What it’s really all about…

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Out to sea

Barge boat Barge boat 2 Red sails

Smack 3 Smack 2 Smack

Click on the images for much larger photos. The one at the top
makes a particularly fine background – click on the thumbnail,
then click on your right mouse button when the large image loads

We’ve just got back from a blissful weekend’s sailing around the Swale in our little Ian Proctor-designed Prelude, and here are some photos to prove it. From the top: an unknown yacht making her way seaward at low tide in the morning light; two shots of a boat belonging to one of the local sailing barges (there are two shots because one reveals something about its hull form – for more more on barges, click here); an unknown yacht rides the afternoon tide; three shots taken by Julie of a smack at Tester’s yard at the mouth of Oare Creek.

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We launch our Phil Bolger Auray punt

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Our new Auray punt tender on the lake behind Jim and Eileen’s house

We finally launched our new Phil Bolger-designed Auray punt tender with the help of our good friends Jim and Eileen Van Den Bos yesterday.

Thanks Jim and Eileen, and many thanks also for the dinner!

A collaborative effort between Julie, myself and Jim, it was made to plans included in an early chapter of his book Boats With an Open Mind, published by International Marine, and bearing in mind that tenders have hard lives, it is built using 3/8in marine ply rather than 1/4in material. DIY boat builders may also be interested to know that the oars we’re using are the ones described by R D Culler and by Jim Michalak, who has published plans for them online. I can confirm that they’re quite easy to make (though you’ll want a power planer) and work every bit as well as Jim says.

Bolger based his design on the Auray punt on a description by Claude Worth in his book Yacht Cruising, which was written in the early years of the 20th century. Worth, who observed fishermen’s boats when cruising the southern coast of Brittany thought that one particular type, which he dubbed the Auray punt, would make a good tender. Awareness of the boat type redoubled in the 1990s, when Bolger wrote about the type in Boats with an Open Mind and included his design.

One reason for Bolger’s interest in this type of boat no doubt arises from the fact that it is a traditional boat that conforms closely to his well known ‘seas of peas’ analogy relating to the design of chine boats – many of Bolger’s designs including the Micro and his flat-bottomed sharpies share the shape of the Auray punt in an elongated form.

So how does this little boat perform? On flat water with one person on board, I can say it feels light and effortless to row until it reaches hull speed on its short water line. Three-up it seems to reach its design displacement, at which it rows rather more steadily but is very well behaved. Two up, it does exactly what you’d expect with a sharply rockered hull form…

I think it will make a handsome tender, particularly if I remember to put something heavy near the bows whenever there’s someone in the stern.

The only caution I would offer is that if you find a copy of the book and decided to build the boat, make a model first!

For more on the Auray punt and Worth’s description at intheboatshed.net, click here.

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Just feet from our launch site, a moorhen resolutely sits on her floating nest made from reeds

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The almost unbelievable galley

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Galley drawing from On the High Seas – click for a larger image

Idly reading my first edition copy of On the High Seas by E Keble Chatterton, I was astonished to find this drawing of a galley.

The book itself is a largely unstructured collection of salty yarns about mutiny, exploration, slavers, pirates and high adventure – the chapter headings themselves tell a story, for they include: Chpt 1 Deep Sea Roving, Chpt IV The Profession of Piracy, Chpt VIII St Helena and the Slavers and Chpt XI Gambling with Death.

I can’t be sure that the proportions of the tippy-looking vessel shown are truly representative, but for me at least, this drawing of a galley from the chapter on the Profession of Piracy raises some practical points. It has a rig that would normally be expected to be best in beating rather than running – but I suspect sailing upwind was not its main purpose. For one thing I imagine the rowing galleries must have been vulnerable to digging-in when heeled, causing a kind of wild reverse-broach; for another I’d guess that like one of Pete Culler’s recreational skiff users, the commanders of these craft would row upwind when it was faster than sailing.

The power question is interesting. By my count there are two galleries of 27 oars here, each with six oarsmen. If well trained and well they fed, could theoretically deliver 0.2hp each – and by my calculation hat’s 324 oarsmen who, in my calculation should be able to deliver a total of 65hp. That’s not a huge amount of grunt for a ship this size, but even this figure would have to be reduced by some factor because it must have been difficult for the oarsmen at the inner and outer extremes of each oar to deliver their theoretical maximum, either because of the lack of travel or because of too much.

Surely, the man by the gunwale must have been chosen for his massive strength and the man at the far end for his height and span?

The detail shown here is fabulous. Just look at the warlike group on the forecastle and the three guns. I’d hate to see one of these coming my way, particularly if I had no wind to escape!

Here’s what Keble-Chatterton has to say:

‘The corsairs of Tunis rarely emerged from the Mediterranean, but sailed about off the south of Sardinia, or Cape Passaro at the heel of Sicily, or that historic pirate area among the Ionian Islands. The latter was a risky sphere, for the Venetian naval galleys with sails, masts, big crews of oarsmen, and with bow-guns, wsere not infrequently to be met with. The Moors feared these Venetians as their deadliest enemies, nor was the Battle of Lepanto yet forgotten. Using handy lateen-sail feluccas, with plenty of men to row as required in light or head winds, the Tunis pirates had and endless series of bays, creeks, and islands wherein to creep for rest and recreation. Such islands as Candia, Lampedusa, Rhodes and Cyprus could be used; but Tunis itself, being an open roadstead with inadequate protection from the fort, was not for them an ideal base. Algiers, on the contrary, was protected by a mole and a citadel; and there was a light showing to enable the rovers to get home from the sea.’

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