Wednesday, 12 June 2013
Wot I did on my Hols
First stop was the Beale Park Thames Boat Show on Saturday, where I saw the magnificent Hoi Larntan, the first St Ayles skiff in the south of England. She really is beautifully built, but the oars are, shall we say, way too short and far too heavy. This is already apparent to the builders, who are planning to make some new ones out of spruce instead of the more economical deal they started with.
They are also going to change the steering arrangement from the tiller, which prevents sharp turns to port, to more conventional yoke and lines.
I got a scratch crew of Home Built Boat Rally types out and we took her onto the Thames for a quick thrash. As with all St Ayles skiffs, she moves nicely but the rowing positions are too short for those of us of average build. The picture shows eminent boatbuilder David Bewick coxing, with some antique Thames skiffs of the Thames Traditional Boat Society in the background.
St Ayles skiffs were featured in Countryfile on the Beeb recently, including an interview with Alec Jordan and the traditional humiliation of a TV journalist who was forced to join a crew in a race and came last.
But for me the highlight was an interview with a chap who remembered the coastal rowing scene in the 1950s, when miners used to build their own boats and race them as a change from the cramped and stifling conditions in the pits.
Hi father used to own a boat, the True Vine, which one would assume would indicate a religious bent but in fact seems to have been a reference to his fondness for a jar or two. He didn't win the rowing races but did win the race to the pub afterwards, his son recalled.
The segment is about 55 minutes into the programme.