Saturday 31 May 2008

Rowing boats at the Museum of the Broads

Please don't get the impression that Gavin Atkin at intheboatshed and I are in some sort of battle to post as many pictures of the Broads as possible. This is completely not a contest - it is simply that we've both been there in the last week and we want to share our experience of this fabulous area for boating.
But seeing as Gav hasn't got round to putting up pics of these boats at the Museum of the Broads at Stalham yet, I'll nip in and blog them first.
On the right is a rowing skiff, a hull shape very similar to Thames skiffs but somewhat more stern-heavy and having a slightly bigger transom. She was built about a hundred years ago.
Next, a reed lighter. These wide and low boats would be almost completely invisible under their load of reeds (in the winter) or sedge (in the summer), carrying three quarters of a cartload. The marshman would either row from the bow (note the holes for the rowlocks or crutches as they were known locally) or quant from the stern.
Quant poles have a hook at the lower end to get a purchase on the river bottom and a button at the top to push against, although the button is really only of use when you can walk the length of the boat rather than just stand at the stern as you would when punting. It does, however, give you something to grab when you suddenly realise that you are about to leave the quant stuck in the mud. This is possibly the most embarrassing thing that can happen to yachtsman, especially if it occurs when approaching Potter Heigham bridge under the eye of a large and appreciative audience.
By the way Gav, you didn't get a picture of the very nice thatched boathouse at the southern end of Barton Broad, did you? If you did, please post it - I stupidly deleted the shot I took of it during transfer to the PC.

Bus Pirates

Take a look at this, yer scurvy lubberly swabs. NOW, I tells ye!

Friday 30 May 2008

Punt gunning in Norfolk

Last Sunday it rained all day so we implemented the Standard British Rain Plan - a visit to somewhere educational. Luckily, this meant the informative and entertaining Museum of the Broads at Stalham. And waddayaknow, it had several duck punts on display, including this model based on the old photo below it in the case.
The centre of punt gunning in Victorian times was Breydon Water, the Broad near Great Yarmouth, and the museum has on display the last gun punt specifically built for hunting there.
The punt (the lower boat - the other is a play boat made in Sussex) is 17ft long and carried a 1.5in gun. The gun was loaded with a pound of black powder and about 2lb of shot. Any old scrap metal could be used but the usual charge was mixed nails.
The hunter would lie prone in the punt and stealthily row towards the roosting birds. When in position, he would knock the side of the boat sharply with the flat of his hand to send the birds into the air. Then he would pull the trigger, causing a tremendous blast and pushing the boat back as far as 25 yards.
After that it was a question of clearing up. The dog would fetch the dead birds, and the wounded would be finished off with a shotgun known rather bluntly as a 'cripple-stopper'.
Concern over the number of wounded birds led to a ban on 1.5in guns, after which only 2in guns were allowed.
The punt was found floating in the River Yare in the 1960s, probably simply cast loose by an owner who had no further use for it. It was eventually restored by prisoners at Blundeston as part of their NVQ in carpentry. They added a replica gun as the original was lost.
Although punt gunning is a thing of the past in the Broads, these unique and fascinating boats have a thriving family of descendents in the form of the Norfolk Punt.
Norfolk Punts have the same long, low, flat-bottomed shape as the gun punts but with the addition of an unfeasibly large sail. They go like slippy stuff off a shovel if there are no waves. The Norfolk Punt Club races them from a pontoon moored in the middle of Barton Broad. The museum has a splendid varnished example, unfortunately kept almost hidden under another boat.The Museum of the Broads is raising money to buy its premises, so if you would like to help this worthwhile cause click here and donate lavishly.

Thursday 29 May 2008

Rowing model

Hamleys halfterm holiday hell was slightly lifted when I spotted this:

Wednesday 28 May 2008

Rowing in the rain

There is an EU Directive that mandates rain on British bank holidays, so on Sunday at the UK Home Built Boats Rally at Barton Broad it hissed down almost continuously. Our planned outing to the pub at Neatishead took place by car, except for the fearless Tony Waller and Chris Waite who rowed round in Tony's lovely double-ender Isabella III.
Tony had to row rather than sail for two reasons:
a) the wind on the Broad was too strong;
b) he had cracked the mainmast sailing on the Broad the day before.
After essential bailing he set off on the voyage back with Chris in the stern steering by voice (the rudder had been left behind).

