Veteran and vintage dinghies sailing in the Australian sun

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It happens every year. Just at the moment when our English winter starts to get me down, someone sends over a couple of fabulous photos that make me sigh and wish I could be somewhere else, and out on the water.

This time it’s the turn of Jeff Cole, regular (see these posts) who has sent over a couple of shots taken by HS (Hans) of the Woodenboat forum.

Here’s what he says:

‘Hi Gavin, I’ve been busy restoring boats for a local wooden dinghy regatta. The Iain Oughtred-designed Macgregor canoe needed some serious attention and an Australian Sailfish that my cousin and I built in 1963 had to be completely restored as it had had a hard life through various branches of the family and always leaked through a badly underbuilt centreboard case. But she came up well, and dry!

‘My cousin Andy had not sailed the boat for at least 35 years, but on the day I couldn’t get him off it!

‘Most of the boats were older racing class boats, but mine was unique. The oldest was a Sydney 15 footer, an open clinker built boat nearly 100 years old and another from the 1950s in rather delicate condition but when they got it going it stormed through the fleet, including the modern boats.

‘The rest were mostly John Boats, Jolly Boats, Moths, Mirrors and Herons.

‘The regatta was at the Victorian coastal town of Inverloch. Due to changes to the estuary the water we were sailing on was very narrow and shallowed abruptly at the edges of the sandbars at low tide. What with the vintage fleet swanning about and the normal club races and a fleet of personal water craft buzzing around it got quite crowded. But it was a fun weekend, with 2.5 days of sailing and half a day of show and tell in the park.

‘There are more pics on Woodenboat forum Antipodean Boats Connection thread, people and places, page 309.


Thanks Jeff!

Jeff that his part of Australia has fires and no rain at all as is becoming usual – although his local area has not had fires, they’re getting thick smoke from all of 200kilometres away. That’s quite a contrast to the succession of storms we’re seeing here, but may well be due to the same cause. And yet we go on consuming and flying… I guess folks don’t see an alternative.

Great finds discovered and restored: two Macgregor canoes and a Salter’s rowing gig

Macgregor canoe

Salter's skiff before restoration by Adrian Morgan Salter's skiff restored by Adrian Morgan

Adrian Morgan wrote a couple of weeks ago to remind me of some treasures that I might have missed. He’s right, I need to make amends – though in my defence nobody mentioned them to me at the time!

(Note to traditional boat builders: please tell me what you’re doing, as this website gets seen by a lot of people!)

One important find was two rare and very beautiful MacGregor canoe found in the Marquess of Aberdeen’s sawmill loft a year or so ago – Macgregors are very rare and Adrian says the canoes came with full documentation. Adrian says the canoes were like Bugattis found in a barn: complete with chicken poo and swadust, they had been untouched for nearly 100 years.

Naturally, the Royal Canoe Club were over the moon and the canoes have since been restored by Colin Henwood.

There’s more about Macgregor here and here.

Another discovery at the same site was a half-rigged rowing gig made by Salter’s, which Adrian went on to restore – there’s more about this boat at Adrian’s website, but he says the colour of the Brazilian mahogany that appeared after weeks of stripping the gig was amazing. After treating the splits, liberal doses of Varnol brought the timber back from dry lifelessness to rich, deep colour.

Traditional boat builder Adrian Morgan is based at Ullapool and has a website at and a weblog at The weblog is certainly interesting: recent posts argue for working with your hands rather than a mouse; praise the Jumbo, the Solent and the work of  Fair Isle boat builder Ian Best; and appeal for plans for longish gun punts.

PS – I’m reminded that informative notes on the Rob Roy canoe are included in Macgregor’s book The Rob Roy on the Baltic, which is available from Dixon-Price Publishing. There’s also some material in the book Practical Boat Building For Amateurs.