Folding dinghy at the Beale Park Thames Boat Show 2008.
As usual, click on the photos for a much larger image
Folding and skin-on-frame boats are always represented at the Beale Park Thames Boat Show, and this year was no exception. I was particularly impressed with this folding skin on frame dinghy – folding canoes and tenders are relatively commonplace, but this is a much bigger production.
Here’s exhibitor Roger French’s history and explanation, followed by some more shots, and a coracle or two:
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.
Francis Rayns’ handsome 10ft pram dinghy built to plans by John Gardner.
(Click on the images for a larger view)
It says a lot for the standards of the Watercraft magazine Amateur Boatbuilding Awards that this very nicely made little boat only came second this year.
True, one might complain that the material of the clinker strakes is perhaps a little slender, and tradititionalists might suggest that the knees could have been grown rather than laminated – but these seem to be small issues when set alongside the near-flawlessness of the work.
What’s also notable about this particular boat is that builder Francis Rayns reports that the materials cost came out at just £250 – I think that’s an appealingly low figure for such a handsome 10ft boat. She’s built in larch on oak with copper fastenings, by the way, and Francis built her to plans drawn after Nathaniel Herreshoff by John Gardner and published in his book Building Classic Small Craft.
If you haven’t got Building Classic Small Craft, I strongly recommend it – in addition to this little classic, the book contains plans for 46 other boats for a price less than £13, and a long section on boatbuilding techniques. You can’t buy much for that little money these days, but this book is a real bargain.