Tuesday 27 May 2008

More on that Thames boat shed

Edgewood, the Thames boathouse mentioned down there \|/, is currently home to the 30ft Andrews slipper launch also called Edgewood, which is available separately at £53,000 but if you have a million to spare for a boathouse you probably have enough for the launch as well.
She was built in 1962 and won the Andrews trophy for restoration at the Thames Traditional Boat Rally in 2006 after a complete restoration by Woottens Boatyard, which is conveniently right next to the boathouse.

Monday 26 May 2008

A row up the River Ant

The UK Home Built Boat Regatta foregathered at Barton Broad on Saturday, and I tagged along with my newly painted Nessy, a Sandpiper designed by Conrad Natzio. I've converted her for rowing, though an auxiliary sailing rig will also be provided when I get my act together.
On Saturday I rowed up the River Ant to Dilham, a very narrow and winding river. At Dilham it comes to an abrupt end at a hump-back bridge with intimidating notices to the effect that from there on is a private dyke. In fact, it only continues for a few yards so it's not worth your while trespassing.
On the way is a delightful boathouse at Hunsett Mill, one of the classic photo opps in the Broads. The miller's house is due to be extended and the boathouse replaced by a similar but subtly different version, for which planning permission has been given. Work has already started.
The effect is to replace an aging structure with a new version more fit for purpose in the 21st century, which can only be good.

Friday 23 May 2008

A modern take on the gunning punt

Owen Sinclair writes from New Zealand:

Hi Chris,
John Hitchcock was out for his usual weekend row in his St Lawrence River Skiff and he came across this fellow behind Best's Island, Waimea Estuary, Nelson, NZ, just before the easterly blow came ripping through.
John had seen your post re the gunning punt and I had told him about my ancestors at Lake Waihola.
He asked if he could take a photo but otherwise didn't get much information, so I don't know if it was a special gun for use on the water; I have been pondering that a bit and I suspect that he just keeps it well oiled. I don't know a lot about guns although my father was a deerstalker and there were always guns about on the farm. There is a whole dismantling and cleaning ritual associated with them and this chap would have to be assiduous about maintaining it.
I wondered about recoil and whether the line of fire has to be aligned with the canoe.

The gun certainly looks the business, and seems to be on a pivot so it could be aimed offcentre. I imagine you have to be careful for the recoil not to turn you over.
Using a canoe rather than a duck punt would demand a different style of hunting, because the hunter sits up and paddles, thus presenting a much bigger and more obvious threat than a duck hunter lying down in the punt and stealthily sculling over the transom.

Thursday 22 May 2008

A Girl Crew

This beautifully composed shot of a quad scull features on Never Sea Land today. The post is a bunch of random pictures of a vaguely marine nature, although there is a strong tendency towards girls with generous natures. This lot are particularly fit - look at those biceps!

My dream home

This boathouse on the Thames at Cookham Dean is on the market and I want it. Most of what must have been boat storage behind has been converted into a three bedroom house with a huge living room opening onto a terrace above the wet dock.
The price is a bit of a problem, though. If any eccentric billionaires are reading this, I could do with a small non-returnable loan of a million sovs to buy the place. Oh, and I also need to buy the restored Andrews slipper launch that is available 'by separate negotiation'.
The agents are Friend & Falcke in Chelsea on 020 7581 3022.

Tuesday 20 May 2008

London Whalers

Dick Wynne of London Whalers writes:

Hi Chris,
Excellent website of course!
I notice you have a link to the Henley Whalers (of whom I was a member until moving out of their area two years ago), and wondered if you would like to mention my Montagu Whaler Vancouver based in London, where she has been for a couple of years now. I am trying to get her used by as many individuals or groups as possible, on the basis of a modest contribution to costs (ie her Limehouse marina berth!) each time. Anyone living or working in London, or just passing through, is welcome to come along and try out the experience.
She also sails, and we are off to Seafair at Milford Haven in June.
We have a trailer so hope to get to some of these meetings now & then. Although the summer looks busy, as we go to Milford, plus (believe it or not) Vancouver is my 2nd boat and I have to do justice to the other one, an Albert Strange yawl at the far end of Essex. Then there's the temptation of the Eddystone Challenge if I can whip enough crew together for it.
Something that has always worried me is how five oars works in a boat - wouldn't they tip over? Not a problem, Dick says:
Five oars works fine - the bow oar is slightly shorter and contributes less, plus the bow man is often not pulling whilst he fiddles with lines etc. And with the mast in, bow oar cannot be used anyway. We put the two gorillas one side, three normal types the other!

