Thursday 31 December 2009

Japanese Oars

This picture on Indigenous Boats gave me pause. What on earth are those oars with handles all about?
The picture was provided by Douglas Brooks, who is researching traditional Japanese boats or wasen in the finest possible way, by getting apprenticed to boatbuilders and making a few.
Douglas writes to say that the boat is probably a kaidenma, a fishing boat that was used to pull a net round a school of fish, like seine fishing over here. According to Douglas:
That is a photo from Akita Prefecture way up north, where they do use a large clunky paddle like an oar. Interesting in some ways because they have more western style oars up there, but I suspect that in a narrow boat those short things have advantages.
As far as how they work, its used just like an oar, with a rope oarlock and sometimes a thole pin. I have also seen these used hanging in a rope loop and used like a steering oar. In fact the shimaihagi that I built in that region in 2003 was so equipped.
You tend to see these in boats with many rowers, yes they have to take a short, abbreviated stroke, but what these guys are doing is pulling a net around in a circle to close it, so its not intended for long distance travel - they may have even been towed out to sea by partner fishing boat. In a few places in Japan these are called kaidenma and are now used in festival races. It may look terribly inefficient, but these boats really fly when you have twenty or so guys rowing.
Douglas has two fascinating sites, his blog chronicling the construction of a traditional sabani on the island of Okinawa, currently under way, and his website which is a huge source of information on the Japanese and American ways of boatbuilding.

Sunday 27 December 2009

Curse this wind! No more curried eggs for me!

It was westerly F5 gusting F6 and close to low tide as I went to Itchenor to meet up with Martin, Cliff and Len of the Dinghy Cruising Association. Cliff's plan was to go with the ebb to East Head, have lunch and come back up with the flood, but the wind would have meant a long beat for the sailors and a long hard slog, so we headed up the relatively sheltered Bosham channel.
I usually go out at or near high tide so the water seemed unnaturally cramped and the banks of mud on either side were less than inviting. On the other hand, there were flocks and flocks of wildfowl feeding.
Curiously, the wind was not a big problem until I got Snarleyow on her dolly for the long trudge up the ferry causeway, which at high tide is a short stroll. The wind kept blowing her off her wheels, so I had to hold the bow with one hand and the windward gunwale with the other to keep her from flying off into the mud. Very uncomfortable and backbreaking.
When I got back I looked up Cambermet, the weather station inside the harbour mouth, and discovered there was a 35kt gust at the time. I took the picture with my phone - you would never believe that was midday.
Anybody recognise the quote in the title?

Saturday 26 December 2009

"Lively water"

One of the most interesting  boats in the Shipyard School Raid in British Columbia this year was Bus Bailey, a traditional handliner built in the 1930s to fish for salmon around the islands off Vancouver. Owner Colin Masson won a leg of the Raid under oars alone, and he reveals the secret in his new blog, Colin's Rowing and Sailing Stories.
It's very simple - he rows a lot. In the summer he commutes from Gabriola Island to his work at the Pacific Biological Station in Departure Bay.
Colin's first post is a long one but well worth reading right through. He covers his childhood exploring his local bay with his kid brother, the joys of fishing when he was finally deemed experienced enough to venture out of the bay, how Bus Bailey came into his possession, the history of handlining and the types of water he experiences:
Waves and wind, or the lack of them, dominate the daily conditions. As with snow to the Inuit, they come to me in a myriad of forms and shapes, many of which I’ve come to describe with words and names of my own. Often in the early morning, the waves are short, slurppy and choppy as the north-west wind resists the tide moving along Gabriola’s exposed shore. Sometimes they make for what I call “lively water,” with following waves on the starboard quarter - slightly countered from a pressing south-east breeze. Just occasionally, there is a flat calm, with no discernable movement showing on the slick and glimmering surface, save the inevitable wash from a distant boat or a ghosting zepher-breath.

I like the lively water best as I slowly work my body and the Bus into an intuitive all-connected movement through the water. It’s the ‘magic zone’ that I search for. The one that has me smiling – even breaking out in laughter between gasps for air.
 It's great stuff.

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Fame at last!

Paul Zink of Clovelly Sculls entered a picture of me rowing a Clovelly off Clovelly back in September in British Rowing's Winter Rowing picture contest, and it is featured on their website (it's a slideshow - you may have to wait a while for it to come round).

