A traditional Hebridean lugger built by Harris boatbuilder John Macaulay

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Macaulay 6

Macaulay 2 Macaulay 5 Macaulay 1

Macaulay 3 Macaulay 4

One of the treats of the Beale Park Thames Boat Show was seeing one of John Macaulay’s traditional Hebridean skiffs full of old-fashioned boatbuilding features.

Note the short floors and ribs, for example – they’re very much what one sees in a Viking ship or Viking canoe. What’s more, the oarlocks and oars obviously belong to a time before the fashion for adopting rowing racing practice brought in round oars in round oarlocks capable of being rotated.

For an earlier post on Macaulay, click here.

This interesting article sheds light on the man himself: John Mcaulay Boatbuilder. Of the virtues of wooden boats he says: ‘There is only one boat worth having and that is a wooden boat. They are unique; one off and beautiful. How anyone with any sensitivity could choose a plastic hull over a wooden one made by hand, I will never know.’

Here’s another newspaper piece in the Stornaway Gazette describing the restoration of a Western Isles boat.

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Motor launch Louise is ribbed out

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Louise gets her new ribs

Hampshire-based and Devon-trained boatbuilder Nick Smith has sent us some more photos of his current 16ft clinker-built motor launch project, Louise. This time he’s steaming and fitting her ribs, a process that would be recognised by boatbuilders going back many centuries.

‘Hi Gav

Louise is now ribbed out: the oak timbers, approxiamately 3/4  by 5/8in went in the steam box when steam was up, and cooked for the best part of an hour – the rule of thumb is an hour per square inch cross section, but it depends on the moisture content. ‘Green’ – almost straight off the tree – is best.

An hour and three quarters later we were done, including a beer break to put the second batch in the box.

The next job is to rivet all the copper nails , then gunl’s, risers, knees, breasthook and engine beds.

I went to the Beaulieu Boat Jumble yesterday and picked up, among other things, a period pattern matching pair of bronze fairleads, likewise a foredeck cleat, a bronze bilge pump and deck filler fitting, all to match the era of the design.

Thats it for now, more in a couple of weeks.


Thanks Nick – I really like to see these projects progressing.

Click here for an earlier post about this project. If you don’t already know him, Nick comes from Devon and specialises in new builds in clinker and carvel for sail, motor and rowing power from 8ft to 28ft with a special emphasis on West Country style and design, and also takes on repairs and refits from 25ft to 50ft. He can be contacted by email at nick_smith_boatbuilder@yahoo.com and by phone on phone on 07786 693370.

For some photos of Nick’s boats at last year’s Beale Park Thames Boat Show, click here. Nick tells me he’s be at the show again this summer, so if you’re interested it might be wise to put the dates 5th-7th June in your diary…

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17ft clinker-built launch Lisa gets framed-out

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Nick Smith’s latest build Lisa gets her ribs

While we were away, professional boatbuilder Nick Smith sent us this brief update on his current commission, a 17ft launch to be called Lisa. Here’s his note to me about it – I love the human touches, and the sense of a continuing tradition in what he says:

‘Hi Gavin,

‘For your interest here’s a photo of Lisa framed out.

‘It took two and a half hours (including a break for cold beer) from steam up. There were four of us, two outside driving the copper nails and two inside bending the timbers.

‘The first five seconds after taking the rib out of the steam box are crucial – that’s all the time we have to give the frame a quick ‘pre bend’ and then a final bend into place, ready to nail while the rib is still hot. No drilling of the rib is necessary.

‘I first did this task when I was 16 years old and it has remained unchanged for donkey’s years.

‘So the next job is to rivet all the nails, with one bloke outside (traditionally it’s the apprentices job, that is the ‘boy’) holding an iron (or dolly) on the nail head while I work inside the boat doing the rivetting (or clenching).

‘First I drive a ‘rove ‘ (or ‘roove’ or ‘ ruv’ onto the nail. The exact name depends on where you are in the country), but it’s basically a copper washer. For this we use a rove driver and a hammer, then cut off the point of the nail with a pair of ‘cut nippers’ then rivet ( or ‘peen’) over the rest of the nail with a rivetting hammer, which is just a ball peen hammer of an appropriate weight. Its a dull job and therefore traditionally done quickly from start to finish to get it over with!

‘Thats it for now Gavin some more photos when the engine is in.

‘Thanks, Nick’

And thanks to you Nick!

Nick Smith can be contacted at nick_smith_boatbuilder@yahoo.com.

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