So that's alright. Even better is the picture of Vancouver passing some old building on the Thames. Look at the smiles on their faces - rowing is fun, people!
So if you are in London and want to get out for the healthiest exercise you can do in public, go to the London Whalers' website and sign up.

Sunday 18 May 2008

River Exe salmon boat on eBay

What a dream. Paddling up the Exe in dawn's early light in the hope of bagging a salmon or few. Anchoring in a secluded cove for lunch in the sun. Meandering home in the evening after a day doing nothing but fishing, reading and snoozing.
The boat is spruce on oak and seems in good condition apart from the usual broken ribs, and come with a road trailer and new cover - in fact, ready to pick up and park in your drive, ready for action.
At 14ft by 6ft, the boat is not going to be a flyer but has bags of space for gear, beer and lounging about.
Bidding is already up to £510 but has not reached the reserve.
Bidding rose to £530 but the reserve was not met. The market has spoken.....

Friday 16 May 2008

Rowing catamaran designs from the US

Plans for two rowing catamarans have appeared on the wonderful Duckworks website. Designed by furniture maker and boatbuilder Mark Gumprecht of Massachusetts, the cats have their hulls set close so the deck between them forms a narrow longitudinal seat. The rower drops a foot into either hull.
It is a very clever arrangement but it means the feet are much lower than they would be normally, and outriggers are necessary if standard 8ft 6in sculls are used. I personally would be tempted to use much longer, slimmer hulls and a beam of 5ft, so the rowlocks could be mounted directly on the gunwales. The whole thing could be dismantleable to make handling on shore easier.
Isn't the finish beautiful? Mark has veneered it with ribbon grain mahogany, which is surprisingly cheap at about a dollar a square foot. He vacuum bags it on with epoxy resin.

Celtic Challenge results

The Celtic Challenge is a gruelling overnight race for Celtic and Pembrokeshire Longboats across the Irish Sea from Arklow to Aberystwyth, billed as the longest true rowing race in the world at 90 nautical miles. The results of this year's race on 3rd May are just out - Arklow Ladies were first across the line, but the overall winners were Arklow Men in a time of 17 hours 37 minutes 45 seconds. Conditions were so rough six boats had to retire.
Longboats are about 24ft long, with four oars and a cox, and have been getting very popular lately.
The picture of the Arklow Men boat is from BBC Wales - there is an excellent slideshow here.

Monday 12 May 2008

Anyone for Flashboats?

Here's an interesting proposition. Brian Pearson writes:
"Hi Chris,
Following up our interest in Cornish Flashboats. John Hesp (the designer with a cnc routing table) and his brother are needing to get on the water and their solution is to make two tortured ply Flashboats as per Paul Gartside's Flashboat article I sent. John has asked me if I would also be interested in a kit. John knows a current builder in Cornwall of Flashboats.
I have said I would be and thought I would e-mail you to see if you might be interested, and also if perhaps anyone following your excellent Rowing for Pleasure site might be.
It would be fun to have a few built at the same time. No costings yet but with it using 3mm ply and very little of it, the kit should be economic to produce.
Had a lot of fun scaring myself sailing the MacGregor canoe (left). Very narrow with 50 sq ft. The leeboard helped steady her up a great deal.
All the best.

Paul Gartside has an excellent description of the building process for his Flashboat here, and line drawings here.
I am a bit apprehensive about the 'intermediate' skill level, and the fully rebated stem the Flashboat requires, though most of the difficulties may well be avoided by buying the kit. Torturing the plywood still presents something of a challenge, however.
It is certainly very tempting and a very, very lovely boat. Paul's picture of him on the beach with the Pacific rollers in the background shows the sort of conditions the boat is capable of handling at a pinch.
Unfortunately for me, I have just come to the conclusion that John Welsford's Walkabout must be my next boat, because it is designed for sleeping in. But if the kit was cheap enough, I could just slip the Flashboat in first, just for fun....
So is anyone else interested in a Flashboat kit? Do get in touch and we'll see if we can get a bulk order in.

