Monday, 16 July 2012

A coastal rowing boat for Norfolk?

Adrian Hodge, stalwart of the Norfolk Skiff Club ("its not that grand...it's really just me and a mate") is looking for a boat for rowing off the coast of North Norfolk. His own skiff, the lovely Cherub (seen here in Chiswick at the start of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Thames Pageant, damp but not disheartened) is not really suitable for offshore. And a club really needs at least four oars.
Adrian writes:
I always enjoy your blog, which I know has a wide and knowledgable following, so can I canvas opinions from among your readers about the "ideal" crewed coastal rowing (or sculling) boat. No doubt you will sing the praises of the Solent Galley and west country men and women will say that nothing compares with a pilot gig, but we are looking for boats for the north Norfolk coast, where there is no tradition of competitive coastal rowing.
For those unfamiliar with the area, there are drying harbours, which are well used by dinghy sailors, who rarely venture over the bar into the North Sea, having plenty of room to play behind the protecting sand dunes.
Recently enthusiastic rowers have founded the Blakeney Rowing Club, which operates from the town sailing club site. But, wouldn't it be good if Wells, Brancaster, Morston and Blakeney could all have crews competing in similar boats. A similar model to the successful Scottish Coastal Rowing Association.
So what we want is a four (or six) man boat that is inexpensive, robust, seaworthy and fun.
Regards,
Adrian
Any suggestions?
My idea would be to consult Andrew Wolstenholme, who is based in the Broads and would be very capable of producing a nice-looking four-oared boat. His design for a Workstar cutter would be very suitable if a strictly traditional design was not required, being stable, equipped with modern flotation tanks and probably quite fast:

12 comments:

Chris said...

Celtic Longboat? Not the prettiest but mighty effective and well proven. The temptation to commision something new must be very strong though...

Brian said...

Going to Andrew wolstenholme is teh way to go I reckon. I spoke to him about the Workstar and he only has study drawings and needs about 4 boats to be built to pay for completing the design. He draws such beautiful boats, why not stick with the efficient CNC cutting and assembly of the Workstar but with a more tradition local style from the area. Best of both worlds.

Malcolm White said...

You may already know, but are you aware of the Scottish rowing project, and the St Ayles skiff. It is 4 oar and a cox and has taken off up there and in parts of the commonwealth. Designed by Iain Oughtred an Oz but now resident on Skye. It's double ended which may not be what your looking for but they are also good looking.

Brian said...

John Hesp is working just now on a 1/2/3 person 16' rowboat. CAD designed by him, fully CNC machined including backbone, stem and transom on his own machine. I feel sure he would love to design a larger version specifically for their needs. he could then supply a fully cnc'd building jig and kits.
http://uk-hbbr-forum.967333.n3.nabble.com/John-Hesp-td4025373.html

Adrian said...

The new Brightlingsea gigs look splendid. see http://brightlingsearowing.co.uk/

Chris Partridge said...

The Brightlingsea gigs do look lovely. Do you know how much they cost? Cold-moulded with three layers of mahogany doesn't sound cheap...

Robbie Wightman said...

Good luck Adrian,

it would be great to see communities around the Norfolk coast getting involved in Coastal Rowing.

In Scotland we also started with a fairly blank canvas. There had been virtually no competitive rowing around Scotland (other than in Shetland) in the 20 years before we started the project. When the Fisheries museum commissioned the St Ayles skiff design it was just going to be for Fife, but once Alec Jordan and I met up it became a project for the Scottish Coast. No design is perfect, but the important thing is to have a design that is a compromise that will suit many of the communities round about you.

I love the St Ayles and it suits the waters around me very well. She is a much drier ride than some other coastal rowing boats, and can cope with the big rolling swell and the short chops that we get around here. She can also carry a load, and I hope to see the boats being used for touring. She is 22' to be able to fit into Fife fishermen's sheds, something that none of the St Ayles has actually done! An extra 3' LOA would not have been a bad thing, but as long as everyone has the same, it does not really matter. The St Ayles is slower than some other boats, but that does not really matter when the towns either side of me have St Ayles Skiffs too!

What has really has made the project a success so quickly is the fact that the communities make the boats themselves. This gives the town a great pride in their boat, and gets far more people involved from the start. Some of those folk go on to become competitive rowers, some recreational rowers, and some simply supporters of the project, with a great deal of pride in what they have started.

Of course this is possible because a kit is used for the basis of the build, meaning that there is no mucking about with the dimensions of the boat, and theoretically no town should find themselves with a slow boat or a fast boat. Everyone has planks the same length and weight, made out of the same material. The boats can be judged on beauty and finish, rather than comparative speed before the "Go" and all crews should be more or less equal on the start line.

So my advice is to consider a kit, which might be the St Ayles skiff, or the Heritage 23, or might be something more local to your coast or a modern development of it.

There can be pressure to have a boat that can sailed as well as rowed. Resist it. Any attempt to make a rowing boat into a sailing boat reduces the rowing experience, and anyway our experience is you would have no time to sail it.... you will dissapoint the queues of folk wanting a row.