So, tit for tat, here is a picture of Paul and John Rous, co-owner of Clovelly Sculls, out on their boats on that occasion.
Paul tells me that some final technical details have been ironed out and production starts in the New Year.

Monday 21 December 2009

Boston Jingle Row

We've been whining about how cold it is here in England but in Boston the IROW crew had to crack the ice on the Charles River for their annual Jingle Row. More photos by Kathy Martell here. Congratulations, chaps! It looks as if you had a ball despite, or perhaps even because of, the arctic conditions.

Saturday 19 December 2009

Snow Row

No snow visible here, but there was a lot about, honest. We rowed the Solent Galley Bembridge from Langstone to Emsworth, where we stopped for a nice cup of tea. But luckily the tea shop was closed so we went to the pub and had a nice pint of beer instead. Yum.
And when we got back, lovely Elaine (centre in picture) produced a flask of mulled wine for that festive touch.
Posted by Picasa

Monday 14 December 2009

Rowing in Water Craft magazine.

The January 2010 issue of Water Craft has dropped through my letter box and it is a bumper rowing issue!
I'll mention first Pete Greenfield's affectionate farewell to Ralph Bird, boatbuilder and the prime mover in the revival of Cornish Pilot Gig racing.
As Pete writes, it is an odd coincidence that the obituary comes in the same issue that highlights the Scottish Coastal Rowing Project, which aims to do for Scotland what Ralph did for the West Country - revive a formerly robust rowing tradition.
Three articles cover the St Ayles Skiff. Alec Jordan, who makes the kit, describes how the project came together. Iain Oughtred describes the philosophy and aims of his design, and Chris Perkins relates the tale of the construction of the prototype. Chris's picture shows Alec marking out something technical with a very professional air of concentration.
I was fascinated by the origin of pleasure rowing in Fife - apparently it was the miners rather than the fishermen who built and raced rowing skiffs. Prominent were the Davidson brothers, who were so good the mine owner, the Earl of Wemyss (pronounced Weems) brought crack university oarsmen up from the south to learn their technique. I suspect that most of the secret was to become a miner and swing a pick six days a week, thus building up enormous muscles.
In the 'Workshop' section of the magazine, Nick Coppin describes a neat adjustable heel rest so a dinghy can be effectively rowed while not being in the way while sailing. A pair of rests can be slid up two of the floorboards and automatically lock in position. Very clever.
And there is a spiffing article by me about the Clovelly Skiff. Here's a bonus picture:

Sunday 13 December 2009

Winter Morning Rows

The low slanting morning sun in December produces some lovely photos. And now the autumn gales have died down it is a fabulous time for getting out on the harbour. On Saturday I had a brisk row in Snarleyow from Itchenor to Dell Quay (the picture is at Itchenor) and on Sunday I went out in one of Langstone Cutters' Teifi skiffs with Mr and Mrs Rooke, who squabbled over where we were in the middle of the harbour just like my mum and dad trying to navigate round Watford on a wet Bank Holiday. The photo shows Gladys on the buoy as a seagull flies overhead.

Saturday 12 December 2009

New Frontrower Boat

Ron Rantilla, inventor of the Frontrower system for...err...rowing to the front...has announced another boat specially designed to take it. And it looks rather good.
The Odyssey 165 is a 16ft 6in version of the Odyssey 180 that Ron has been selling for a while now. It is a long thin boat with a pronounced tumblehome to allow the oar as much swing room as possible.
The Frontrower is an odd sort of thing. Very complex, with levers and cables all over the place, but watch the video and see how the oars nicely catch, pull and feather on the recovery. The ability to steer by putting extra pressure on one side or the other is impressive, and it must be very nice to use just the legs so you can keep going while taking photos or having a swig from your flask.
The big drawback is the cost - the thick end of two thousand bucks, and for us in the UK that would be plus shipping, taxes and any highway robbery schemes Gordon Brown is plotting for the election runup.
However, I can recommend without qualification Ron's blog, which has some lovely rowing anecdotes including the story of Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, who rowed 30 miles in a day to debate with the founder of the Quakers, George Fox (who failed to show). Williams was 70, and said that God helped his old bones over the distance.
And then there was Howard Blackburn, a doryman sailing out of Gloucester, Mass, in 1883. He lost his ship in a snowstorm. He lost his gloves, and knowing his hands would be useless without them, hooked them round the handles of his oars and struck out for land. His companion died, but he rowed for five days before hitting Newfoundland. He lost all his fingers and most of his toes but lived. An amazing tale of endurance.

