Friday, 24 July 2015

Home of the Solent galley

On Thursday, to Portsmouth with members of Langstone Cutters RC to see the parade of sail that kicked off the America's Cup event. It was very dull. We weren't allowed to take our picnic into the arena because our surface-to-air Scotch eggs and depleted uranium stuffed olives were a security risk apparently.
So we went to the beach next to Clarence Pier (scene of the last fatal duel in England) and watched the boats go by. I had been expecting a fleet, but all we got were the contestants themselves (impressive), a frigate (seen them before) and a couple of historic motor boats. And a whole bunch of ribs. So for me the highlight of the day was passing George Feltham's yard in Old Portsmouth, for it was here that our Solent galleys Bembridge and Sallyport were built back in 1961. It is possible that Langstone Lady was built there too, probably before the War, but the records have been lost.
Keith Feltham, George's grandson, remembers the yard in its heyday:
My earliest memories are of 'whalers' being built for the Admiralty during World War 2. These were clinker-built boats designed to be propelled by oars or sails and were 27 ft. long. I can remember them being built in the loft of the workshop and, when complete, being lowered into the water from the gantry which can still be seen projecting above the upper doors overlooking the top of the Camber - an operation which must have been hazardous and would not, I am sure, be acceptable to the Health and Safety Executive today!
Larger boats were constructed in the ground floor accommodation where the concrete floor was able to withstand the heavier loads and from which launching was easier although, from my recollection it was never straightforward.
It is easy to forget that power tools, which are used for everything these days, were generally not available fifty or more years ago and the majority of the work was done by hand. There was a circular saw for cutting large sections of timber and there was a band saw, powered from the same electric motor by a series of leather belts over flat rimmed drive wheels, for cutting more intricate shapes. Apart from these, most work was done by adze, hand-saw, plane etc, and the hole through the keel for the stern tube for the propeller shaft was drilled using an auger. A very different situation from today when there is a power tool available for most operations!
Boat-building at Point gradually faded out. I believe that A.W. Clemens was the first firm to go, apart from J.D. Feltham, of course, who died in 1917. Harry Feltham died while sailing in a Victory boat during an evening race in 1958. (The Victories are the 20 ft. black-hulled boats which still have a strong following in Portsmouth and can be seen regularly racing in the Solent.) George died in 1975 and then his business was closed down and my father retired. Stan carried on for a few years after this but now there are no boat-builders left on Point.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Kayaking on the A27

I've been experimenting with a dashcam, one of those video recorders that sticks to your windscreen recording a continuous loop of the last couple of hours of the view out of the windscreen. Very useful in the event of an 'accident that was not your fault' as those ads for dodgy solicitors say, but also fun. I videoed these two on the A27 between Emsworth and Chichester on my way back from rowing last Saturday.
Here's a hint, guys. Roads are for cars. Find yourselves a river. Much easier going in a kayak.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Saturday, 11 July 2015


Artwork by Ray Bartkus on the banks of the River Šešupė in Lithuania. Totally brilliant.

Saturday, 4 July 2015


Snarleyow Too was born and raised on the Thames in Berkshire - so why is she known as a Hampshire punt?
Back in the 19th century wildfowlers wanted a way of bringing themselves, their guns and their bag home. The answer was a flat-bottomed boat that could be dragged out over the mudflats at low tide before dawn, ready for the birds to leave their roosts. After the shoot, they would return to the boat and row home as the tide came in. 
That's my understanding anyway. If you know better, hit the commets section.
The type became popular on the Thames as workboats for lock keepers and platforms for fishing, still known as Hampshire punts.
Today Snarleyow Too ventured for the first time from the Thames to her ancestral waters at Prinsted, on Chichester Harbour.
She took to it with aplomb, though of course I wasn't going to drag her over the mudflats at the crack of dawn. But her ultra shallow draft meant I could navigate over the variious mudbanks and bars in the area with confidence.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Atlantic Beach Boat at Beale Park

At the Southampton Boat Show last year I met Colin Evans, who was showing a model of his Atlantic Beachboat, a four-oared lug ketch for coastal rowing and sailing. At Beale, I saw the real thing!
She really looks the business, with a long (28ft) hull but with a reasonably broad beam (6ft). For comparison, a Cornish pilot gig is 32ft long with a beam of just 4ft 10in, so they are a little hairy to sail, I am told.
The rowing arrangements in the Atlantic Beachboat are very interesting. Each rower sits on a sort of box so the deck is unimpeded at the side, which must make moving around the boat much easier when sailing - no more climbing over the thwarts like a pilot gig.
The oars are straight sea oars and seem to be made of wood, though the brochure says they are of carbon/glass - perhaps they are wooden oars made up for the prototype. They fit in rather stylish square stainless steel rowlocks.
The hull is a simple stitch and glue construction designed to be easily built by communities, youth groups or schools, in the same way as the St Ayles Skiff.
For outward-bound operations, the Atlantic Beachboat looks as though it has a lot to offer and I'd love to have a go.
You can follow Colin on Facebook.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Algonquin at Beale Park

Peeping out from between a couple of tents in the upper reaches of the show was Algonquin, built in larch on oak in Canada in about 1925 as a tender to a coastguard boat on the Great Lakes. At that time she must have seen action against the rum runners smuggling booze to the US. She looks fairly slippy with her double-ended hull and narrow beam. The original oars with the pinned rowlocks are still with her.
The boat was bought by an English academic working in Canada during the War and brought over to the Thames. She was restored by Henwood and Dean in 2007 and worked on by Stanley and Thomas in 2012.
She is now for sale at £4,950 including the trailer and if I had five grand lying about doing nothing I would buy her. Details and more pix here.