143-year old Solomon Islands canoe is restored for Maidstone Museum

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Solomon Islands canoe at Maidstone Museum

Solomon Islands canoe at Maidstone Museum

Solomon Islands canoe at Maidstone Museum

19th century Solomon Islands canoe arrives at
Maidstone Barracks for restoration

A mid-19th Century canoe brought to the UK by explorer Julius Brenchley is being restored before going on public show at Maidstone Museum, close to where we live in Kent, England. I hope to be able to let you all know when it goes on show. Curiously, the work’s being done at Maidstone Barracks.

Here’s the museum’s press release:

Canoe leaves museum for a year to undergo a revamp

A canoe has now left Maidstone Museum for a year’s worth of restoration work.

The 143-year-old Soloman Island fishing canoe left the St Faith’s Street museum yesterday (Thursday) to go to Maidstone’ s army barracks.

The 25-foot vessel would have been crewed by eight people and was collected by Julius Brenchley in 1865 when he travelled through the South Pacific.

While at the 36 Royal Engineer Regiment in Royal Engineers’ Road the wooden canoe will be housed in one of the hangers, where it will be worked on.

Eight people helped get it onto the removal lorry and once it had made its short journey down the road, Maidstone’s Royal Engineers helped get it into the hanger.

Conservator Justin McMorrow will be repairing and restoring the piece to bring it up to display standards. This will include cleaning; strengthening it to ensure it will stay together for the next few years and consolidating it meaning repairing parts which have previously broken. It will eventually end up as one of the key exhibits in the new East Wing of the museum.

Keeper at Maidstone Museum, Giles Guthrie said this canoe is going to be one of the ‘wow’ objects of the museum and was pleased the canoe made it in one piece. He said: ‘This piece has to be conserved because it’s an unusual item. The fact Julius Brenchley managed to get it back is a test of his ability’.

For much more on boats from cultures around the globe, go to Bob Holtzman’s great weblog Indigenous Boats.

Home Built Boat Regatta at Barton Broad 2008

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Home Built Boat Regatta, Barton Broad 2008

Home Built Boat Regatta, Barton Broad 2008

Home Built Boat Regatta, Barton Broad 2008

Home Built Boat Regatta, Barton Broad 2008

Photos thanks to Ian Ruston

Chris Perkins has kindly sent a short report on the UK’s Home Built Boat Regatta group’s successful meeting at Barton Broad on the Norfolk Broads the weekend before last.

A whacking total of 19 boats attended – a splendid result given that at least some of us feared American-style messabouts like the HBBR were unlikely to be successful in the UK, not least because so few people take the trouble to build their own boats here.

The success of the HHBR makes an important point: whatever skill level we work to, amateur boatbuilders are not alone, even in the UK!

If Chris’s name seems familiar it’s because he won last year’s Watercraft prize prize for his Iain Oughtred-designed Macgregor canoe, Scotch Mist.

Any way, here’s his report, and some splendid photos from both him and Ian.

Before you read any further, I should explain that in our changeable climate, HBBR meetings have traditionally been dogged by bad weather – there are also one of two items of detail that Chris didn’t have to hand, so please email me or use the comment link below to fill me in on anything that seems to be missing.

‘Barton Turf 24-26th May 2008

‘The usual adverse weather forecast failed to dampen the enthusiasm of the ranks of the HBBRers who made treks from all parts of the country to assemble at Barton Turf for a weekend of sailing and boatbuilding talk.

Saturday dawned bright and breezy – just how breezy we would find out later – and everybody who came managed a spell on the water, some more successfully than others. Nobody landed in the water.

A good range of designers were represented, but fittingly, 25 per cent of the attendance were from the board of designer Conrad Natzio, which was fitting as these are his home waters.

‘Canoes were well represented, but some eagerly anticipated sailing trials unfortunately had to be curtailed due to strong winds.

‘One new build made an appearance, Dave Wallwork’s Oughtred Puffin ‘Lucia’ appeared on the Sunday, a beautiful piece of work, although the incessant rain would have meant that any launching party would have smacked of masochism!

‘An excellent barbecue was provided by Barton Turf Adventure Centre, thanks Simon and Sheila Fishwick, and a variety of beverages brought by the attendees ensured a great evening was had by all – even if one gentleman did become a little lost later in the evening.

‘Sunday was an unpleasantly wet and windy day and the planned group cruise to the pub in Neatishead dwindled to the intrepid crews of two vessels. Conrad in his Spoonbill and Tony Waller rowed his Oughtred Shearwater, Isabella III, the length of Barton Broad in borrowed waterproofs.

‘The rest of us chickened out – and took to the road. After a pleasant lunch we returned to the centre and watched the rain come down for a while longer until a small party gave up on the weather and went off in search of the Museum of the Broads at Stalham.

‘Monday was not as wet as Sunday, but by then most had had enough and started to make for home. In all, despite the weather, the meet was a success and the group is now looking forward to the next rallies in September at the Cotswolds Water Park, and at Ullswater.’

Boats and crews at Barton Turf May 2008
Mermaid 137, Steve Blackman; Sandpiper ‘Nessy’, Chris Partridge; Oystercatcher ‘Everhopeful’, Wayne Oliver and Marcus Davies; Tit Willow, Chris and Ruthie Waite; Isabella III, Tony Waller; Tonawanda, Phil Oxborrow; Deux Chevaux, Ian & Janet Ruston; Ranger canoe ‘B&Q’, Graham Neil; Inwe, Richard Rooth; Serafina, Peter Nobes; Ranger 8, Lata Nobes; Puffin Lucia, Dave and Carol Wallwork; Polly’s Folly and Scotch Mist, Chris and Viv Perkins; strip-built kayak, SamB (SOTP member); Tigerella, Simon Fishwick.

In addition, Conrad Natzio brough three examples of boats built to his own designs.

Home Built Boat Regatta, Barton Broad 2008

Home Built Boat Regatta, Barton Broad 2008

Home Built Boat Regatta, Barton Broad 2008

Home Built Boat Regatta, Barton Broad 2008

Home Built Boat Regatta, Barton Broad 2008

Home Built Boat Regatta, Barton Broad 2008

Home Built Boat Regatta, Barton Broad 2008

Home Built Boat Regatta, Barton Broad 2008

Photos thanks to Chris Perkins


Restored Cuban fishing boat was used by refugees fleeing to Florida

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Fishing boat used by Cuban refugees restored

Fishing boat used by Cuban refugees restored Restored fishing boat used by Cuban refugees Restored Cuban fishing boat used by refugees

Esperanza, the day she was relaunched and at earlier stages in her restoration

It’s been a great few days for people sending me photographs, and here are some more. If any of you happen to have any stories to tell and photographs to share, please send them in!

Robin Marshall, a supporter of the Florida Gulf Coast Maritime Museum sent us these photos of a little flat-bottomed fishing boat that someone had used to sail from Cuba to the USA.

I’ve tried imagining what it must have been like so far from land in such a small boat – a flatiron skiff so small and limited in terms of seaworthiness that most of us wouldn’t sail more than a mile or two out in it, let alone the 90-plus these this brave crew must have covered.

It was all years ago, so I hope the weather was good and that what they thought they wanted really was what they wanted after all!

Here’s what Robin has to say:

‘Hi Gavin.

‘I thought you might be interested in an unusual restoration.

‘Our local maritime museum the Florida Gulf Coast Maritime Museum in Cortez took on this project – the remains of a Cuban refugee fishing boat.

‘It had been left to rot in someones yard down in southern Florida and was almost rotted away.

‘Under the guidance of Bob Pitt, who is in charge of the workshop, the museum restored her using as much as possible of her original timbers. She was re-launched this weekend at our annual wooden boat festival.

‘Robin Marshall a member of the museum’

Many thanks Robin!

For more on boat restoration in the area, check this lot: Great Florida Gulf Coast Traditional Small Craft Assn

For more on flatiron skiffs and a whole range of other North American boat types, I recommend the classic work by Howard Irving Chappelle, Small American Sailing Craft. For material on building them try The Sharpie Book.