Wednesday 31 December 2008

Cooking at Sea

I got a lovely little book for Christmas - Mrs Cook's Book of Recipes for Mariners in Distant Seas, by John Dunmore.
Dunmore imagines Captain Cook's wife Elizabeth collecting recipes and cookery tips from the explorers she met, including Sir Joseph Banks and Captain Vancouver. Needless to say, most are firmly in the 'yuck' category, such as boiled jellyfish and the stewed rat served on Bougainville's expedition to the southern ocean.
Banks recommends that albatross should be parboiled overnight to mitigate the saltiness, and then stewed. Best served with a prune sauce, apparently.
The most inexplicable dish is gruel, which is made by boiling a handful of oatmeal in a pint of water for a few minutes, and then straining. Rather too homeopathic to count as food, I would have thought, but apparently it was made with the sweepings of the storeroom floor when food was running out, and was surprisingly sustaining.
My favourite is Poor Knight's Pudding, basically French toast with sugar and cinnamon. Captain Cook liked it so much he named a group of islands off New Zealand 'Poor Knights Islands'.

Sunday 28 December 2008

Hobie kayakers meet Great White Shark

A group of Australian fishermen off Sydney were horrified to meet a Great White Shark whitch tipped one of them into the water and circled round ominously before pushing off - see this report on the BBC:
Interestingly, the fishermen are in kayaks driven by the Hobie Mirage drive. It is a tribute to its speed and reliability that they were fishing so far out in such tiny boats. One of them says 'Do you see the size of that thing - it's bigger than my boat'.
And, being Aussies, the report is punctuated by a Morse code of bleeps - quite understandably, given the circumstances.

Friday 26 December 2008

Boats on Buildings

No, this is not a late Christmas card, for it shows Christ calling Peter and Andrew as they were fishing in Lake Gallilee. The subject is particularly appropriate for my local church, Fishbourne in Sussex. It would be nice to think that the faces are those of local characters, perhaps the Smurthwaite brothers commemorated (they were ironmongers and chandlers in Chichester), but the faces are too Apostolic for that. And the landscape isn't the South Downs, either. But is the boat a local fishing boat?

Thursday 25 December 2008

Nokia Sports Tracker

Nokia Sports Tracker, one of the best applications for mobile phones ever, has so far not been available for my E71, which is one of the best phones ever. Until now, so I took it out for a test row yesterday.
Sports Tracker simply records where you went and how fast, showing the evidence as maps and graphs on the phone screen for analysis. And you can upload the data to the website for everyone to see how lazy you have been.
It even allows you to take pics, which are attached automatically to the track based on the time it was taken.
And tracks can be uploaded as a .kmz file for display on Google Earth. Unfortunately, Google seems to have a policy of taking pictures at low tide so it looks as though I was rowing through mud.

Tuesday 23 December 2008

Hobie Mirage drive double skiff

The Hobie Mirage drive is a miracle of engineering elegance, propelling a boat forward by fins that flap under it like a turtle's. American boat designer Chris Ostlind has created a double Mirage-powered skiff that is clearly capable of a remarkable turn of speed, as this video by boatbuilder Mack Horton in Melbourne, OZ, shows. It is featured on Duckworks magazine today.

Monday 22 December 2008

Rowing Slow

Mike Davenport's day job is helping rowers win races by fine tuning their shells and riggers for maximum speed, and he has developed a great website with lots of tips for improving your setup. Normally, of course, this blog advocates a much more laid back approach to rowing but even if all you do is potter up the river to the pub, getting your boat properly adjusted will add a lot to your pleasure. I found this out when I raised the Snarleyow's riggers a bit and found this simple change transformed the boat and doubled the pleasure.
Mike is not, however, totally focused on winning. He also appreciates the simple pleasure of recreational rowing. He writes:

Thanks Chris.
Wanted to let you know that your photos are super. They add greatly to your blog. 
I've also signed up for your RSS. It gets tiresome having a constant focus on speed. It is really nice to read about the pleasure part of rowing . . . more should be doing that.

