The new James Caird at the Beale Park Thames Boat Show this weekend

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The new James Caird, photographed a few days ago

If you’re wondering what to do this weekend – perhaps now’s the time to decide, for Friday sees the first day of the three-day Beale Park Thames Boat Show at Pangbourne!

An important attraction of the show this year is a recreation of the small ship’s boat that Sir Ernest Shackleton and his small crew used to reach Elephant Island, the James Caird, which is currently being built by students of the International Boatbuilding Training College (IBTC) at Lowestoft. We saw it during a brief visit to the college last week, and were made very welcome – the college is always pleased to receive visitors.

I was particularly amazed by the scale and diversity of the traditional boatbuilding projects under way at the IBTC, and will be writing more about it shortly.

At the Beale Park show students are scheduled to work on the James Caird’s deck beams and caulking. If you don’t know the story, after Shackleton’s expedition ship Endurance became trapped in pack ice in the Weddell Sea he and 28 men crossed a chaotic maze of ice in three salvaged boats and finally a small group including Shackleton sailed across the Southern Ocean to South Georgia to safety and to organise the rescue of the rest of the crew. The successful journey stands as one of the most impressive small boat voyages ever made – there were gales almost all the way, and it took 17 days of constant constant pumping and chipping ice from the hull and rig to prevent capsize before the little boat landed at South Georgia.

Three of the crew then climbed a four thousand foot mountain climb before staggering into Stromness whaling station to raise the alarm.

Commissioned by The Honourable Alexandra Shackleton, the new James Caird is to be used by by an expedition to re-create the voyage and mountain climb led by environmentalist and explorer Tim Jarvis.

The original boat was constructed of Baltic pine on steamed elm frames; in the absence of these, the students are using European larch on steamed oak. She is copper fastened with keel stem and a stern of grown oak. The students have planked her to the same original sheer and then built up with a further three planks in the same way as the original James Caird, and she will be decked in and canvassed. Caulking will be with cotton and she will be paid up with white lead putty, and then the whole boat will be painted white.

For more intheboatshed.net posts on the James Caird voyage and project including stunning photos of South Georgia, click here.

For more intheboatshed.net posts relating to the Beale Park Thames Boat Show, click here.

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Chris Perkins builds Michael Storer’s Raid

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Chris Perkins’ build of Michael Storer’s RAID looking almost
supernaturally neat and tidy. I must ask him how he does it!

What happens when a prize-winning amateur builder of glued lapstrake boats like Chris Perkins builds a boat with chine logs and frames with cleats?

A flawlessly tidy looking job, that’s what! Notice how he’s managed to glass the bottom with only one tiny run…

See more photos of his build of Michael Storer’s RAID at his weblog Strathkan Chris’s Little World. He’s building it for his friend Brian Pearson, who I think is a very lucky chap indeed. I think Michael has been pretty lucky here too, by the way: every designer prays the first build to their latest new design will be built by someone like Chris!

Gadfly II – coin evidence could make her older than originally thought

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48-470Gadfly II under restoration – she may be considerably
older than originally thought

Simon Papendick, who is working on Gadfly II (see earlier posts here and here), has written to say that he has found a 1908 Edward VII penny under a grown frame below the mast, which strongly suggests the boat is rather older than previously thought.

She was previously understood to have been built in Kent along the lines of the Blackwater sloops, which I believe were built in Maldon by boatbuilder Dan Webb from the 1920s. (See an example for sale here.)

Simon says: ‘It was the custom to put a coin under the mast step on the top of the keel in a sailing boat or under the base of the stem on a motor boat, so that if the the boat should ever be rebuild of destroyed it will be possible to find out the year it was built.

‘I have always kept this up in all the wooden boats I have been involved in building since the custom was explained to me by my first boss, who was himself told that this was a long standing custom when he was an apprentice. He always did this to continue the custom handed down to him.’

So it seems Gadfly II may well be considerably older than was first thought and, if so, she predates the Blackwater sloops build by Dan Webb at Maldon in Essex. Could it be that Webb saw this boat, liked her and copied and then modified her lines to create his famous Blackwater sloop?

Certainly this story is becoming more and more interesting – can anyone out there shed any further light on Gadfly II’s mysterious background and her obvious connection with Webb’s series of Essex-built boats?

Simon Papendick, who runs J-Star Tuition & Boat Services, can be reached at 07799401650 and info@jstartuition-boatservices.co.uk.

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