Friday 11 December 2009

Rowing Supplement in Wooden Boat

Well hallaylloo, Wooden Boat has added a volume on Oars, Oarlocks and Rowing to its cut out n'keep series, Getting Started in Boats.
It's in the current issue which I have only just got because our local farm shop has been taken over by the Coop and they have axed the wonderful selection of magazines they used to stock and now hold only Heat, OK, Yeah! and Celebrity Bonking. Bloody Coop. So I had to get my Washington-based sister to pop one in the post. Thanks, Sis!
Anyhoo, the supplement is very handy. Karen Wales explains oars and rowlocks in simple terms with lovely clear illustrations by Jan Adkins. There is a great explanation of an approved rowing style (I won't say 'correct' - ain't no such thing) by the great Peter Spectre.
One thing I would respectfully disagree with, however. Wales recommends positioning the rowlocks by measuring 14in diagonally from the rear face of the thward, whereas the best method is to attach G clamps on the gunwale, get in the boat and swing the oars on the clamps, as in the picture below taken during construction of my Sandpiper, Nessy. Then move the clamps back and forth until you get the perfect action.

Saturday 5 December 2009

Perfect Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance

When will I ever learn?
I had a choice of outings today. One was to join the Dinghy Cruising Association in Langstone Harbour, the other to tag along with Langstone Cutters who were, paradoxically, going out in Chichester Harbour.
I hadn't met up with the DCA for a while, so I headed for the D-Day slipway at Bedhampton. But I failed to look up the weather forecast. Dammit, it looked OK and it wasn't raining. What could go wrong?
Langstone Harbour is a big expanse of water, and Bedhampton slip is at the windward and shallow end so the water tends to be very choppy in any sort of blow. But the slipway is sheltered from the stormy blast.
So it looked fine to me. I launched and rowed into the harbour, only to find it was, let us say, interesting. Not dangerous, not threatening, but not fun. Once again, I had failed to do a proper recce.
So I turned back, put Snarleyow back on the trailer and drove round to Chichester Harbour where conditions were much calmer, and had a brisk row for an hour or so.
I hoped to link up with the Langstone Cutters boat Gladys, but couldn't see her anywhere. Turned out they had rowed to nearby Emsworth and had a nice cup of tea. Damn. Here they are, returning, full of tea and buns.

Friday 4 December 2009

Surf dory from Life Magazine's archive

Kelvin linked to this picture in a comment to my last post.The caption reads "Men riding waves in a canoe" which is wrong in almost all important particulars.
OK they are men (well spotted!) but they are not 'riding waves' but riding surf, and they are not in a canoe but a surf dory.
Kelvin also says it may not count as Rowing for Pleasure, with which I agree, but it sure as looks like Rowing for Fun.
The picture was taken by John Florea at Hermosa Beach, California, in the summer of 1948, but the boat is pretty well identical with the surf dories built by Simeon Lowell in his boatshop in Massachusetts in the 1790s.It seems the surf or 'Swampscott' dory was round-bilged, which gave extra buoyancy amidships when returning through the surf.
They are still building surf dories at Lowell's, and the type is still a popular type for amateur boatbuilders - designs are available from Selway Fisher. Actual surf riding is done mostly by boats made of super-elasto-bollockase or something in which surfers can do this:

(I have blogged this before but what the hell).

Wednesday 2 December 2009

From the Web

It's been raining again and there's bugger all not a lot worth watching on the telly so here's some rowing from the Wonderful World Wide Web. Goran Buckhorn at the eclectic Hear the Boat Sing links to a great new resource, an archive of vintage pictures from Life magazine. Just enter 'rowing' as the search term and you get a load of pictures of rowing of yesteryear, mainly, it has to be said, the Boat Race. My favourite is this, which shows the great Canadian oarsman Ned Hanlan racing for the World Championship at Putney. Note how the race officials have to be carried in the front of eights to keep up with the scullers in those days before small marine engines.

But if you enter 'rowboat' you get a whole lot more, including this delightful picture of American teenagers going boating in 1945.

It reminds me of the poet Timothy Shy:
"Hip Hip Hooray,
The First of May!
Outdoor sex
Begins today!"

