Orkney dinghy cruiser Mark Shiner’s Arctic Whaler in the limelight


Mark Shiner and Arctic Whaler

Mark Shiner of Orkney has written to tell me that his cruising dinghy Arctic Whaler is having a definite 15 minutes of fame.

It doesn’t happen like this to many small boats!

It all began when he took his poet, novelist and musician friend Andrew Greig sailing to the abandoned island of Cava in Scapa Flow a few summers ago. On his return, Andrew wrote a book length sequence of poems and this in turn has become a stage play in the the hands of the Traverse Theatre Company, which opened at the Edinburgh Festival and is now touring in Scotland together with an art exhibition by Michael McDonnell from Shetland.

Mark says the book tells of how two ordinary guys, one approaching, one leaving middle-age, set out on a slightly mythologised micro-odyssey. It’s also got some good saily bits, he says. There are reviews here and here.

Photos from the play and (if you scroll down) a bit of video of Arctic Whaler sailing can be found here.

Btw… Mark’s beloved Arctic Whaler ‘the ultimate pre-RCD cruising dinghy’ will be up for sale in the coming winter, as Mark has decided to go up a boat size so that he can undertake some bigger adventures. If you’re interested, contact me at gmatkin@gmail.com and I’ll pass your message along to Mark.



Book celebrates John Welsford’s Navigator

An enthusiast’s self-published book about designer John Welsford’s popular Navigator design is out now.

Robert Ditterich is a violin maker among other things, and clearly both a craftsman and a networker, for in addition to John Welsford himself he’s persuaded some well known names in the Navigator world to donate their experiences. Just some of his contributors are Steve Parke, Owen Sinclair, Richard Schmidt, Chuck Leinweber, Kevin Brennan, Martin Welby, Dave Perillo, Dave Johnstone and Barrett Faneuf.

In Something about a Navigator Robert outlines the development of the design and the aspects of the boat that have made it popular, and a bit of an analysis of the aspects of the boat that have made it such a success, some stories by Navigator owners, sailors and builders. There’s also a chapter about building a hull and another detailing fittings and a list of useful resources.

I haven’t seen the book itself, but if the Navigator is on your boat-dreaming list, I’d say Robert’s book is likely to be both informative and inspirational. Here’s what he says about it:

‘It is my sincere hope that this little book will give some pleasure, not only to Navigator enthusiasts, but to dreamers, builders and sailors who just want something simple, real, and creative in their lives and who find that thinking about little boats is helpful and maybe even inspirational in all that.’

Something about a Navigator is available in two editions, a low cost black and white version priced at $20 and a colour version at $42. Both are available from Robert’s weblog The Middle Thing.

Btw, if anyone has already got a copy, I’d be most grateful for a brief review!

Bergius cruising dinghy Dodo on show at the National Maritime Museum, London

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Dodo – click on the thumbnails for larger photos

Currently on show at the National Maritime Museum, Dodo was built and designed by 19-year old William Bergius and his younger brother Walter in Glasgow, in 1896.

Fitted with a removable keel of 50kg, she was the first of a series of boats by that name belonging to the Bergius’s, and seems to have been built with camp-cruising in mind. In 1897, a very confident young William wrote the the editor of The Yachtsman in the following terms:

‘Sir – I have read with great interest the letters regarding “Multum in Parvo” cruisers, and cannot help thinking that most of your correspondents want far too big a boat. Last year my brother and I built a boat in which, despite the small size, we can easily sleep three.’

Dodo is quite a big boat in a small length: she’s 14ft 6in in length, 5ft 4in in beam and a draft of 2ft 4in with her keel attached, and with a sail area of no less than 150sqft in a low-profile gaff-rigged mainsail and roller-mounted jib; despite her fairly hard bilges amidships (they’re less hard towards the stern) and small keel she will have been an energetic performer. William Bergius deserves our admiration for creating such a useful little boat.

I don’t think anyone would build a small keelboat like this for open-boat cruising now, but looking at Dodo, I kept thinking I’d seen something a little like her more recently, and now I think I’ve worked out what it was. Take a peek at John  Welsford’s Pilgrim drawings, and see what you think – of course much has changed, but some things – including the rig, generous freeboard and use of a sensible half-decked arrangement decks – are not so very different. Of course, if I wanted a boat to go cruising in myself, I’d take the modern conveniences and comforts of John’s boat every time.

Finally just to show the world what fabulous buildings the museum occupies, I’ve added two more shots for readers’ entertainment.

The Royal Observatory from the NMM’s colonnades; the NMM buildings, the Palladian-style Queen’s House and the Old Royal Naval College with the River Thames and the Isle of Dogs beyond