Wednesday 30 September 2009

Clint Chase, Boatbuilder

Clint Chase writes from Portland, Maine, having stumbled on my recent post about his new Drake rowboat:
I just saw Drake on one of your Blog posts. I don't know how I missed that. You've been linked on my website. Great blog, keep it up. How do we cross link our blogs? Mine is

I plan to post more on water and rowing stuff. Also, FYI, I am developing a line of wood-composite oars that I think may be popular. They'll have spruce looms with carbon fiber, epoxy infused blades. Pretty snazzy. More coming on this front.

Also, you mention liking Gartside's work. I love his Flashboat design. Have you rowed one? I am eyeing that boat as a potential one to do in composite if there might be a market here in the States. The kevlar guideboats are a hit, so I don't see why Flashboats wouldn't except that they are from across the pond so may take a little longer to catch on.

Clint Chase
Clint's blog is excellent, and I have linked to it right over there -------->
Wednesday's post is particularly insightful, I think, with a couple of really nice pics too. Clint takes two pairs of oars with him when rowing. One pair is long with wide blades for maximum oomph in flat water, the other shorter with narrow blades for rowing through a chop, especially upwind. They allow a higher stroke rate, and the narrow blades mean you don't need to feather.
I really like Clint's combination wood/carbon fibre oars too.
Carbon fibre shafts bend alarmingly and, frankly, are pig-ugly. But wooden blades are heavy and delicate. So an oar with a lovely varnished spruce shaft and a light but tough carbon fibre blade really appeals. And once the blade is painted the neighbours need never know.
Clint is developing a vacuum infusion process (VIP) for making the blades, in which the carbon fibre mats are held against an inner core in a vacuum bag. The resin is then allowed to enter and is drawn through the carbon fibres by the vacuum, to create a blade with no bubbles and little wasted resin. The result should be an oar with the loveliness and strength of wooden shafts and the lightness and indestructibility of carbon fibre blades. I want a set already...
I have never rowed a flashboat, but they are hugely popular in Cornwall where they are raced with total Cornish aggression. A bit tippy for popular taste, I think, but slippy as hell.
Flashboats arose at a time when race rules were relaxed, allowing boatbuilders to go bonkers in the pursuit of speed. So a kevlar flashboat would be entirely within the flashboat ethos, I feel.

Sunday 27 September 2009

Rowing positions for the St Ayles Skiff

Here is boatbuilder Alec Jordan testing the rowing positions for the St Ayles Skiff, the prototype traditional rowing boat for the Kingdom of Fife.
Getting the distance between the thwarts correct is vital if the boat is to be successfully raced by community crews whose heights may range from quite small to average (6ft 5in). Measuring old boats is little help here as heights have significantly increased since the arrival of proper sustaining food in modern times (hamburgers and pizza).
Boatbuilder Chris Perkins writes: "The trial of seating positions by Alec was very useful - the cox is going to have to be a pretty short lightweight - there is not a great deal of room in the stern but we are now comfortable that the spacing of the thwarts is going to work well."
The only modification of Iain Oughtred's design has been to simplify the inwales. "Some deep thinking is going on during the fitting out to help make this part of the build as easy as possible for novice builders," Chris writes. "We have already partly moved away from Iain's glorious sweeping taper of the inwale, planing that down on all three laminations has proved very time consuming, the twisted grain in larch hasn't helped as deep cuts tend to tear out so fine cuts and very keen plane irons are the order of the day. Our modification does recognise tradition as study of a traditionally built Fair Isle Skiff shows - I just wish I had taken far more snaps of 'Aluna Ivy' at Portsoy this year! If only I had known what I would be getting involved with!"
More details and pics at Chris's blog.

Young boatbuilder's latest launch

There's no disguising the fact that the Home Built Boat Rally forum is populated mainly by the middle-aged, including me, but Peter-John Sanders is the exception. He has been building boats from a very young age and his latest has just hit the water. "The launch went very well and I had a great weekend messing about in it with two friends on the canal," he writes. "It's a Selway Fisher Stornoway 9 design and it rows really nicely. It's going to have a sailing rig, I have finished the mast, daggerboard and rudder, and have nicked the yard and sail from my little green one."
He hopes to bring the boat to an HBBR meet, but it won't be soon because he goes up to university shortly.