Next stop on the web is Chris Perkins' site where he reveals that construction of the first Ullapool St Ayles Skiff has begun, using Balcotan instead of epoxy because the vicious Scottish winter is closing in. Sooner you than me, Chris - it is cold enough down here in the soft South.
Finally, YouTube. This clip from Sesame Street should be in every rowing coach's training material:

Tuesday 1 December 2009

A tiny bit more boating on the box

Last night's episode of An Island Parish featured yet more agonising by both Methodist and CofE ministers and too much detail on the lovelorn and now tragically dog-bereft vet, so film of the Dutch pilot gig crew's performance in the Pilot Gig World Championship was sadly short. Only the women's race was recorded, but they did well. There is some nice footage of gigs sailing too. British viewers can catch it on BBC iPlayer. It's all between 10 and 14 minutes in - don't bother about the rest.
The Scheveningsche Roeivereeniging rowing club website has some good pics of the boat under construction, but no snaps of the races unfortunately.

Sunday 29 November 2009

Mirrors Down Under

I was going to give the ongoing 'front-view mirrors' thread a rest, but Peter Miller in Sydney has had such a startlingly original idea I simply can't resist. He writes:

I too have been experimenting with mirrors for the 17 foot Dory I row on Sydney Harbour. I tried some caravan towing mirrors on either side of a plank going across my boat but found they would often shift out of position and not be of much use. I tried a small cycling mirror attached to my cap but found it a bit small for my liking.
Then I tried a 12 inch circular acrylic convex mirror like those fixed in car parks on blind corners. I attached it near the stern of my boat and found it worked really well. But sometimes more is more so I supersized to an 18 inch diameter mirror (see pic). The result is a panoramic view of myself rowing (a plus for any narcissist rower) but also a view of most of what is around and behind me.
I still need to turn around occasionally to get my bearings but all in all it makes the rowing experience more pleasant. It also makes weaving in and out of moored yachts a breeze.
At the end of the trip I unscrew the bolt holding it to the boat and store it in the cardboard box it arrived in covered with a soft cloth to keep down the scratches.
Keep up the good work with the blog.
Kind regards
Peter Miller
Sydney Australia
The only drawback is the cost - 18in exterior mirrors seem to cost about £60 here in the UK, though a quick search revealed a garage mirror for £32.50. Because recreational rowers never go out in the rain, using an interior security mirror might save a bit of money too.
FYI I bought my mirror from ebay. Being in Australia I had to pay postage but it would probably not cost to much to be sent from the US to the UK.

Saturday 28 November 2009

A Grim Warning....

...about outboard motors, the invention of the Devil, from the always-entertaining-and-informative Invisible Workshop.
Key quote: "To conclude: you’re much better off rowing."

Friday 27 November 2009

Boats as street furniture

The Albert Embankment runs along the south bank of the Thames in Lambeth. When it was built by the famous engineer Joseph Bazalgette in the 1860s, a line of wharves was swept away but local rights to a slipway at the end of Black Prince Road, known as the White Hart Draw Dock, forced Bazalgette to build a new one, accessed through a tunnel under the road.

Right up until the middle of the last century there were boatbuilders here, but as industry left the dock was forgotten, filling and emptying unnoticed with every tide, hidden behind the high walls and flood gates that prevent it from flooding Lambeth on spring tides.
However, when Berkeley Homes wanted to build a block of flats next to the dock, part of the planning deal was to put money towards prettifying it. and now it has several imitation Thames wherries propped up on the wall for park benches and the dock has a line of pointed timber arches over it. It looks very good - congratulations to Handspring Design of Sheffield.

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Mirror, mirror...

Robert Bells in British Columbia has also been messing about with mirrors. First, he attached a mirror to a metal stalk that carries a running light and is attached to the transom, but eventually replaced it with ingenious plastic one that appeals very much to my bodgemania, being assembled out of plastic pipe and a spring clamp. He writes:
I was a bit uneasy with the running light stalk, as the stalk is metal. Where I row, in the mostly wilderness lakes and the inlets just east of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (the eastern reaches of the Salish Sea), the weather very quickly jams itself into the little fiords and mountain valleys, and can stack up some good lightning and thunder without very much warning. (And not many places to haul out in an emergency.) As a solution, I put together the current rig which is just about metal free.

