Wednesday 31 March 2010

Building Simbo - going 3D

Duct tape, the bodger's friend, got the hull together after a considerable struggle getting long woggly planks to stay in the right position long enough to get the tape firmly fixed. Two pairs of hands are definitely better than one here, and taking some time getting the joints exactly correct is well worth while - Simbo is ever so slightly corkscrew shaped.
The gunwales have a natural tendency to move inboard, so they were held out with a batten secured by more duct tape.
Once assembled, the bottom was secured to what I laughingly call a workbench (a sheet of plywood on a pair of workmates) by a couple of deck screws and a length of wood.
Now all was set for securing the seams, first with a dribble of pure resin, then with a fillet of resin+microfibres mixed in to the consistency of yoghurt. I found it pays to return to the work every half hour or so as it hardens to clean up runs and push the fillet back into shape to stop it sagging. The result was fairly neat.
Then it had to be put under cover again to avoid yet another frontal system sweeping up the Channel. The outside would have to be left for the morrow.

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Building Simbo

Having decided to build a small boat for small waters, I started the search for a suitable design. It needed to be quick, easy and cheap. Hannu's Simbo was the obvious choice, as the hull pieces are cut using practically straight lines out of one sheet of ply - it is very clever.
However, Hannu uses 12mm (half inch) ply to eliminate the need for any reinforcement. Unfortunately, this also means he has to build a jig to force the bottom into a curve. And I happened to have a nice sheet of 5mm (quarter inch) ply that Alec Jordan used to protect the kit for the Bee he supplied last year and I still haven't got round to building yet. Alec kindly confirmed that the ply is exterior grade and OK for a boat - so every Jordan Boats kit comes with two 'single sheet' boats free outside!
Using thinner ply also allowed me to adopt a much simpler 'tape and glue' construction using duct tape to hold the bits together for gluing with epoxy.
The first step was to draw the cut lines on the ply, which took minutes, and cutting them out with a regular cross-cut saw - Hannu correctly points out that you have much more control with a handsaw than a powered jigsaw and the lines are much straighter as a result.
I then attached the hull sides together with epoxy and tape, separating them from each other and the work surfaces with builder's plastic sheeting. The joints were clamped down with a pair of decking screws through each end of a bit of scrap timber.
The epoxy was SP, mainly because it is the only brand available in local chandleries, and has a 5:1 mixing ratio. To get it correct, I prepared a measuring glass by putting a sticky label on a disposable drinking cup, filling it with exactly 100ml of water and clearly marking the level. To measure out the hardener I used one of those little 20ml measuring cups you get with cold cures, which are never thrown away in our household.
Construction ceased to allow the resin to cure. Tomorrow: going 3D.

Monday 29 March 2010

Two Launches in One Day

Yesterday saw a double launch at Pulborough on the River Arun in Sussex.
Launch one - the inaugural cruise of the Arundel Boat Club (ABC).
Launch two - the maiden voyage of my new boat, small enough for shallow, narrow streams. The design is called Simbo, the simple boat, by the incredible Hannu of Hannu's Boatyard. It is seven foot something long, and made out of just one sheet of plywood and some odd bits of timber. A construction blog will follow over the next few days.
The picture above, taken by ABC member Wendy Williams (thanks, Wendy!), shows the new boat in the water for the first time, riding high, with me considering carefully whether 5mm of ply really is strong enough for someone of average weight such as myself. Above, ABC chairman Chris Waite holds his self-designed, self-built skiff Octavia back up the very steep slipway.
Finally, I took that step into the unknown and hopped in - Wendy has caught that delicate shake of the boot intended to minimise the amount of water taken in. The boat floats with both transoms just out of the water - success!
Off I row. Unfortunately the rowlocks are too close to the thwart and too low on the water, forcing me to keep my knees down and legs straight, a very uncomfortable pose. Happily, another ABC member, John, lent me the very short oars from his boat which made life easier. Changing the position of the rowlocks will be the first modification before the boat gets another outing.
We ambled gently a mile or so upstream to Stopham Bridge where we have an all-too-short break at the White Hart for BEER.
Then a couple of miles up to Pallingham where the river changes into the disused Arun and Wey canal and is no longer navigable.
One of the advantages of a small boat is you can stuff it in the back of the car for instant boating gratification.