Tuesday 22 September 2009

HBBR at the Cotswold Water Park

Riverview45 has posted a rather jolly picture on the HBBR Yahoo! forum, showing me setting out in the newly refurbished Snarleyow at the HBBR meet. Dignity, style and baldness.
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Sunday 20 September 2009

Drascombes gather at Dell Quay

I got Snarleyow out yesterday, her first outing on Chichester Harbour for months due to the refurb and 'training' for the Great River Race. It was a fabulous day for rowing, sunny, windless and high tide at noon. I put in at Itchenor and ambled up to Fishbourne, impressing myself with the power I can put on after simply going out three times a week instead of twice. Must try and keep it up.
A fleet of Drascombes was milling about at Dell Quay in the light breeze. Eventually they rafted up for lunch, a rather impressive sight. They were the Drascombe Association, a friendly bunch. The skipper of the boat at the front told me his boat was horrible to row, but it looks as though it would be OK with its slim lines and transom well out of the water. I must try one.

Saturday 19 September 2009

St Ayles skiff turned over

The prototype St Ayles Skiff under construction at Jordan Boats has been turned over and looks like a boat. Chris Perkins writes to say that it looked good upside down but has now "achieved a step change in the looks department when seen from a 'proper' perspective for the first time. Iain Oughtred has produced yet another stunning design, I think she is a real beauty."
What really impresses me is the weight - two people are casually holding the 22ft boat in the air. Of course, the thwarts, gunwales, kabes and so on still have to be fitted (Alec has got a pile of larch in) and varnish+paint always seems to add an unexpected amount of weight. Even so, a crew of four plus cox should be able to lift it out of the water with no difficulty at all.
Chris expects next week to be an endless round of sanding and painting (which he secretly enjoys) so anyone who happens to be in the Kirkcaldy area would be welcome to put in a bit of elbow grease. Contact details are here.

Friday 18 September 2009

HBBR Cotswold Water Park (Tailpiece)

My Chippendale Sprite Snarleyow only made it to Cotswold Water Park by the skin of her varnish. The strip of softwood in the middle of the gunwale had rotted at the ends, so I replaced it and took the opportunity of planing the ends down at bow and stern to make a rather elegant tapered effect. Now I have to put the extra coats of varnish on.

I have never seen a boat carried on an open-top car before. Chris Adeney brought his Selway Fisher Waterman canoe on top of his vintage Morgan. It was a pity he did not bring his Linnet rowing boat as well, as it is towed behind and the whole rig must look very impressive. The boats are even painted the same colour as the car. "That way, you only need one can of paint," Chris says.

Wednesday 16 September 2009

HBBR at Cotswold Water Park

Steve and Marg Brown launched their new dinghy at the HBBR meet, a Selway Fisher Petite Brise design called Penny. Despite not being a boat person, Marg did a lot of the finishing and painting, which I think is noble. Here is Steve holding the bow while Tim O'Connor takes the tiller and Graham Neil hops about on the beach.
Also making a first appearence at the event was Peter Nobes's new canoe, a Christine design also by Selway Fisher.

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Rowing at HBBR

The Home Built Boat Rally at Cotswold Water Park over the weekend was brilliant - lots of sun on the Saturday and a nice breeze on Sunday for the sailors. The Saturday night barby featured enough meat for the entire Royal Marines (and band).
The O'Connors took their Oughtred Acorn skiff Ardilla out with Tony Waller at stroke, getting a very decent speed up.

And I finally got to row Chris Waite's Octavia, the award-winning two part skiff held together with string. It is lovely, very fast and stable, but she does not keep a straight line very well. Chris says this unexpected trait was responsible for his leading the pack down the river at the HBBR Thames rally earlier this year. He explains that he found it impossible to keep a straight line except under power, so he could never rest on his oars. He is going to install a skeg which should keep her in line in the future.
Here is Octavia artistically arranged on the beach with HBBR sails in the background and Molly Dog in the bow of Iona, keeping watch.

Monday 14 September 2009

Fishtail sculling device at HBBR

Paul Smithson, builder of the Welsford Walkabout that I sailed in at Cobnor a few weeks ago, loves sailing gadgets and has come up with an extremely novel sculling device which got its first trial at the Home Built Boat Rally meet at Cotswold Water Park over the weekend.
It works by waggling a plate like a fishtail. Power is provided by a lever mounted amidships and connected by a rod to the stern, so the sculler can sit facing forwards.
As a furniture designer and maker, Paul has incredibly high standards of workmanship and the prototype is a gleaming marvel of engineering, the complete opposite of the lashup I would have produced 'just to see if the idea works'.
The first trials showed definite forward progress but the device has the drawback that it can't steer the boat, so direction has to be set with an oar. It is also not as fast as a good pair of traditional blades. It will be very interesting to see how the device develops.

