Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Rowing in the Basque Country

For journalistic reasons I get press releases about property round the world which I usually glance at and delete in one fluid operation, but today I got one about the northern Spanish region of Cantabria, and the words "fierce local rowing competitions" just leapt off the page.
A quick Google and I discovered a rather wonderful boat called the trainera (pronounced try-nera), the traditional rowing boat of the Basque country.
The trainera gets its name from closely-woven nets called traina, used to catch anchovies and sardines. the working traineras of yesteryear were broader for greater carrying capacity and could also be sailed, but they were raced from at least 1859 when the first recorded regatta was held at Santander. 
The introduction of the infernal combustion engine made traineras obsolete for fishing but racing continued, the boats evolving into a much slenderer shape for speed. New ones are high tech indeed, using carbon fibre and kevlar, but they still use a traditional single thole pin with the oar attached by a loop of rope called an estribo (known in Catalonia as an estrop and in Scotland as a humliband. I love these words).
The hulls are 12m long and carry a crew of 12 rowers in pairs plus a bowman (callled a proel) and cox (called the patron).
The stern is an interesting canoe shape. Apparently, turning the boat any sort of a sea is a very tricky operation, which I imagine may be because the stern would slice through an incoming wave and risk swamping the boat whereas the little transom on a Cornish pilot gig would lift the stern out of the water. Mind you, turning a gig away from the wind is not a risk-free operation either.
Another joy was discovering Pamela Cahill's lovely blog, from which I ruthlessly stole these pictures. An Irishwoman living in Santander, Pamela's club sounds like fun. She writes: "When it’s warm outside we go over to the Puntal sandbank and park up to have a swim. When it’s cold – it’s a hot coffee before we go – a fast row with our fleeces on – and a coffee again to warm up on dry land. The destination is determined by the wind and the weather rather than anything else. Some days we are adventurous and pack a picnic and head off for a few miles up river to the Rio Cubas. (When I say picnic, you should read banquet fit for a king.)"
Sounds just like Langstone Cutters. Who, incidentally, are rowing out for a Full English at the Marina Bar tomorrow first thing. 
Pamela's blog is at http://pamelacahill.com/2014/06/21/trainera-rowing-santander-bay/. Scroll down for lots more pictures of traineras, and other local boats.


The monster aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is visiting Portsmouth, so Langstone Cutters decided to row round it. 
We launched at Lee-on-the-Solent, from which the ship was clearly visible, pulled south, dodged an LPG tanker in the shipping lane and got shoed away by the military police (commonly known as the modplod) in their rib. They looked bored out of their skulls. Then we went home. The weather was only a tad away from being idyllic.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Bringing in the Boat

To mark the start of the rowing season, Langstone Cutters holds a little service to Bless the Boats. The vicar of Havant comes round, we sing the world's dirgiest hymn (For Those In Peril), he sprinkles holy water over the boats and we force him to go out rowing in one.
For that purpose, the Mighty Claydon skiff Gladys had to be brought in from her mooring. Usually this is done by two rowers and a cox in one of the Teifis but the weather was lovely and everyone seemed to be busy with stuff so I went out to do it on my own.
Here I am tying the painter onto the thwart and releasing the mooring buoy:
Towing her back was an odd sensation. When coming forward, Lotty slows down but heavy old Gladys comes right on, so half of the next stroke is taken up getting the tow rope tight again - then jerking Gladys forwards.
When I got her safely in I found they were all taking photos to record the disaster they were confidently expecting. Ha!
(Tnanks to Ron Williams for the pics).

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Time for a new camera

My super-cool Lumia phone is so silkily styled it keeps slipping out of my hands onto the floor - it has a less than cool line of dings round the metal edge already. So I changed to an older, cheaper, smaller Nokia with a plastic back that is less likely to end up in the drink.
Unfortunately, the camera is crap. I really like the idea of one of these:
but I haven't managed to psyche myself up to paying 150 smackers. Yet.
The picture, should you not be able to make it out through the gloom, is of Bembridge forging along in Langstone Harbour yesterday. A monster tide of 5.2m was predicted but as it turned out a brick north-easterly wind and high atmospheric pressure kept it down and the boat park was not flooded.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Sculling in Brittany Back in the Day

I love the hats in this picture of Breton fishermen's wives in a sculling race. No date, but evidently in the good old days or possibly way back when. 
Fearlessly pinched from Roger Barnes's Facebook feed.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Boats in Glass

I have been photographing Sussex churches for years for Fishbourne Parish Magazine and the Looking at Sussex Churches blog, and if I spot a boat I snap it. Here is a slide show of all the ones I can remember.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Stand-Up Dory

Whitehall Rowing and Sail has launched an interesting new boat, the Stand-Up Dory or SUD. Just under 14ft long and 3ft 2in beam at the waterline, she is designed to be paddled but can also be rowed using a drop-in sliding seat unit with outriggers or, even more to my taste, a drop-in fixed seat unit with outriggers.
Readers with long memories may recall that I am restoring my grandmother's fishing boat with a view to propelling it along England's canals and rivers with a stand-up paddle.
Little Snarley is a Hampshire punt measuring 11ft 6in by 3ft 6in beam, so she is a good bit shorter and a tad wider than the SUD, but I think that the dimensions are about right. Unfortunately she is MUCH heavier - the SUD is 90lb at around 140lb for Snarley if my bathroom scales are to be believed (and you should see the lies it tells about my weight). Of course, Snarley is a symphony of old-growth mahogany and the SUD is foam-filled composite fibreglass so yer takes yer choice.