I modified a 3" plastic spring clamp (cheap!!), re-contoured the jaws a bit, attached rubber padding cut from a doorstop with goop, bolted on a foot section of 3/4 inch plastic plumbing tube (more marine-goop), and a mirror from an auto supply store. Total cost about $20 Canadian.
I clamp it on my starboard gunwale a couple feet astern of my outrigger.
I also put together a boat hook pole with the same 3/4 inch plastic plumbing pipe, stiffening it with small wooden dowels inserted into uncured spray-foam insulation, to keep it completely metal free. I really do not want to be swinging around one of the commercial aluminium poles when the weather turns dangerous.
The "Front View Mirror" is best for lining up sight-lines for rowing in openish water, one landmark over the transom, one land mark in the mirror. I still have to twist around to check bearings and make sure I am not going to run over canoeists and kayakers. The best solution, have a pretty passenger in the stern seat (who has a clue) to point to clear water.
I really enjoy your blog, especially your commentary and photos of your adventures of Britain's rivers and inlets. I would like to try out some of your rivers and canals someday myself.
Thanks for that, Robert. I must say, the lake looks fabulous.
Just to provoke thoughts, here are a couple of alternative ideas from the Web. First, a 'wrist mirror' invented by Carl Ribeca (US Patent 4054375). You could make one by attaching a velcro strap to a powder puff.

And what about this, eh?

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Boating on the Box

You can tell the weather has been horrible - both this blog and have been watching the telly. Gavin links to a very splendid Channel 4 series that I missed, called Classic Ships, available to watch on 4oD. This episode focuses on pleasure craft, including the Thames skiffs and slipper boats that my grandparents used to have when I was a kid.

One clip stood out - a Thames bargee rowing a huge dumb barge with a pair of giant sweeps at Rotherhythe. He wasn't really powering it, of course, as the tide would have been doing most of the work, but using the sweeps to keep the thing going in the right direction would have been hard enough. I was standing on London Bridge once, watching a barge practicing for the barge races. Two blokes were rowing and another was steering. The tide was flowing very fast and they were swept against one of the piers of Cannon Street railway bridge. Being empty, the barge sounded a mighty DOINGGGGG that must have been heard in Croydon. You can see the dent it made in the bridge to this day.

I don't normally watch An Island Parish. the BBC's reality show about the Scilly Isles, but last night's episode featured the launch of a new pilot gig for a Dutch club. It is available on iPlayer, which has the big advantage that you can fast forward over the stuff about the lovelorn vet and the visiting bishop.
The local Methodist minister blessed the boat with a lovely Celtic benediction, and even spoke it in Dutch, one of the world's least pronouncable languages.
There was a thoughtful discussion of whether a religious ceremony is necessary in these secular times. I think it is purely because every community, including rowing clubs, needs ritual at certain points and a religious service fits the bill whether you believe in it or not. As the scientist Lord May said on Desert Island Discs when asked why he goes to church despite being an atheist: "I believe in following the rituals of my tribe."

Monday 23 November 2009

Noah oop North

Here's a tale of true Lancashire grit and determination from Stanley Holloway. If your Lancashire geography is a bit vague, Bury is on the River Irwell in the north of Greater Manchester. Blackpool is about 50 miles to the west.
The clip was put up by Hawkmoon - lots more lovely stuff on his YouTube channel.

Sunday 22 November 2009

Not lovely boating weather

A small group of cockeyed optimists shivered in the lee of the Royal Oak this lunchtime as a sharp shower blew over, propelled by a brisk F8 wind. Then a lovely double rainbow appeared over the old mill, but whitecaps still covered the harbour so we called it a day and headed for the warmth of the bar.

Saturday 21 November 2009

Lovely boating weather?

This time of year, the weather is a total lottery and I have won most weekends recently. All week, the weather forecasters have been predicting high winds and rain for today, but although it was blowing F5 the rain held off, so out we went. It was hard work but great, although it was one of those days when it looked as though the dinghy racers were having most fun. A few RS speed machines stormed past, spinnakers bulging like Jordan's washing line on underwear day.
All the houses in Langstone had their storm boards fitted. Everyone has clearly spent time over the summer painting them, so they look very smart. This is my favourite.

Friday 20 November 2009

Ralph Bird, 1942-2009

Ralph Bird, the man who almost single-handedly revived pilot gig rowing in the West Country, has died.

His coffin was drawn to the service in Truro Cathedral in one of his own creations, the pilot gig William Peters, built for Roseland in 1987. An honour guard of rowers raised oars at the doors of the cathedral.