Saturday 12 September 2009

Traditional boats at Southampton

Two delightful real wood boats were on display at the Southampton Boat Show, in the little ghetto reserved for non-grp, non-rib, non-horrible boats.
Alan Staley was showing a beautifully restored rowing dinghy Marcelle.
Jamie Clay had an Acorn skiff he built 18 years ago to Iain Oughtred's perennially popular design. Still 'much used and enjoyed by her owner,' Jamie says.

Friday 11 September 2009

Southampton Boat Show

Contrasts at the Southampton Boat Show. A floating richard-attractor is the background to a rowing-for-pain machine. Dave Brooks is aiming to be the first person to row the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and very good luck to him though I personally think he is deranged. The bloke in the picture is not Dave but someone else who is accompanying the Woodvale Challenge 2009 as part of a ten-man crew in an attempt on the Atlantic rowing record. He is deranged too (in the nicest possible way).
Ian Thomson of Nestaway Boats exhibited his three-part rowing boat that fits in the back of an estate car. Ian says it fits nicely in a Focus, which is good for me as that is the model I happen to own, but not in a Range Rover, oddly. It all depends on the aperture of the tailgate, apparently.
Ian is experimenting with outriggers that will hook over the gunwales to allow rowers to use longer oars and get real speed out of the long, thin hull. He has also developed a sailing rig that will appeal to diehard sailors out there.
I have always had a weak spot for steamboats, and Steam Pinnace 199 presses all my buttons. Built in 1911 by Samuel White's yard in Cowes, Isle of Wight, she was used as a guardboat for a dreadnought and became an admiral's barge in 1918.
The Hotchkiss three pounder gun is the same model as installed originally, but was dredged up by a Portsmouth fishing boat in the 1960s and dumped at the back of a yard until it was recognised and recovered for restoration as 199's armament.

Thursday 10 September 2009

Wednesday 9 September 2009

Flags at the Great River Race

The requirement for every boat to fly a flag adds a great deal of colour to the Great River Race. We flew the Red Duster, naturally, but the Jolly Roger was common (rather predictably), many boats flew club flags and there were a few flapping things that looked suspiciously like cut-up sheets or tea towels.
The Most Regal flag was flown by Maggie, a skiff from Weybridge Sailing Club. Shouldn't they have had the Black Prince or someone aboard? Maggie started at number 14 right at the front of the slowcoach squadron, and ended in sixth place overall in a time of 3hr 10m, a really outstanding achievement especially as that great big flag must have dragged them back considerably in the stiff headwind.
The Welsh dragon was everywhere, flown on the very fast Celtic Longboats, one of which, Afon Dyfi, came second overall in a stonking 2hr 22m.
Many boats flew the Dutch flag, here flying from a pilot gig.
The flag of the Lady Boys reads 'Silly Name, Serious Goal", and they were indeed rowing for the Child Bereavement Charity. The boat is the wonderful Lady Mayoress shallop owned by the Watermen's Company.
The shallop Jubilant was at the start line, flying a flag I would be happy to serve under - Young's Brewery.

Tuesday 8 September 2009

Great River Race

Bursledon Gigs made a big showing at the GRR, no fewer than five arriving at the Millwall start line. Hamble Sea Scouts came first, second and third in both the Sea Scout categories. The Under 16 crew of Sea Dart won the U16 trophy, and the Under 18 crew of Point Source came third in their class. Exocet came in 17th overall in a time of 2hr 56min, very closely followed by Schmidt who came in 24th just a couple of minutes later. A great set of results.

Monday 7 September 2009

St Ayles skiff prototype under construction

Chris Perkins writes with news that the first St Ayles skiff is rapidly taking shape in Alec Jordan's workshop in Fife.
The aim is to produce a boat that can be easily built by sea scouts, rowing clubs, community groups and even pub teams (darts? no thanks!). Chris says a considerable amount of interest has been generated, and even spotted a model of the boat and a poster in the window of a pub in East Wemyss.
Thanks to Chris for the pics - at the top is a view of the moulds with keelson and false stem in place, and to the left is Alec wielding a power planer.
More at Chris Perkins' blog, Scottish Coastal Rowing and Jordan Boats.

