The Great Big Cornish Gig Project

Great Big Cornish Gig Project

A group of wounded war veterans have built a Cornish pilot gig named Valiant in the National Maritime Museum Cornwall’s workshops at Falmouth, and a few days ago set out on an ambitious row to the Scillies.

The project is supported by National Maritime Museum Cornwall and military charities including the Armed Forces Community Covenant Grant scheme and Help For Heroes. It was originally an idea developed by Mike Selwood and Andy Wyke NMMC, and the build was led by boat builder Andrew Nancarrow.

Along the way, the team of veterans have trained in boatbuilding skills, build a gig, learned to row and will compete in the 2016 World Pilot Gig Championships.

The project doesn’t have its own website, but there’s this page at the NMMC website and a few bits and pieces on the NMMC Twitter account – and this Facebook  page, which looks as if it will likely be the best source of information on their progress, though time will tell.

For more posts about Cornish pilot gigs, click here.

1908 Falmouth-built rowing boat White Owl is restored and back on the water

White Owl arrives at the Museum White Owl Launch

The 1908 15ft rowing boat named White Owl has been restored at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall.

White Owl was built in Falmouth in 1908, by Jacketts Yard, which priced her at ten shillings per foot – one of Jacketts’ best known customers was the Newlyn School painter and photographer Henry Scott Tuke. See his entry at the Wikipedia website to see some of his works and for his story.

Although White Owl has undergone extensive work, she is said to retain much of her original timber.

The conservation and restoration was started by the well known local boat builder Ralph Bird before he died, and finished by a team of Museum volunteers led by Henry Wylie.

The team is now starting work on restoring a Mevagissey tosher.

Sea Queen was built at Mevagissey in 1924 by legendary boat builder Percy Mitchell – she was in fact only the second boat he built. The first stage of her restoration is being funded by a donation from one of the Museum’s trustees and the Museum is currently seeking funds to purchase the materials for the remaining work.

Percy Mitchell’s son Gary will be giving a lunchtime lecture at the NMMC 3 March next year, where he will be discussing his father’s life and work – he built no less than 360 boats ranging from dinghies to racing yachts. To book seats call 01326 214546.

Sea Queen

Boat Building Academy and National Maritime Museum Cornwall launch short courses at Falmouth

Ropework course

The National Maritime Museum Cornwall and the Boat Building Academy have teamed up to run a series of short three- and five-day courses at the Falmouth museum’s premises.

The first weekend course, ‘Make a fender – decorative ropework and splicing’, with BBA visiting instructor Roy Gollop on 30 and 31 March will teach decorative ropework and splicing, and participants will make a fender to take away.

Roy began his marine career as an apprentice boat builder in 1946 before enlisting in the Royal Marines, where he was responsible first for landing craft operations before becoming senior instructor of seamanship.

He returned to Lyme Regis and managed the family fishing business for several years until he reopened his  toolbox and began building clinker dinghies and working boats for local people.

BBA  principal Yvonne Green says that running short courses at the NMMC gives the Academy the opportunity to offer short practical workshops outside the limited space available at its Lyme Regis premises.

  • hand tool sharpening and timber preparation 4th-5th May
  • basic joints 11th-12th May
  • dovetails 18th-19th May
  • wooden boat restoration 17-21 June
  • bending wood 22-23 June
  • half model making 29th-30th June
  • replace and scarf a plank 6th-7th July
  • repair a ply dinghy 3rd-4th August
  • ‘Knees up’ with Gail McGarva (shape a knee for a 12ft clinker sailing dinghy and have it fitted to a boat) 17th-18th August
  • basic woodworking skills continued 30th September – 4th October
  • oar making 2nd-3rd November

More information is in the programme: BBA courses at the NMMC 2013.

Also new from the BBA is a timber supply and machining service that will also cut timber brought in by customers.

Timber generally in stock includes sapele (25mm, 32mm and 50mm), American white oak (25mm and 50mm), European oak (25mm, 32mm and 50mm), Western red cedar (25mm and 50mm), Douglas fir (25mm, 32mm and 50mm), Far Eastern ply (4mm, 6mm, 9mm, 12mm and 18mm), Robbins Elite ply (6mm).

Machining of strip planking (with bead and cove) at 6mm and 9mm thickness is also available. Contact the BBA on 01297 445545 or email

Sawn timber