BBA students build a new design composite sailing canoe

Boat Building Academy students Richard Lyford from Portland and Steve Roberts built and launched a newly designed 14ft 5in composite sailing canoe as part of a 38-week boatbuilding course. The photos are by Janine Cashin, Liz Griffiths, Becky Joseph, John  Pritchard, Grant Morris and Jenny Steer.

Richard took a career break to attend the course.

Richard believes that with interest in the Victorian idea of sailing canoes is growing in the UK and that we’re on the way to a real revival. So he worked with sailing canoe specialist company Solway Dory to develop and design a new light-weight composite sailing canoe and built a prototype as part of his course.

Water sports enthusiast Steve joined the course from a career in the Royal Navy where here worked as a mine clearance diver.

The two created a tulip-wood hull plug, which was then glass and epoxied to create the mould, which was lifted off the plug, polished and used to create the canoe.

Rock Pipit can be paddled or sailed, and has an unstayed Bermuda rig, which Richard argues is simple to rig and easy to reef.

She looked elegant in white and royal blue, so much so that BBA technician Steve Hewins, a man who has seen countless boats, watched her go out and said ‘One day I’m going to have one of those… ‘

Richard returns to his job as a Submarine Systems Engineer in July. Steve has already started work at Compass Tenders, Port Hamble, building bespoke tenders for superyachts.

The Rock Pipit design will become part of the Solway Dory range. If you are on the Devon or Cornwall coast or estuaries look out for Richard, who intends to use his new sailing canoe as often as possible.

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Veteran and vintage dinghies sailing in the Australian sun

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It happens every year. Just at the moment when our English winter starts to get me down, someone sends over a couple of fabulous photos that make me sigh and wish I could be somewhere else, and out on the water.

This time it’s the turn of Jeff Cole, intheboatshed.net regular (see these posts) who has sent over a couple of shots taken by HS (Hans) of the Woodenboat forum.

Here’s what he says:

‘Hi Gavin, I’ve been busy restoring boats for a local wooden dinghy regatta. The Iain Oughtred-designed Macgregor canoe needed some serious attention and an Australian Sailfish that my cousin and I built in 1963 had to be completely restored as it had had a hard life through various branches of the family and always leaked through a badly underbuilt centreboard case. But she came up well, and dry!

‘My cousin Andy had not sailed the boat for at least 35 years, but on the day I couldn’t get him off it!

‘Most of the boats were older racing class boats, but mine was unique. The oldest was a Sydney 15 footer, an open clinker built boat nearly 100 years old and another from the 1950s in rather delicate condition but when they got it going it stormed through the fleet, including the modern boats.

‘The rest were mostly John Boats, Jolly Boats, Moths, Mirrors and Herons.

‘The regatta was at the Victorian coastal town of Inverloch. Due to changes to the estuary the water we were sailing on was very narrow and shallowed abruptly at the edges of the sandbars at low tide. What with the vintage fleet swanning about and the normal club races and a fleet of personal water craft buzzing around it got quite crowded. But it was a fun weekend, with 2.5 days of sailing and half a day of show and tell in the park.

‘There are more pics on Woodenboat forum Antipodean Boats Connection thread, people and places, page 309.

‘Jeff”

Thanks Jeff!

Jeff that his part of Australia has fires and no rain at all as is becoming usual – although his local area has not had fires, they’re getting thick smoke from all of 200kilometres away. That’s quite a contrast to the succession of storms we’re seeing here, but may well be due to the same cause. And yet we go on consuming and flying… I guess folks don’t see an alternative.

Great Britain circumnavigating sailing canoeist Gavin Millar pauses for thought

Gavin and Stacey at the Tees and Hartlepool Yacht Club

Round Britain sailing canoeist Gavin Millar has reached Amble in Northumberland – progress that amounts to something like a third of the distance he hoped to cover in about half the time the time he has available.

In the worst summer weather I can recall, his progress seems to me to be nothing short of wonderful, and I’m quite sure that he’s succeeding in one of his key aims, to demonstrate the abilities of the sailing canoe.

For one thing, I know he’ll be giving quite a few dinghy and small yacht sailors cause to stop and think about whether their boating approach is the right one for the location, available time and budget.

Readers who would like to know a little more about the fascinating 150-year history of cruising by sailing canoe in the UK, a good place to start is Gavin’s website, which includes a page on just this topic.

But the weather conditions must be wildly frustrating for the man himself. He must so wish he’d done it last year or next.

But talking with him, you quickly get an impression of a man with a very considered  approach to life. I imagine his daily routine must involved a certain amount of something close to meditation, and his weblog post of yesterday has exactly that quality as he considers his options as the time available to complete his voyage runs a little short:

‘I’ve decided to press on and to get as far as I can. And if I don’t complete the entire route then I’ll return to finish it at a later date. I’ve also been reminding myself of some of the reasons why I have chosen to make this voyage in a sailing canoe. These include not only the challenge itself but also the opportunity to explore the very varied and often stunningly beautiful British coastline in a way that’s often not possible in a yacht and sometimes not possible by sailing dinghy. The closeness to the physical experience, the ability to land on a wide variety of beaches and to get up close to headlands, cliffs and to some isolated and little visited parts of our coast are some of the attractions.

‘So, next I head on past the delights of the Northumbrian Coast before reaching a Scotland. And I’ll continue to try to communicate the excitement and enjoyment of travelling by sailing canoe as best I can.’

Go Gavin! For me, you can stuff most of the Olympics. Gavin and Stacey’s circumnavigation of Great Britain is the best sporting reason to pray for better weather.

PS Gavin has a Facebook page featuring brief details of his progress – if Fb’s your thing, I’m sure he’d appreciate as many ‘likes’ as he can get.