You’d better know their nicknames or you’ll never find ’em…

Bennett Middleton talks in this great little Rescue Wooden Boats video about nicknames in the fishing community along the coast of East Anglia.

Having grown up in a small community, I have no difficulty recognising the need for nicknames – and I have no doubt about how they arise. Usually, all it needs is for someone to say or do something a little daft or unusual just once, and the name will stick for life. If something can be found that you don’t want to hear over an over again, that will be your name…

And that’s still what happens around the yard where we keep our little boat.

I must say, the Rescue Wooden Boats folks are going great guns in conserving aspects of the local maritime heritage. Latest items of news are:

  • they’re setting up a visitor centre for people viewing restoration work in the boatyard at Stiffkey
  • they’ve been given the lovely Sheringham-built whelker Harvester to care. She will be on the water soon and will be going about promoting Rescue Wooden Boats (by the way, since we were talking about nicknames, I should mention her first owner was a man called Sid ‘Custard’ Cooper)
  • they have also acquired Bessie, another of the area’s few remaining whelkers She was built in 1934 and was involved with the Dunkirk rescue. Volunteers have scraped and painted her to stabilise her and she is now back on a mooring awaiting refurbishment
  • plans have been made to take the lifeboat and Dunkirk veteran Lucy Lavers back to Dunkirk by sea for the 75th anniversary of the evacuation of troops in 2015. From that year also, the listed historic ship will be taking the public on trips afloat from Wells-next-the-Sea in the summers. Rescue Wooden Boats is applying for a Heritage Lottery grant to enable this to happen


Wrecks and working boats of the Ore

Working boats at Ore Working boats at Ore 2

Working boats on the  Ore 4 Wrecks on the Ore Working boats at Ore 3

Click on the thumbnails for much bigger photos!

The coast of East Anglia is well known for its crab boats, lifeboats, beach punts, beach yawls and Southwold luggers – but I can’t say that I’ve read much about the little boats with their sweeping sheers show in these shots.

These photos come from Orford, but similar craft can be seen along the Deben and on the Alde.

From looking at my copy of the marvellous but almost unobtainable Chatham Directory of Inshore Craft, I’d say that many of the small wooden working boats in these photos are relatives of what it calls the Felixstowe Ferry lobster boat, a lug-rigged 15ft open boat made at Woodbridge that died out in the 1950s.

There must be a story to be told about the history of these little craft. I’m struck that quite a few of the local modern plastic tenders have something of the same form.

Looking at these shots I can’t help but think they have more than a touch of the Norse about them, but it’s not just a matter of history: the advantages of that pronounced sheer line are obvious when you see the confused water of the bar they must cross to reach the sea (see below).

I was also tickled by the Laser converted for rowing by the addition of a sliding seat (which must be seriously wasted in a hull this short – see Rowing for Pleasure comment), and by this splendid shed.

Confused water at the mouth of the Ore Laser sliding seat converted for rowing Ore boatshed