Stangate Creek. It makes you think about times past…

These days Stangate Creek on the south side of the Medway is a popular stop for cruising sailors and motorboaters – it’s sheltered, and visitors are surrounded by low-lying land and islands and saltings, and some impressive bird life.

But this peaceful spot has a heck of a past, and was frequently a less than happy place.

With the Naval dockyards at Chatham just a few miles away up the Medway, the Navy has at times used it intensively as a place to moor ships when necessary.

From 1712-1896 it was used for quarantining ships. For example, there’s a story that in 1832, the barque Katherine Stewart Forbes set out from Woolwich with a complement of male convicts for Australia but then anchored in Plymouth Sound after cholera broke out. She was sent back to Stangate Creek for many months – of 222 convicts aboard, 30 men developed cholera and 13 died.

There’s an account of how the quarantining started here.

During the Napoleonic era, French prisoners of war were coonfined in prison hulks on the River Medway, where they were subject to cholera, smallpox and typhoid, and many of those who died were buried on Deadmans Island on the eastern side of the Creek.

And of course it was close at hand in 1667 when the Dutch captured Sheerness, invaded the Medway and threatened Chatham. The Wikipedia has the story, including a wonderful painting.

In the early part of the 19th century Turner depicted it in one of his watercolours of English rivers, and much more recently, the extraordinary cruising film-maker Dylan Winter visited Stangate and seemed to fall in love with the place.

Most of the photos of Stangate Creek above including the Finesse class small yacht, the  smack, Buccaneer and the barge yacht Whippet above are mainly Julie Atkin’s shots. Only the shots showing the flooded saltings are mine…

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Traditional boats of Ireland photographed by boatbuilder and weblogger Tiernan Roe

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Tiernan Roe 1

Heir Island lobster boat Rose and Galway hooker An Faoilean Tiernan Roe 2

Heir Island lobster boat Saoirse Muireann owned byhistorian and
author Cormac Levis

The two gaffers in the upper photo are Rose an Heir Island lobster boat on the left and An Faoilean a Galway hooker on the right. The Saoirse Muireann below is another Heir Island lobster boat, and is owned by historian Cormac Levis author of the well known and highly regarded book Towelsail Yawls describing the sailing lobsterboats of Heir Island and Roaringwater Bay.

The photos have been sent in by Tiernan Roe, boatbuilder and weblogger based at Ballydehob, West Cork.

From the 1870s to the 1950s, sailing boats dominated the lobster fishery of Ireland’s south coast, and the lobstermen lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle over a hundred hundred nautical mile stretch of coastline in the small open boats, yet it’s said that until Levis did his research and wrote Towelsail Yawls, their way of life had been in danger of passing unrecorded. I should add that although it was published as recently as 2002, the book already seems difficult to find – which seems to suggest that he did an excellent job.

As a bonus, here are three photos of a John Atkin Ninigret 22ft outboard boat that Tiernan’s currently building being turned over at his Ballydehob workshop. Follow his weblog Roeboats at http://roeboats.wordpress.com/.

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Lechlade Raid, the Beale Park Thames Boat Show, and this year’s Watercraft comp for amateur boatbuilders

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Home Built Boat Regatta - the sun can shine at an HBBR meeting

A rare moment of bright sunshine at an HBBR meeting

The Home Built Boat Regatta folks are planning what sounds like a jolly river trip. It starts at Lechlade on the 1st June with the aim of arriving at Beale Park, Pangbourne, on the evening before this year’s Beale Park Thames Boat Show.

In keeping with the HBBR’s traditions, the Lechlad Raid is not an organised event but a cruise of individuals in company who welcome all who wish to join them, but ask that all boats and crews are up to the trip. Each individual is responsible for ensuring their own liabilities are covered and for making their own arrangements for over-nighting during the journey. There will be no formal safety cover.

From what I understand, the start time on the 1st is unclear, but more information will doubtles emerge and will be posted at the HBBR website events page.

Some readers may be interested to hear that by chance the Trailer Section of the Old Gaffer Association is also having a meet at Lechlade on the weekend of the 30-31st May, and that it will be happy to see Lechlade Raiders who decide to arrive early to join them. The OGA folks have organised camping in a field behind the pub, and this is likely to cost about a tenner.

Another piece of news concerns the Water Craft magazine amateur boatbuilding competition, which is judged at the Beale Park Thames Boat Show each year. After some discussions with HBBR members, editor Pete Greenfield has decided to change the format in the light of complaints that the high standard of craftsmanship of some of the entries tends to discourage rather than encourage many amateur boatbuilders.

So this year there will be three equal prizes of £80-worth of Water Craft books for: The Home-Made Boat Which Offers Most Encouragement To Beginners, The Most Innovative Home-Made Boat and, because we don’t want to stop encouraging amateur craftsmen and craftswomen, The Most Professional- Looking Home-Made Boat.

Now it’s time to find some pictures of your home-built wooden boat, write a few words to describe her, add your contact details and send it no later than 17 April, either by email to: ed@watercraft- magazine. com or by post to: Amateur Boatbuilding Awards 2009, Water Craft, Bridge Shop, Gweek, Cornwall TR12 6UD. All entrants who bring their boats to the show will also receive £50-worth of vouchers. You don’t have to pre-register to participate in the Raid, though it would be kind to let the HBBR folks know you’re coming, but you must send entries for the competition to Water Craft by the the 17 April deadline in order to take part in the competition – for insurance reasons, you can’t just turn up on the day, by water or by road.

Be aware, also, that you must be a real amateur, and that boats built from pre-cut kits are not allowed to enter.

For previous intheboatshed.net posts featuring the HBBR, click here.

I won’t be able to join the HBBR folks once again dur to family reasons, but if anyone reading this fancies the trip and would like to build a simple and easily constructed rowing boat for the purpose, may I modestly suggest my Julie skiff plans? I will be pleased to help out with modification to make it more suitable for overnighting afloat.