No offence to anyone, but I personally find a plastic boat, especially one made many miles away, a lot harder to love. I like boats that can be loved.

All the best

Robbie Wightman
Convenor
Scottish Coastal Rowing Association

Robbie Wightman said...

Good luck Adrian,

it would be great to see communities around the Norfolk coast getting involved in Coastal Rowing.

In Scotland we also started with a fairly blank canvas. There had been virtually no competitive rowing around Scotland (other than in Shetland) in the 20 years before we started the project. When the Fisheries museum commissioned the St Ayles skiff design it was just going to be for Fife, but once Alec Jordan and I met up it became a project for the Scottish Coast. No design is perfect, but the important thing is to have a design that is a compromise that will suit many of the communities round about you.

I love the St Ayles and it suits the waters around me very well. She is a much drier ride than some other coastal rowing boats, and can cope with the big rolling swell and the short chops that we get around here. She can also carry a load, and I hope to see the boats being used for touring. She is 22' to be able to fit into Fife fishermen's sheds, something that none of the St Ayles has actually done! An extra 3' LOA would not have been a bad thing, but as long as everyone has the same, it does not really matter. The St Ayles is slower than some other boats, but that does not really matter when the towns either side of me have St Ayles Skiffs too!

What has really has made the project a success so quickly is the fact that the communities make the boats themselves. This gives the town a great pride in their boat, and gets far more people involved from the start. Some of those folk go on to become competitive rowers, some recreational rowers, and some simply supporters of the project, with a great deal of pride in what they have started.

Of course this is possible because a kit is used for the basis of the build, meaning that there is no mucking about with the dimensions of the boat, and theoretically no town should find themselves with a slow boat or a fast boat. Everyone has planks the same length and weight, made out of the same material. The boats can be judged on beauty and finish, rather than comparative speed before the "Go" and all crews should be more or less equal on the start line.

So my advice is to consider a kit, which might be the St Ayles skiff, or the Heritage 23, or might be something more local to your coast or a modern development of it.

There can be pressure to have a boat that can sailed as well as rowed. Resist it. Any attempt to make a rowing boat into a sailing boat reduces the rowing experience, and anyway our experience is you would have no time to sail it.... you will dissapoint the queues of folk wanting a row.

No offence to anyone, but I personally find a plastic boat, especially one made many miles away, a lot harder to love. I like boats that can be loved.

All the best

Robbie Wightman
Convenor
Scottish Coastal Rowing Association

Keith Webster said...

Down here in Benfleet we have actually just formed an East Coast rowing association along the lines of the SCRA, bit of a long story but recently Castle point council offered us a building facility and the idea of a community rowing project was thought an ideal use for the redundant building.
The idea is to build a prototype four oared gig in GRP then build more. Get in touch as we need to talk!
Cheers Keith

Chris Partridge said...

Hi Keith,
Could you drop me an email about the ECRA? Best address is chrismpartridge at btinternet.com.

Alec Jordan said...

As the St Ayles kit manufacturer (financial interest declared!) I will add my contribution to Robbie Wightman’s piece above.
If you haven’t been keeping abreast of Scottish Coastal Rowing, the first regatta took place only 26 months ago with the first six skiffs. I have just received the order for the 57th St Ayles in the UK, and the 34th of these will be launched on Saturday and the 35th the following Saturday. Two of these are actually in Northumberland.
There is fund raising going on for another 10 or so skiffs in Scotland, and there is also a group on Poole Harbour who seem to have everything ready to go apart from somewhere to build and then keep the resulting boat.
When Robbie and I started this with the help of the Fisheries Museum three years ago, we had thought that if other areas of the UK wanted to join the fun, we would encourage them to use a kit for a local design, thinking particularly of Northumberland with their Cobles.
With the passage of time, and uptake of the St Ayles in Holland (4), the USA (16), and Australia (2) it is apparent that we have a classic boat on our hands. The first US regatta took place at Mystic Seaport just over two weeks ago, which appears to have created even more interest in the design. There is also definite interest from New Zealand, and I had a long conversation yesterday with a potential builder in St Lucia in the Caribbean. The hope there is that if it can take root on one island, it will then spread out along the island chain.
There have been discussions with people from other countries, but so far these have not developed into actual sales. Without really trying, the St Ayles has rapidly become an international class, and the first St Ayles Skiff World Championship will be held in Ullapool in July next year, with crews expected from Australia and the USA. We are still hoping that there will be crews from other countries.
People are having a lot of fun building as well as rowing them. They are a great deal less expensive than purchased boats, and for the builders, innovation and post build modifications are encouraged to make the smaller tweaks to make the boat better to row.
The total cost of getting a St Ayles on the water, including trailer and cover, should not exceed £5,000. If you are careful and canny, you should be able to do it for considerably less, as most clubs have.
I will hope that you will give serious consideration to joining the growing number of St Ayles Skiffs around the British Coast.

Adrian said...

The die is cast and a St Ayles kit has ben delivered to Norfolk. The plan is to build the boat over the winter and to attend as many events in 2013 as possible. The World Championships in Ullapool is high on the list.