But perhaps his greatest tribute was in 2007 when he finally retired. All 29 pilot gigs he had built over the decades assembled in Newquay for the launch of his last gig - named Ralph Bird. It was a remarkable tribute to a remarkable man.
I interviewed Ralph for The Times shortly after he reitired. This is the article:
Ralph Bird saved pilot gig racing from terminal decline in the most practical way possible: he built the boats for clubs to race.
And they are things of beauty, graceful 32ft boats with elegant sheer lines copied from the pilot gig Treffry, built in 1838 and still raced by the Newquay Rowing Club.
Bird has built 29 of them in his long career, each traditionally constructed from solid elm. No plywood or fibreglass is allowed if the boat is to compete.
“Sticking to tradition is one reason why the sport has been so successful,” Mr Bird believes. “Boats have been raced for 200 or 300 years.”
He chaired the meeting that set up the Cornish Pilot Gig Association back in 1986, when it was realised that gigs had to be standardised if racing was to be put on a proper footing. His simple specification has governed pilot gig building ever since.
The resurgence of pilot gig racing has been spectacular, with 125 gigs registered and regularly competing.
Last year, Ralph Bird finally retired from building, but still acts as president of the CPGA. He sees the sport as strong for the future despite the general decline in craft skills and the uncertain future of wood stocks.
“There are a few builders still,” Mr Bird says. “Four or five new gigs are being built this winter, and although Dutch elm disease wiped out Cornish stocks of the wood, we can still get supplies from Denmark.”
Its openness is one of the attractions, he believes: “It is not a male dominated sport, anyone can race, men and women, children and veterans.”
And there is the social side. He is looking forward keenly to the Scilly Isles in May.
“I’ll be at the World Championships,” he says. “It is a great social event as well as great racing.”
 Photos from Boating Cornwall.

Thursday 19 November 2009

More Myth Busting

Remember the old joke about the Roman galley? One morning, the bloke with the leather pants and the whip struts onto the catwalk and shouts: "OK slaves, listen up! I have good news and bad news! The good news is, you have the morning off. The bad news is, this afternoon the Captain's going water skiing."
Well, Rick Thompson writes:
Great clip of the duct tape boat. Have you seen the water skiing behind a rowboat episode? It's also on YouTube. OK, so it took the Stanford crew to do it - how about we try it with one of our rowing skiffs?
All the best,

It seems to me that the main problem was not the crew keeping up the speed, but the waterskiier staying upright through the recovery, when the boat slows down suddenly. We need to find a midget with elastic arms.

Boatbuilding with Duct Tape

Greg Chapman at the Home Built Boat Rally forum has posted a link to a clip of the Myth Busters building a boat out of duct tape. Take a look - it is hilarious and actually rather interesting.

It took 23 rolls to build the boat. Screwfix is offering six-packs of the stuff at £20.94, so that's just over eighty quid to cover a whole boat, including centreboard and sail. So a nice little rowing boat should be buildable in a weekend for a lot less. Still more expensive than polytarp though.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Swimming in the Tyne in 1901

The British Film Institute is putting a lot of fabulous early film online on their website and YouTube, including this lovely clip of a swimming gala in Tynemouth in 1901. The novelty obstacle race, swum in full evening dress, is followed by diving.
The event was filmed by Mitchell and Kenyon, who showed the results that evening with other footage to an enthusiastic audience.
Two things of note:
1) All the boats are rowed, and all the men (no women allowed) step from boat to boat with the easy confidence of a lifetime's practice; and
2) Nobody is being taken off to hospital with acute poisoning - the Tyne was already one of the most heavily polluted rivers in the world.

Saturday 14 November 2009

Building a boat in 1min 41sec

Chesapeake Light Craft in Annapolis (named after our own dear Queen) makes a rather enticing Northeaster Dory, a remake of the classic fishing vessel for recreational rowing. They rightly point out that the dories described in classics such as Captains Courageous were designed to be cheap, stackable and easy to deploy, and only acquired their legendary seaworthiness when you had a ton or so of cod in the scuppers.
So dories have evolved to cater for recreational rowers, and the Northeaster Dory is intended to be light, easy to row and seaworthy without all that fish.
CLC run boatbuilding classes and have produced a great time-lapse film of one of them, in which you can see a line of Northeaster Dories taking shape before your very eyes.
And here is a picture of Antone Konst proudly rowing the boat he built at a similar class in Rhode Island, on the Lieutenant River in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

Friday 13 November 2009

Halloween rowing

Every year the Hull Lifesaving Museum in Hull, Massachusetts hosts a Head of the Weir race in the estuary of the Weir River, one of the rivers that empties into Boston Harbour.
This year the race was on Halloween, so fancy dress was the order of the day - lots of great pictures taken by Beth, including shots of the many pilot gigs taking part, here.