Sunday 11 May 2008

Shell on Chichester Harbour

I came across a bloke in a shell at Bosham today, the first time I have seen another sliding seat rowing boat on Chichester Harbour, though lots of people have told me they have friends who do it.
It is an old shell from Putney, and the owner (on the right) keeps it in his house close to the foreshore at Bosham. He has a trolley made from bicycle wheels so he can just trail it out whenever the weather permits. Why don't more people do that?
And here's a picture of a guy painting the side of the boat shed at Dell Quay, taken a couple of weeks ago. It's the marine equivalent of painting yourself into a corner - the tide has come in round the bottom of his ladder and he can't get down without getting his feet wet.

Saturday 10 May 2008

Shetland Sixareen takes shape

Craftsmen at the Shetland Museum are building a new sixareen, a six-oared fishing boat used for long distance trips until the end of the 19th century.
Sixareens used to be rowed and sailed out to to the Far Haaf, deep and treacherous but profitable waters about 40 miles away. It was hard and dangerous work - trips used to take three days, boats going out twice a week. Conditions aboard an open boat not more than 30ft long must have been vile. In 1881 a storm sank ten boats and drowned 58 men, mainly from one village.
Understandably, sixareens began to disappear as steam powered vessels took over.
But they were lovely boats, and one survives: the Industry, now on show in the shiny new Shetland Museum. And a replica is nearing completion in the museum's boat shed.
Jack Duncan, 62 and Robbie Tait, 60, are building the new boat using exactly the same techniques that were employed in the original, and which they themselves learned when they were apprentices at a boatyard in Lerwick back in the 1960s. She is clinker built, with strips of cloth soaked in Stockholm tar as caulking.
The boat is a delight for language buffs, because all the parts are named in the Shetland dialect. Frames are baands, and thwarts are tafts. Under the tafts are vertical slats called fiskabrods, which prevented the catch or fishing gear stored in one 'room' from sliding about the boat.
The sixareen is due to be launched next month.
All the pictures come from Shetlopedia, a veritable mine of information on anything relating the to islands. There is a fabulous album of picture of the sixareen under construction here. And the Shetland Museum site is here.

Thursday 8 May 2008

Langstone Cutters win London2Paris!

Langstone Cutters have claimed victory in the London2Paris row with an overall time more than six hours ahead of LeFigaROW. Congratulations to both crews in what was obviously a fiercely fought race. See the LCRC blog for excited coverage.

Wednesday 7 May 2008

World Pilot Gig Championships results

The World Pilot Gig Championships were held in the Scilly Islands last weekend, with zero media coverage as far as I could see. Mounts Bay won the men's event for the first time, and Falmouth took the ladies' title for the eleventh time, both outstanding achievements. The results are here.
There's a wonderful insight into what it is really like to take part here. I never realised how competition affects one's bowels.

Tuesday 6 May 2008

Plans for a racing shell in wood?

Brian Pearson suggests that Duncan of Melbourne should take a look at the designs of Joel White in his quest for a wooden racing shell.
"Joel White is a favourite designer of mine - Wooden Boat Store sells plans for his Bangor Packet here, plus a few additional designs," he writes.
It's a lovely boat (picture above from the Wooden Boat Store site) and Joel White is a legend, but lofting is required to build it and the skill level is described as 'advanced', which would rule me out for one. I am more attracted to the next design in the Wooden Boats catalogue, Kingfisher by Graeme King. It is longer (= faster) and no lofting is needed. The skill level is 'intermediate' which is still way above my level but I wouldn't be quite so afraid of the challenge.

Monday 5 May 2008

Langstone Cutters ahead in London to Paris race

The formidable Langstone Cutters, who I spotted in training in Chichester Harbour a few weeks ago, are ahead in the London2Paris race for London Waterman's Cutters, a particularly splendid type of craft with six oarsmen and space for grandees to lounge under ornate canopies in the stern, though for racing purposes both passengers and canopies are left on shore.
The race rules limit the number of oarsmen in each squad to ten, crews changing every so often.
The official timings from London to Le Havre give the Langstonians a lead of a couple of hours over rivals LeFigarow, and apparently the crew were first over the line at Rouen earlier today as well. The boats are pictured above off Deal somewhere, in a photo from the race website - the yellow cutter in the foreground is Le Figarow, the Langstone Cutters in the background.
Despite this blog's aversion to racing and, indeed, physical exertion of any kind, this is a splendid effort. Good luck to both crews!
Langstone Cutters are blogging progress here, and LeFigarow here.

