Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Back on the Tideway

To London yesterday with Langstone Adventure Rowing to help train crews from a major corporation taking part in the Great River Race on Saturday week.
They should have been coxing themselves but a couple of no-shows meant I was yelling at them again, in a brutally supportive way.
We launched at the Surrey Docks Watersports Centre on Greenland Dock, just behind and to the right of the tailfin of this aircraft:
I kept a wary eye on the sky but he didn't seem to be around.
Today the dock is very charming, lined with homes rather than wharves.
Getting on to the river was a bit challenging. First there is a narrow, low swing bridge, then a narrow, deep and alarming lock. Lots of shortening oars and trying to get hold of the cables so we didn't drift out into the middle. I made a complete Horlicks of it going out. The boat was behaving very oddly and didn't seem to respond to the oars in the usual way at all, possibly due to the combination of a light breeze and a gentle current. Anyway, we finally got attached and the lock gates opened revealing troubled water outside. My heart sank. Happily, Mike Gilbert in the other boat went first.
One of the cox's necessary skills is to look totally confident at all times so we struck out, oars shortened, and were rewarded with a lovely autumn evening on the river with views of Canary Wharf, Greenwich and, towards the City, the Shard, the Walkie-talkie, the Cheesegrater and the Gherkin.
Thanks to Mike for the pictures.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Southampton Boat Show (cont)

New to Soton was Colin Evans of Evans Boatwork in Pembrokeshire, with a model of the Atlantic Beachboat, a design that could, he believes, finally provide the ideal compromise between rowing and sailing.
The ketch rig is designed to take the sails out of the way of the four oarsman and, very ingeniously, the helmsman as well - note how the tiller can be swung without the need for huge loopy shapes or extensions to avoid the mizzenmast.
Colin has also given her a decent bit of beam so she should be reasonably well-behaved, unlike sailing pilot gigs which apparently go over at the drop of a hat. The loose-footed lugsails won't wreak havoc with oarsman's sculls while providing quite a lot of power.
The length, 28 ft, should give a reasonable turn of speed under oars despite the extra beam.
The hull is designed to be supplied as a kit for construction by teams of amateurs in the same way as the St Ayles skiff.
I would really like to see this boat in action - anyone up for building the prototype?

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Southampton Boat Show

To the Southampton Boat Show where the atmosphere in the small boats ghetto was much chippier than in recent shows. The talk was all of increased orders and investment in new designs.
The new boy was Dad's Boats with a pedal-powered boat for inland waterways (well, mainly inland waterways - apparently an early version was pedalled round the Isle of Wight by its inventor and builder David Williams).
David, the Dad in the company name, started building pedal-powered boats in the 1950s so he could follow his remote control yacht while keeping his hands free for the controls. One of his designs was taken up by Swallow Boats as the 'Winsome' but only a few were ever built.
Now Dad's Boats, based in Ludham on the Norfolk Broads, are trying again with a design more closely modelled on David's original.
She certainly looks comfortable, with yacht-style seats facing each other so the pedalers can chat as the world goes by.
The picture shows director Stephen Pitkethly and his son Joseph showing off the boat, which is available to order as production begins - see for more.

Friday, 12 September 2014


Burseldon Blogger was at Dell Quay recently and spotted a rare sight - a schooner-rigged dinghy - and posted some pictures.
But the event was even rarer than he supposed. That is me actually sailing.
The boat is Ever Hopeful, designed by Conrad Natzio and built by her owner and, in these pictures, jib man Wayne Oliver. His mate Marcus has the foresail sheet.
Wayne and Marcus come down every year to the Dinghy Cruising Association's camping week at Cobnor, and it has been interesting to see how the boat has evolved. She started out as a yawl but was terribly slow, so she has now been rerigged as a schooner and is faster, though she is unlikely to win many speed trials (although her downwind performance is surprisingly good).
Graham at Port-na-Storm went out with them one day this year. He beautifully describes Wayne's ultra-relaxed skippering style, and the 'Fletcher Christian moment' when he took command.
Well, I am sorry to say that I had no such moment. I took hold of the tiller the second I got in the boat and kept a'holt of 'er for the entire day. It was great. The sun was out but not too hot, there was a nice steady breeze most of the time and Ever Hopeful's flat bottom and nicely flared sides are supremely comfortable for a lazy sailor.
The only depressing thing was watching Graham disappear into the sunset in his Coot as we had to put in yet another tack before we could exploit the nice long reach down Itchenor channel.
So thanks Wayne and Marcus for a great day and sorry about the martinet behaviour. I'm already looking forward to next year. And thanks to Max at Burseldon for sending the pics.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

A New Project

A few weeks ago I picked up a bit of my childhood - Snarleyow Too, otherwise known as Little Snarley.
She is a flat bottomed lock-keeper's punt, designed as a work boat for workers on the Thames to ferry themselves and their tools around. They were economical to make but handy little boats (11ft 6in long) that made good platforms for fishing, which is why my grandmother had this one made at the boathouse at Carmel College near Wallingford around 1960.
It was a copy of the first Snarleyow Too, pictured in this blog here. I remember helping to bring her from Carmel back to Riverside, sitting in the boat clutching the boatbuilder's launch. 
She has been sitting in a barn since 1968 (the last Thames Conservancy plaque for, 1967, is still attached to the stern thwart.
My son Miles and I hacked our way through brambles to the barn to recover the hull. I was surprised at its good condition, considering she has been out of the water for 45 years. Many of the bits are missing but they are easily replaced.
Little Snarley is small but just big enough to lie down in, so I may be able to camp in her. And she is only a bit bigger than a stand-up paddleboard.
I think she may be a good camp-cruising boat for rivers and canals, powered by a stand-up paddle. 
After we attached the boat to the back of the car, we went for lunch at the excellent Pike and Perch in South Stoke, a few miles downstream. My cousins and I drove but the kids rowed:

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Saluting the Tall Ships

To Greenwich with Langstone Cutters to join the Queen's Row Barge Gloriana in a processional down the tall ships moored there at the end of their race from Falmouth.
It was a great day for a row, if a bit bouncy on the tideway for such light and low racing machines as the Solent galleys, but it was a bit disappointing not to see the tall ships together in what might have been a magnificent forest of masts. Instead, they were spread out along the shoreline from Deptford nearly to Charlton, presumably so they could use the deep water moorings and eliminate the need for ferry services.
The unexpected problem was photography and the traditional telegraph-pole-through-the-back-of-the-head-shot (I expect the Germans have a word for it). Above, Gloriana looks as though she is about to set sail.
And here is the crew of Sallyport carrying a clipper on their heads.
After the row and the race that followed, the fleet headed back to Deptford for a rather stylish locally-brewed beer.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Egg Banjos

It is getting all misty, mellow and fruitful all of a sudden, which is both lovely and sad. Today first thing was one of those gorgeous, grey windless days with mirror water and the sun just trying to break through but not succeeding.
We rowed to the top end of the Langstone Archipelago for egg banjos* - that's me frying the eggs and Sam margeing the white sliced (there are laws against using butter on artisanal wholemeal bread for egg banjos).
*If you haven't had the ill fortune to serve in the British armed forces, or be a decayed old hack, you can find out what an egg banjo is here and see a practical demonstration here.
Thanks to Louise Linton-Evans for the pics.