Thanks to Kathy Martell of IROW for the heads up.

Monday 9 November 2009

All done by Mirrors

Chris Waite, who is a man of infinite-resource-and-sagacity like the Shipwrecked Mariner, was sporting a self-designed rear-view mirror at the Amble up the Hamble on Saturday. It was knocked up from an old belt, an old TV aerial and an old wing mirror. However, Chris was disappointed with performance as he reported on the HBBR forum:
"Despite the proximity of the mirror to my eye, the view is still quite limited, so it is necessary to move your head around to check the wider view of approaching impediments. The added problem is that everything is back to front, so all your head movements need to be reversed to obtain the necessary information. This then has to be translated to pulling on the oar that will move the bow of the boat the other way to the way you are seeing it as you are not only sitting the wrong way round, but looking backwards as well and having to move your head rather than your eyes as they need to stay fixed on the mirror and ingnore the oscillating view astern, in order to scan the scene ahead.
My ageing grey matter could not cope.
Not even slightly."
I have never really liked mirrors. They don't give a good enough idea of what is ahead so you have to look round fairly frequently anyway. The closest thing to a useful mirror is on the Clovelly Scull, where it is mounted on a bipod mast so it is just above your head, so you get a good view straight in front which is handy for both navigation and spotting immediate peril. The mast is also a good place to mount a GPS.
This is Paul Zink demonstrating it.
More on this in the upcoming issue of Water Craft, so subscribe now!

Sunday 8 November 2009

Up the Hamble with the HBBR

It's so wonderful to get another sunsoaked Saturday in a generally rainy week. A squadron of the Home Built Boat Rabble (as Chris Waite unkindly called us) set out from Swanwick hard midmorning and headed up the Hamble.
To the left is Chris Adeney in his Woods-designed Linnet skiff Pelly, the sister of the Bee that I have under construction (well, I have the plywood stacked up in the shed). Following on are Dr Waite in Octavia, Max Taylor in Gato Negro and Tim O'Connor in his Chesapeake kayak Wot Four.

Tim and Chris A exchange banter passing under the A27 bridge.
I put on a bit of pressure after the bridge and to my alarm the port side rigger broke away from the gunwale. A wing nut holding it to the hull had worked off on the road, leaving one arm of the rigger virtually waving in the wind. I had to ease off to avoid the whole thing coming apart.

We arrived a bit early at the creek up to the Horse and Jockey in Curbridge, so we floated gently up on the tide until the mud was covered (note traditional British car tyre).
Then we hung around outside the pub door, which remained sternly closed despite being past noon on a sunny Saturday. Eventually a bloke came round to announce that due to blah blah they would not be opening until one, and that due to blah blah blah the kitchen would not be open until the evening.
That was inexcusable. They knew we were coming, and while we were waiting several people arrived and left again. Is the landlord just lazy or was the entire staff crippled by hangovers? Avoid the Horse and Jockey, Curbridge, Hampshire, is my advice. I won't be going back.

We re-embarked and paddled off to Botley, where there is a lovely green at the old quay. Up to Victorian times this was a bustling port but now it is a quiet backwater and a lovely place for a picnic. Expeditions to the town secured supplies of sandwiches, beer, wine and double chocolate cookies (thanks, Chris A!).
I even managed to get a wing nut and washers to keep the rigger in one piece.

On the way down I paused to watch Hampshire firefighters practicing shallow-water rescue drill, for rivers and floods. They were using this interesting little inflatable, fitted with a skirt behind so rescuees can be hauled aboard easily and without causing more injuries.

Back down, the tide was still standing due to the famous Southampton double high tide. We got back at 4 and the light was going fast. Here are Graham Neil packing up his kayak Polythene Pam, with Snarleyow, Octavia and Steve and Marg Brown's nice little Petite Brise Penny.
Also present were Phil Oxborrow and Gem with their Prospector canoe Tonawanda and Al Law in his 8ft pram Newt.

Tailpiece: Comments were made on the Hamble's general muddiness. They weren't wrong.

More on this event on Max Taylor's Burseldon Blog.