Keelman and war hero Jack Crawford nails his colours to the mast

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crawford

Jack Crawford climbs the rigging

Searching a few weeks ago for information about a quite different Jack Crawford, I learned about the one pictured above.

He was a keelman from Sunderland until he was press-ganged into the Royal Navy in his early 20s, and found himself on board HMS Venerable under Admiral Duncan, the Royal Navy Commander-in-Chief of the North Seas. The story of this Jack Crawford’s fame, though, begins at the battle of Camperdown, in 1797, when the British and Dutch navies met in battle off the coast of Norway, near Camperdown, close to Bergen.

Instead of forming a line of ships, Admiral Duncan split the British fleet into two groups, which broke through the Dutch ships, firing broadsides. Although a daring move, it was successful because the Dutch ships were not yet ready for battle, and it prevented the Dutch fleet from joining the French navy in order to invade Ireland.

HMS Venerable’s main mast was broken in the fighting, but while under heavy fire the young Jack climbed it and nailed the Union Jack to it. This was the command flag of Admiral of the Fleet, and was both an  important identifier and a symbol of British power.

The loss of the flag could be a great blow to morale and could affect a battle, and the phrases to ‘nail your colours to the mast’ and ‘show your true colours’ are believed to refer to the importance of these flags.

In recognition Jack was later formally presented to King George III and granted a pension.

For much more on this story, the monuments to this local hero and information on material in Sunderland’s museum, click here.

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Heckstall-Smith and du Boulay on the origin of 19th century racing yachts


Wood engraving The Yacht Race – A Sketch from the Deck of a
Competing Yacht
, was published in Harper’s Weekly in  1872.
Taken from the Wikimedia Commons

Although Charles II was almost as enthusiastic about yachting as he was about his many mistresses, his collection of 16 yachts do not seem to have had much of an influence on later racers.

From their researches including studying Clark’s History of Yachting up to the year 1815, Heckstall-Smith and Du Boulay say later racing yachts derived their form largely from revenue cutters.

They write: ‘the fashionable type of cutter was about three and a quarter beams to her length, her midship section was so round it might have been drawn with a pair of compasses. She had a nearly vertical stem, and a  short counter high above the water. The greatest breadth was just abaft or close abreast of the mast. The bow was therefore bluff, and the run long and often not ungraceful.’

The type was known as ‘cod’s head and mackerel tail’ and had evolved  in competition with the craft used by smugglers. This seems to me to be a case of a rather imperfect form of evolution, if faster boats could have been achieved by moving the greatest beam aft, but there are some good stories about how the same boat builders worked for both smugglers and  the revenue men.

Living in Kent as I do, this one from Heckstall-Smith and du Boulay appeals to me particularly: ‘it has been recorded that Mr White of Broadstairs, whose descendants afterwards moved to Cowes, used to lay down two cutters side by side, very much as 19-metres and 15-metres are laid down today, and the Government officials used to puzzle their brains to puzzle out which would turn out the faster, knowing that whichever boat they bought, the other would be sold for smuggling.’

For more on revenue cutters at intheboatshed.net, click here.

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Model Julie skiff photos from Ben Crawshaw

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Ben Crawshaw’s model of the Julie skiff

Down in Spain, Light Trow builder Ben Crawshaw turns out to be the first intheboatshed.net reader to come up with a model of the Julie skiff. Well done Ben! I’m pleased that other people are beginning to see this little boat’s potential.

There has been some wild weather where he lives in the last few days, so perhaps he’s taken the opportunity to make the model. He writes:

‘Well done Gav, a pretty design in the best tradition of the lightweight rowing skiff. I like the design, a pleasing form, simple to build, light weight, plenty of buoyancy and possibilities for storage and the opportunity to titivate using pretty wood for the breasthook and quarter knees.

‘I particularly like the way the breasthook sits over the foredeck and the idea of storing an anchor in the slot between the two. The ample sternsheets give it a Ratty and Mole feel and I can imagine a wicker picnic hamper in there somewhere.

‘I’d be interested in seeing a sailing version with the mast stepped aft of the forward frame so as not to compromise the watertight compartment. One thing I’d also like to see on this rowing version is the possibility for two pairs oars and two rowers, maybe with temporary thwarts.’

I’ve been thinking about the same things Ben, and will have a go at working them in.

How about extending the sternsheets slightly forward, adding a seat back, and leaving a space behind the seat and the transom for that hamper?

One issue that I’d like to address a little further is how to balance the boat with a weight in the stern, and a possibility would be to make the central transom removable and include optional second transom further forward.

Something similar might make a second rowing position aft a possibility if the sternsheets were removed, but I’m not so sure that’s the way to go, as a 17ft version for two rowers might well be a much better way to use the rowing power of two people. I need to think about this a little more.

If you build this boat – even if it’s a model – PLEASE let me know by getting in touch via gmatkin@gmail.com

See Ben’s comments at his weblog theinvisibleworkshop.

Download: intheboatshed.net Julie skiff plans

See all posts so far on this boat:

Complete free plans package for the intheboatshed.net flat-bottomed 15ft 6in skiff
intheboatshed.net skiff – drawings and coordinates for stitch and glue
intheboatshed.net skiff – photos of our model, and maybe yours too?
Intheboatshed.net skiff – now we can make a model
Intheboatshed.net skiff progress
Early drawings for a 15ft 5in lightweight flat-bottomed American-style skiff

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