Sunday 6 September 2009

Langstone Cutters at the Great River Race

This shot is the one that says 'Great River Race' for me. Mabel hammering upriver past the Houses of Parliament.
There was a good deal of hanging around before the start, with the boats sitting on the foreshore at the Isle of Dogs. This is part of the crew of Gladys waiting.
Here is the Solent galley Bembridge drifting down to the holding area before moving up to the start line.
The Teifi skiff Millie looks very small in a big river as she heads downriver for the holding area. That's the old naval victualling yard in Deptford in the background.
15 Seconds, a Salter skiff, was already out of the water and ready to go home by the time Mabel arrived at Ham.
Langstone Cutters super-vets (over 60s) in Gladys won their class for the fifth successive year. 15 Seconds won the women's trophy, and Millie won the veteran women's class. Bembridge put up a great fight but didn't win silverware - but next year they will be truly acquainted with their boat and the opposition had better watch out. Mabel finished.
Huge congratulations to all.
There were, of course, one or two other clubs at the event and I'll be posting more later. Meanwhile, there is a great selection of pictures and all the results at the Great River Race website.

Saturday 5 September 2009

Great River Race

Too late to post anything rational about the Great River Race, beyond saying that Mabel recorded a time of about four hours; nobody died; I did not, to my surprise, actually need CPR or oxygen; and Langstone Cutters won some silverware. But not Mabel.

Great River Race

I'm on the coach heading for the start on the Isle of Dogs. You can track the progress of Mabel and the other Langstone Cutters boats at
Mabel's number is 65.

Friday 4 September 2009

Great River Race

JP has just commented that Bruff would be 'just the thing' for the Great River Race tomorrow. Well, I will be rowing the race in Mabel, one of the boats from Langstone Cutters. We are fielding two Clayton skiffs, a Solent galley, a Tiefi skiff and a Salter skiff.
If you are also competing, give us a wave as you pass. If you are watching, keep an eye out for me - I will be the one being given CPR and oxygen by whatever the riverine arm of St John's Ambulance is.

Thames double-ended skiff on eBay

An absolutely lovely and very unusual Thames rowing boat has come up for auction on eBay.
Bruff was built in 1910 by A.E. Saunders of Streatley as a double-ender, something I have never seen on the Thames. She looks a bit like an Adirondack guide boat, with the rower at one end and a passenger at the other, though in Edwardian Streatley the passenger would have been more likely to be a girl with a parasol rather than a 'sport' with rod and gun. At a mere 9ft long she is much shorter than the average guide boat, and with a beam of 3ft 8in a little tubbier too, but she should row easily and 'put the water back where she found it'.
According to the vendor Bruff is in remarkably unrestored condition, and comes with two sets of spoon oars, brass rowlocks and the original cover.
The A.E. Saunders yard was next to the Swan Hotel. The most famous member of the family firm was Sam Saunders who developed double-diagonal construction for fast steam boats, notably the boat race umpires boat Consuta. He outgrew the Streatley site, moving to Cowes in 1901 and founding the Saunders-Roe company that made everything from airborne lifeboats to hovercraft.

Thursday 3 September 2009

More on the Shipyard School Raid 2009

Andy Zimmerman has written a great account of his adventures in the Shipyard School Raid in British Columbia, which I posted about a little time ago. Andy entered in his lovely 18ft Whitehall Hornpipe, which he built himself to the Alaska design of Don Kurylko.
Andy tellingly describes the way everyone had to change from rowing to sailing and vice versa, depending on conditions.
Raiders have uploaded a bunch of pictures of the event to Flickr, including the one above showing Andy at the oars. Below is the skin-on-frame Tuvaak and Bus Bailey, a traditional handliner. Andy describes Bus Bailey's owner Colin Masson sailing and rowing downwind, by simply raising the sail, turning his back to it, and rowing. This is a technique I hope to try with my new boat.
And finally, the longboat Bear seems to be making speed under sail but mainly under the oars of the Port Townsend Sea Scouts.

Wednesday 2 September 2009

My new boat arrives (in bits)

Unbirthday time at Chateau Partridge - the kit for my Bee arrived this morning!
Alec Jordan has been busy transforming Lillian Woods' plans into computer form, and cutting sheets of ply so I don't have to. Apparently this was not a trivial process as the plans assume a lot of 'fitting to shape' which makes calculating the actual shape of several of the inside panels impossible. But as long as the hull comes out correctly I am confident I can get the rest of the bits together.
Construction starts as soon as the Great River Race is over (Saturday) and Snarleyow is repainted and re-gunwaled and it stops raining. Could be some time...
Eventually, it should look like this: