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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F B Cooke falls a little in love

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Drawings of T Harrison Butler’s single-handed cruiser

Like many of us, F B Cooke was clearly a bit of a boat dreamer, and in the early 1920s seems to have fallen very much under the spell of  T Harrison Butler’s pretty Single-Handed Cruiser.

‘I, like many other sailing men, have long searched in vain for the ideal small single-hander, but I think I have found her, or rather her lines… She is a perfect love of a boat, and when my ship comes home I shall be tempted to have her built.’

The boat is just 18ft 6in in length. ‘The underwater lines suggest  weatherliness, and with a good length of keel she should be very steady on her helm.’

Again: She strikes me as just the thing for knocking about in the estuaries and creeks of the East Coast at week-ends, whilst a trip up to Lowestoft would be quite within her capabilities in any ordinary summer weather. Dr Butler has given the boat a very snug sail plan, but in that I think he is right, for it is a mistake to over-canvas  a boat intended for single-handed work.’

I should explain that the boat in these drawings looks significantly bigger than 18ft 6in because H-B has drawn her with a Laws lifting cabin roof.

Did the Single-Handed Cruiser ever catch on? I’d very much like to know. And I can’t help thinking that an inexpensive small boat along these classic lines and as pretty as this one might be an interesting proposition for a boatbuilder to offer in wood or plastic in times like these.

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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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