St Ayles skiffs in rough sea

Skiffies in rough sea

It’s likely an illusion, but it seems that there’s always seems to be someone having more fun than I am. A day or two ago it was that Chris Partridge going rowing when he should have been working, and today, as I munch my calorie-controlled lunch, its the Scottish Coastal Rowing types at Portobello launching their community built St Ayles skiffs into as much surf as they dare.

Do take a look at their gallery for some more superb shots.

Now I’d better break off to get back to half-heartedly chewing my microwaved carrots.

Video: The Sea Bright skiff – working on the Jersey Shore

Seabright skiff building

Here’s a charming half-hour film about fishermen and traditional boat builders working with Sea Bright skiffs – and if you’re patient it comes with some very nice music on the melodeon, or accordion, if that’s what you like to call it, starting at about 14.40 minutes. If anyone knows what it’s called, I’d like to track it down.

While we’re at it, this shorter clip about a pirogue maker in Louisiana working with an adze is pretty good too. Is that a fretless banjo in the background? And who is that singer? Finally – here’s a video about the Cajuns by Alan Lomax. It’s not about boats, but you do get some real culture round here, doncha?

Thanks to Thomas Armstrong of 70.8% for pointing out the Sea Bright skiff video on Facebook.

A guide for new surfboat sweep hands

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Instructions for new sweeps

The moment of truth

Some time ago Australian surf rower Bill ‘Woofa’ Barnett wrote a manual explaining the facts of life for new sweeps – the people who steer surfboats.

Being a sweep is a highly skilled activity in which experience counts for a lot, and I gather good sweeps continue in the role for many decades.

However, for most boat users, the manual  will be an extraordinary, jaw-dropping document. It’s divided into two main sections covering coping with surf and competing in races. The first section is the one that caught my attention. Here’s a couple of quotes:

Going over a big greenie

‘This is spine chilling and the boat will land with a thud on the other side of this wall of water. Your job is to land well balanced, on your feet controlling the sweep oar, so that it does not slam down on the quarter bar or stroke’s head. Calm your crew and get them going again at top speed… Remember you are never safely through surf until you are atleast 100m past the regular break line.’


Surf sense

‘Some of the greatest sweeps of all time could not swim, had no original surf sense, broke many boats and nearly killed themselves, many times. They succeeded with pure guts and determination.’

Read more at the Australian Surf Rowers League website: Sweeps Manual

After reading some of this manual, it comes as no surprise that the publishers accept no responsibility for anything that might go wrong when following these instructions. You only have to see a few photos to understand why!

My thanks to Dale for pointing this out!

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