Traditional boats of Ireland photographed by boatbuilder and weblogger Tiernan Roe

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Tiernan Roe 1

Heir Island lobster boat Rose and Galway hooker An Faoilean Tiernan Roe 2

Heir Island lobster boat Saoirse Muireann owned byhistorian and
author Cormac Levis

The two gaffers in the upper photo are Rose an Heir Island lobster boat on the left and An Faoilean a Galway hooker on the right. The Saoirse Muireann below is another Heir Island lobster boat, and is owned by historian Cormac Levis author of the well known and highly regarded book Towelsail Yawls describing the sailing lobsterboats of Heir Island and Roaringwater Bay.

The photos have been sent in by Tiernan Roe, boatbuilder and weblogger based at Ballydehob, West Cork.

From the 1870s to the 1950s, sailing boats dominated the lobster fishery of Ireland’s south coast, and the lobstermen lived a semi-nomadic lifestyle over a hundred hundred nautical mile stretch of coastline in the small open boats, yet it’s said that until Levis did his research and wrote Towelsail Yawls, their way of life had been in danger of passing unrecorded. I should add that although it was published as recently as 2002, the book already seems difficult to find – which seems to suggest that he did an excellent job.

As a bonus, here are three photos of a John Atkin Ninigret 22ft outboard boat that Tiernan’s currently building being turned over at his Ballydehob workshop. Follow his weblog Roeboats at http://roeboats.wordpress.com/.

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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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