Mike has even produced a short ebook for free download from his site, called Rowing Slow, and a delightful read it is, explaining exactly why everyone should row for pleasure occasionally even if you usually row to beat the opposition into a heaving porridgy mess.
The picture is of skiffs on the Thames, taken at the Traditional Boat Show a few years back. Just to remind you what boats designed for pleasure rather than business look like.

Sunday 21 December 2008

Why sliding seat boats should be long

Phil Meakins, organiser of last week's row up the Hamble, has kindly sent me some more pictures. Here is one of me putting a bit of pressure on in Snarleyow. I hadn't realised how much the boat pitches when the rower moves - it really looks as if it is about to take off. The motion must waste a lot of energy. Longer is definitely better (up to a point, of course).

Monday 15 December 2008

Rowing up the Charles

Our Hamble row yesterday was chilly, but I suspect the Irow folks who rowed the Charles River in Massachusetts on the Saturday were much colder. I'm rather envious of those insulated mittens. Thanks to Kathy Martell for the pics, taken by Rick Jacques and Blake Doyle.

Sunday 14 December 2008

Rowing up the Hamble

A great day. Met Max Taylor at Swanwick hard on the River Hamble in the morning. He was rowing the skiff he designed and built himself (below).We rowed to Phil's yacht Festine Lente on its pontoon at Bursledon, where he provided excellent coffee and croissants - a brilliant start to a row.
A flotilla gradually assembled, consisting of Phil's Oughtred-designed Acorn skiff (right) and several Bursledon gigs (above). They compete annually in the Hamble River Raid, an event that is now firmly fixed in the village calendar.
Up river to the Horse and Jockey at Curbridge, where Max and I swapped with Phil and his son Ben - Phil took Max's boat, Ben took mine and we took the Acorn. I was in bow and Max at stroke. Rowing the Acorn took a bit of getting used to as my legs are about a foot too long and the distance to Max's back about a foot too short, so I was forever bashing him in the back, but eventually we picked up a rhythm of short strokes and built up a good speed.
Then it was to the Jolly Sailor at Bursledon for beer and chips.
More pictures here.

Saturday 13 December 2008

Ocean Pearl again

Ocean Pearl makes regular appearances on this blog because I can't resist photographing her every time our paths cross in Chichester Harbour. It turns out that she is owned by her restorer, shipwright Nick Gates. He writes:

Hello there, just found your website, and I have really enjoyed reading a few of your blogs.
I own Ocean Pearl, and remember you taking these pics. We had just raced from the bar to the Nab tower and back and were fairly euphoric as we had finished 17 mins ahead of 27 other modern burmudian yachts.
The pic you have of that black cutter in Madeira is actually a true Zulu hull, but gaff rigged. It would be nice to know her name. She has the defining extreme raked sternpost and plum stem. She is a long way from Scotland!
I do have an interest in rowing, one of my first restorations was of a Thames skiff, 18', when I was about 13. I still have it and it is on the list of things to do, as the last 27 years have taken their toll...
I used it in Chichester Harbour for a few years where it coped admirably with swells and short chop. If anyone you know would like it then its free to a good home.
We took Ocean Pearl to Southampton Boatshow to salute the Spirit of Mystery and her crew. We had 'Good luck Mystery' flown in signal flags when we arrived, and were honoured when Pete let us moor alongside. It was great to see over the Mystery and meet the crew. It also saved us the entrance fee to the show! We left at 18:00, and were back at Prinsted by 23:00. after a moonlit motor up the Solent. I plan to tweek the rig this winter, and add a mizzen topmast and topsail. I am also increasing the size of the jib to 450 sqft to improve her light airs perfomance. You would be most welcome to come for a spin next summer!
Regards, Nick Gates

Now that's an offer that would be churlish to refuse. Thanks Nick!

Fire Island

One of my regular stops on the web is the BBRS forum, devoted to recreational rowing on the New Jersey coast. There has been some welcome info on thermal socks recently, but the post I really love is this picture of a skiff on Fire Island, the spit that protects Long Island from the Atlantic breakers.