In the green stuff

'Tis the time for green algae. The ghastly stuff has bloomed in Chichester Harbour, winding itself round the oars and generally obstructing progress. It get everywhere, even sunlit California, where lucky David 'Thorne' Luckhardt and his fellow row/sailers had to wade through swathes of the green sludge to get their boats out of the evocatively-named Elk Slough river, near the lovely city of Santa Cruz.There's a great report with pictures here.
The Big Lagoon Messabout is next weekend, and I'm consumed with envy. If I could get Snarleyow into a 1litre transparent plastic bag, I'd get on a plane and go....

Sunday 4 May 2008


Went out at Emsworth this morning. Picked up a good pace and was congratulating myself on how fit I am getting. Noticed admiring glances from couple in massive trimaran on mooring. Then the bolt holding the support of my stretcher slipped out and the bloody thing broke with a loud crack.
Unable to get a firm support for my feet, I had to paddle back slowly and unstylishly. How embarrassing.
Back at the slipway, however, my mood lightened when I overheard the following exchange:
Small boy in foul weather gear and lifejacket: "Now we are going to get wet."
Exasperated parent: "Why is that, dear?"
SBinFWG: "Because the whole point of sailing is getting wet."
Couldn't have put it better myself. Rowers, on the other hand, rarely get wet at all.

Plans for a racing shell in wood?

Duncan writes from Australia with an interesting question:

Dear Chris,
I love your blog. I really enjoy reading the interesting things you uncover and wondered whether you or your readership could point me in the right direction.
I generally row a racing single scull here on the Yarra River in Melbourne. Over my years of rowing I’ve rowed all sorts of boats from timber, cedar-skinned boats to the latest honeycomb boats, but I still love the timber boats. I’ve often thought of buying an old timber single and refurbishing it, but what I’d really love to do would be to start from scratch with some plans and build my own single scull.
I’ve scoured the Internet but I’ve yet to come across anywhere that has plans for a racing single scull. There are a few wide training-type boat plans available, but nothing like a “fine” boat which I like to row and occasionally race in.
Do you or your readership know where I can buy such plans?
Melbourne, Australia
That's a tricky one. The main problem, it seems to me, is that proper racing shells are now so high-tech it would be almost impossible for an amateur to build one. I wouldn't have a clue. So most designers don't bother with boats designed for serious competition but emphasise training or fitness instead.
Paul Fisher has a very nice design for a clinker rowing shell, 20ft by 26.5in beam, which should go very fast but not as quick a carbon-kevlar-honeycomb job. Paul has cleverly designed it so that no glass tape is used on the outside, so it would look stunning with a few layers of varnish.
I am very tempted myself by his Windrush skiff, not a shell but long and lovely. It would take a drop-in sliding rigger outfit very well.
Iain Oughtred's Snipefish is an attractive boat as all Iain's designs are, relatively easy to build and handy to cartop. But at 15ft by 34in you aren't going to win any races in it (except against other Snipefish, of course). Alec Jordan of Jordan Boats does a kit for it.
If you are into kit boats, Chesapeake Light Craft do the very attractive Oxford Shell (above) which is over 20ft long and just 22in wide, so it should go passably fast, if not faster.
Anybody got any other ideas?

Saturday 3 May 2008

Satnav software appeal

I went out from Itchenor today, headed up to Prinsted and back via West Thorney church. This very nice day sailer was parked up at Prinsted.
West Thorney church is difficult to get to by land, being hidden inside a military base, but it is easily accessible by water, being just a few yards from the slipway at Thorney Sailing Club. So I hopped out, pulled the boat above the tide line and walked over to the church but is was closed darnit.
More frustration when I got home. I recorded my track on the Satmap, but it includes lots of driving detail that is not relevant here. But I can't work out how to delete parts of the track. Anybody got any ideas?