Friday 26 March 2010

Bermudas by Andrew Marvell

Where the remote Bermudas ride
In th' ocean's bosom unespied,
From a small boat, that rowed along,
The list'ning winds received this song.
"What should we do but sing His praise
That led us through the wat'ry maze,
Unto an isle so long unknown,
And yet far kinder than our own?
Where He the huge sea-monsters wracks,
That lift the deep upon their backs.
He lands us on a grassy stage,
Safe from the storms, and prelate's rage.
He gave us this eternal spring,
Which here enamels everything;
And sends the fowls to us in care,
On daily visits through the air.
He hangs in shades the orange bright
Like golden lamps in a green night;
And does in the pomegranates close
Jewels more rich than Ormus shows.
He makes the figs our mouths to meet,
And throws the melons at our feet;
But apples plants of such a price,
No tree could ever bear them twice.
With cedars chosen by His hand,
From Lebanon, He stores the land;
And makes the hollow seas, that roar,
Proclaim the ambergris on shore.
He cast (of which we rather boast)
The Gospel's pearl upon our coast;
And in these rocks for us did frame
A temple, where to sound His name.
Oh let our voice His praise exalt,
Till it arrive at Heaven's vault:
Which thence (perhaps) rebounding, may
Echo beyond the Mexique Bay!"
Thus sung they, in the English boat,
An holy and a cheerful note;
And all the way, to guide their chime,
With falling oars they kept the time.

Picture from petervanallen's Flickr album

Monday 22 March 2010

San Fran Row

David 'Thorne' Luckhardt went rowing round San Francisco with the Traditional Small Craft Association a few days ago. Rowing in cities always produces an interesting backdrop, whether it is a forest of skyscrapers like this or industrial grot.
There were some lovely boats attending - this is Bill and Wendy Doll in their neat double-ender. More of David's pictures on the Wooden Boat forum.

Sunday 21 March 2010

Venturing out

I met up with the Dinghy Cruising Association at Warsash today. Warsash sits on the southern bank of the River Hamble where it debouches (great word) into Southampton Water.
I had never dared take little Snarleyow into the southern end of this wide and heavily-used waterway before, but the wind had died away so I went for it.
First landmark was the somewhat bizarre jetty of the Warsash Maritime Academy, where officers of the Merchant Marine are trained. Here they practice lifeboat drill on real lifeboats. In front was a pulling boat of stupendous vastitude and glassiness, which looks like really hard work to row. But as mariners nowadays spend all their time sitting in front of computer screens controlling the ship by joystick, it might help them keep those spare tyres under control.
Then off to Langstone, where the Cutters celebrated the start of the new season with the Blessing of the Boats by the Rector of Havant, who rather sportingly went for a row afterwards. As I had Snarleyow on the back of the car, it seemed a shame not to put her in the water, so she got blessed too. Nice.
What is the difference between the Moon and Southampton Water?
The Moon is shiny and bright.

Saturday 20 March 2010

Vikings in Bond Street

133 New Bond Street is a very dull building probably dating from between the wars, but it has this very jolly Viking ship over the front door. I'm no expert, but isn't that bow far too full and bending back on itself to be authentic? And did any Viking ship have a mizzen sail? Or a poop deck? Pure Hollywood.
This is a crossover post with my other blog, Ornamental Passions, which is devoted to this sort of thing.

Friday 19 March 2010

Another St Ayles skiff goes over

Coigach Lass, the community rowing skiff of Coigach in Scotland's north west, was turned over last weekend and extremely spiffy she looks.
Interestingly, the admiring comments on the Coigach blog post come mainly from other builders of the St Ayles Skiff. The magic of the internet is that excitement and competitive spirit is building up online, something that would have take years to achieve in the days of newsletters and the local papers.
No fewer than 17 skiffs have now been ordered, according to kit builder Alec Jordan, and others are being planned. The first rowing season should be very exciting.

Thursday 18 March 2010

Wooden racing shells

JohanR has just commented on a postof a couple of years back on wooden racing shells
"I took the KingFisher structure & dimentions and fitted the Kaschper curves onto the KF moulds. Used some 1.5mm mahogany bending ply and covered with thin fibreglass for stiffening. She's almost done and looking not too shabby..."
I haven't got your email, JohanR - could you send some pictures? And if Duncan, Kev and Charles N are reading this, did you manage to build the shells you had in mind? All pics gratefully received!


