the islands their name, still come down from their breeding sites high up in Greenland to over-winter on the islands.

Mayo County Council are now putting together a long over due Conservation and Management Plan that will hopefully secure the islands future for all to enjoy and appreciate without damaging the rather delicate eco-system.

‘An excellent information site can be found here: Insihkea Islands.

‘Doing a bit of boat building myself will mail you if I have anything of substance to report. Keep up the good work

‘Regards, Duncan Sclare’

Many thanks for this Duncan – I’m most grateful you have taken the time to write in with your photos. I’m sure the image of the derelict cottages in particular will be very powerful for many people. Do let us know how your project goes!

For more intheboatshed.net posts about currachs including information about building the boats, click here.


Seal pup photographed on Inishkea