Sunday 7 December 2008

More sculling

Paul Zink writes from Clovelly:
I have always found sculling over the stern a very useful technique for good manoeuvrability and like Cliff in his Wayfarer propelling a sailing dinghy with lowered sails getting in the way of normal rowing. I have even used it to tow an ocean going yacht across a harbour. Although I have never used a yuloh I suspect that a standard flat bladed oar is more efficient once the technique is mastered. The reason for this being that the pitch of the blade can be continually adjusted to give optimal power similar in principle to the variable pitch propeller of an aircraft. Of course it might be argued that with the yuloh the blade will be nearer the vertical but again it is possible to vary the slope of a standard oar.
In the attached photo I am sculling Little Lily, a replica of a 110 year old Clovelly Picarooner (see the July 22 entry in Clovelly News).

I went out from Itchenor again today, because the ferry hard is one of the few public slipways that is accessible at low tide. Cliff and Sarah were packing up their Wayfarer on the opposite side of the water, so I rowed over. Cliff says he had much more success with the sculling oar today, quite possibly because he did not have an appreciative audience with cameras.
The water was utterly still, the sky almost cloudless and the sunset was fabulous. December is a wonderful time for rowing.

Saturday 6 December 2008


I rowed out to East Head today with the Dinghy Cruising Association, among whom was Cliff in his Wayfarer. He has made a very smart yuloh for sculling, but hasn't managed to get the technique quite right yet especially as he was sculling against both wind and current. Look at the mast - he is going slowly but surely backwards.

Boats on Buildings

The Dutch have a charming habit of placing carved or ceramic pictures on their houses to indicate the name, and of course a lot of them are boats especially in Amsterdam and other canal cities.
This chap propelling a double-ended boat with a quant pole is in Boomstraat in Amsterdam. He looks early 18th century with his full bottom wig and tricorn hat. The boat seems to be full of bales of wool or cotton or something.
The picture was taken by Vereniging Vrienden van Amsterdamse Gevelstenen and comes from the Flickr pool Boats on Buildings, which is rapidly becoming a comprehensive database of boat design, at least as boats appear to artists. At the moment, the pictures are mainly Dutch so I encourage you all to contribute to make it a global collection. I have added Robert Coombes' stone boat in Brompton cemetery and a stained glass window in Aldingbourne church, Sussex featuring a submarine, a very unusual subject for a church memorial. It commemorates Engineer Vice Admiral Sir Reginald Skelton, who sailed with Shackleton and served in submarines in the First World War.

Friday 5 December 2008

Earl's Court post mortem

Attendance at the Sail, Power and Watersport Show at Earl's Court last weekend seems to have been low, but the organisers remain upbeat. Paul Zink of Clovelly Sculls writes:
Hi Chris,
It was good meeting you at Earls Court. Also many thanks for the very complimentary entries in your 'Rowing for Pleasure' blog.
Even though the attendance at the show was very poor, the 'Clovelly' did attract what seemed to be some very serious interest and we have made some useful contacts.
After some unexpected delays that were beyond our control we now hope to have the Clovelly in production for the first deliveries in February next.

Monday 1 December 2008

Rowing at Earl's Court

The Watersports etc Show at Earl's Court had a gratifying number of rowing boats scattered round the small boats area, and apparently the ARA was scouting around looking at recreational boats, which is encouraging if true.
The outstanding exhibit was the Clovelly Scull, as posted earlier. The boat is a dramatic design, long and lean, with a wing-like sliding rigger made of carbon fibre. The deck is imitation wood, which looks surprisingly good.
The sliding rigger design looks very simple and effective, with rollers running in U-sections facing each other to retain the rigger reliably. Removing the bipod mast that carries the mirror reveals a slot that enables the rigger to be removed quickly and easily for transport. It looks light but robust.
The skeg can be raised in shallow water by pulling and cleating a rope - again, a simple but effective design.
The Heritage Whitehall imported by The Rowing Company was on display on the Heyland Marine stand, and Anglia Yacht Brokerage were showing the Heybridge Roach, a neat little 10ft tender selling at the sharpish price of £895 including oars and rowlocks.
For sheer craftsmanship, however, Adrian Donovan was the star with the Whitehall he brings to these occasions. He is thinking of developing a cheaper version, without the time-consuming details that add so much to the cost. Details like the breasthook, which is made from a specially-selected timber with the grain going round the corner for strength and good looks. A stunning piece of work.
Again, apologies for picture quality - the camera remained set to 'crap' for most of the day.