A little reading for Christmas: the NMMC’s Maritime Views


Tenerife rocks that might resemble a ship from a distance (photo taken by Alumnado Módulo ITG from Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve been enjoying the National Maritime Museum Cornwall’s online newsletter Maritime Views, and would like to put the word around. If somehow you haven’t got something marvellous from the Lodestar Books catalogue, Maritime Views might be something to consider on one of the quieter days ahead.

Recent features include the story of a cruising yacht named Mignonette, which in 1904 led to Britain’s last trial for cannibalism at sea; the tale of how Lt Laponetiere of HMS Pickle raced to deliver the news of the British victory at Trafalgar; and the diaries of a surgeon who aboard packet ships travelling the world during the first half of the 19th century.

Here’s a small taste of the series they’re calling the Packet Surgeon’s Journals:

Friday 22 Aug

– 7 knots an hour – weather cloudy in the morning but cleared up in the afternoon. At dinner a Mr Moone an English passenger to Rio said to Mr Geach our Master, ‘Mr Geach you are not Master of the Ship as you are falsely called – otherwise you would prevent it rolling? Why can’t you prevent it?’ ‘Why to be sure’ said Senor Ashevedo a Brazilian, ‘clearly because he is not Master of the Rolls.’

Saturday 23rd Aug

– when I got up this morning, I beheld the island of Teneriffe. This island seems to be more rocky and precipitous than Madeira – and is not so beautiful by far. At first we could not see the celebrated Peak of Teneriffe for the whole island was shrouded in thick mist, during almost the whole day, we lay off and on Oratava – the capital of Teneriffe which seems to be pretty, tho small. You being told that we were merely to land the mail and proceed we did not seek to go ashore till it was to late. In the afternoon the weather cleared up and we then obtained a sight of the peak, which is more than 12,000 feet in height – above the level of the sea…. 6 oClock P.M. we left Teneriffe and when about 30 miles distant, we then saw that view of the Peak, which is calculated to impress the mind with admiration and awe. For in by mild but clear light of the moon, towering far in majestic height above the Island. It was indeed a most magnificent sight – and not soon will I forget it.

Two Witches on show at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall

Andy Wyke and Dorset crab and lobster boats Witch of Worbarrow and Witch of Weymouth Andy Wyke and Dorset crab and lobster boat Witch of Weymouth

Boat Collection Manager, Andy Wyke with Witch of Worbarrow (front) and Witch of Weymouth (back). Boat Collection Manager, Andy Wyke with Witch of Weymouth.

Boat builder Ian Baird’s Witch of Weymouth replica of a Dorset crab and lobster boat is now on show at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall, together with the 100-year old original on which she’s based.

Witch of Worbarrow was built in 1902, and was used for catching lobsters and crabs up to six miles out to sea in Worbarrow Bay, near Weymouth. She is believed to be the only boat of her type still surviving, but after so many years of use is now too frail to put on the water.

While as a student at the Lyme Regis-based Boat Building Academy, Ian decided to build a replica of Witch of Worbarrow and so built Witch of Weymouth. The result is a traditional clinker built boat, with larch planks laid over oak frames.

Naturally, the new Witch is now the only boat of her kind still in use.

‘It would be impossible to recreate over 100 years of modification and wear and tear that her older sister has endured,’ says museum boat collection manager Andy Wyke. ‘Ian, however, took great pains to accurately copy the lines of the old boat and the final result is a beautiful representation.’

The two Witches will be on display together NMMC until end of December 2011.

Early hydroplane, foy boat Ethel and 1956 Enterprise join NMMC ‘flying boats’

Early hydroplane Defender II on the move

Early hydroplane Defender II Foy boat Ethel ramp screen image Enterprise No 2 Speedwell

Early hydroplane Defender II, foy boat Ethel, Enterprise 2

Three new ‘flying boats’ at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall in the past week are Enterprise no 2, a Tyne foy boat and an early hydroplane.

Named Speedwell, the Enterprise was built in 1956. It was designed by the prolific Jack Holt using what was then an exciting new material – waterproof plywood.

Ethel is a River Tyne foy boat built in 1907. Foy boats have been associated with the rivers of Britain’s north east coast for at least three hundred years. Their main task was to tow sailing vessels in and out of the river estuaries during periods of calm or contrary winds.

Under sail the performance of the Foy boat was not exceptional, but under oar it was a different matter – they were excellent rowing boats.

Defender II was built in 1908 for Fred May and was one of the first of a new breed of power boat now classified as an unstepped hydroplane. The boat’s hull is fairly conventional at the bow, but almost immediately flattens out, becoming virtually hollow at the stern. This allows the boat to sit on top of the water when under power, reducing drag and increasing speed. When first built Defender II reached a top speed of 14 knots, an impressive speed at the time.