Wednesday 17 March 2010

The Hallstattersee Platten (or Zillen)

Just one more visit to the Turks online auction, where one of the lots is a lake boat from Austria. It was used in the TV fantasy mini-series The 10th Kingdom, which apparently had good reviews but bombed.
The Hallstattersee is a huge Alpine lake. The mountains just plummet into the water, so it is impossible to build much around it. As a result, the town of Hallstatt could only be reached by boat until fairly recently, but despite this major barrier to trade the town was rich even in Roman times because of a huge natural deposit of salt in the mountains behind.
The boat is described by Turks as a salt boat, but apparently this pointy punt, known as a platten or zillen, has always been a pleasure boat. Locals claim it is the prototype of the Tuebingen stocherkahn and the Oxbridge punt, apparently on the basis that they all have flat bottoms.
Be that as it may, the Hallstattersee platten is rather lovely and very interesting, seemingly combining a punt with a gondola. Like the gondola, it is rowed standing up and facing forward, though the action seems to be rather different. The oar is held by an odd-looking vertical board and prevented from flying off by a loop of rope.
An expert makes it look easy:

But it is easy to row a platten in circles:

Monday 15 March 2010

Viking longboat at Turks Film Boats Auction

This Viking longboat would be a stunning part of any rowing club's fleet. It would create a real impression at regattas. Even before the lootin', rapin' and pillagin'. And you can buy it at the Turks Film Boats auction.
She was built by noted wooden boatbuilder Ian Richardson in Orkney, so it must be just about the most authentic and well-built replica you can get. The hull is a dramatic 50ft long, with a beam of 10ft, but it splits in two for easier towing. Ten oars, mast and rudder are included, but it is unclear whether you get the dragon's head shown in the picture (which comes from Ian's website).

Sunday 14 March 2010

Turks Film Boats Auction

 I suspect that the boat that generates most interest in the auction of Turk's maritime film stars will be Swallow, used in the 1974 film of Swallows and Amazons.
Here she is, showing clearly the feature that Arthur Ransome describes in detail - the lack of a centreboard. She had a wooden keel and lots of lead pigs for ballast.
I am hoping that everyone will concentrate on Swallow so I can nip in and bag Winnie, a single skiff built in 1918 by the boatyard and hire firm Bligh of Richmond. It featured in the Dr Dolittle film with Rex Harrison.

Saturday 13 March 2010

Crews up pressure for L2P

Out today for a row in the Solent Galley Bembridge down Emsworth channel towards East Head, with stunning displays of dunlins sweeping round in massive flocks, and seals popping their heads out of the water to say hello.
On the way back we came up with the Reivers12 crew in their Thames Waterman's cutter, who had just set a new record time for a circumnagation of Hayling Island at just over 3 hours for the 15 mile course, as part of their training for the looming London to Paris challenge.
Langstone Cutters' own Ian Mclennan was coxing, and Mike Gilbert was off to London to advise another crew, the Outloars. The LCRC crew that won the first London to Paris challenge is now, I think, advising all three entrants for the 2010 event in May.

Friday 12 March 2010

Shallop for Sale

If you were impressed by the sight of David Dimbleby swanning up the Thames in a royal shallop, get your credit card out and schlep over to the Turks Online Auction where another example of one of these wonderful craft is going under the hammer.
The shallop is one of the many marine film props collected by Turks Film Services over the years, and featured in A Man for All Seasons, the film of Robert Bolt's play about the life and death of Sir Thomas More, and Elizabeth: The Golden Age with Cate Blanchett.
The shallop is 15.3m long by 2.4m beam, and comes with ten oars and a rudder. I suspect the various canopies that feature in the films have long gone, but would be easily replaced.
I really really want it, though with a crew of 11 it wouldn't be the purchase price but the running costs that might be the killer.
Turks have been in the film business since the 1950s, when the family boatyard in Kingston-on-Thames began to supply boats to the movie studios clustered to the west of London at Pinewood, Shepperton and so on. They have a collection of over 200 assorted craft from kayaks to 50ft Viking longships stored in a shed in Chatham Dockyard.
Now, however, the film industry is increasingly using computers to generate boats out of thin cyberspace, where the effects are more dramatic and delicate film luvvies don't have to get cold and wet. So Turks are auctioning the lot over the next month or so. And there are some corkers in there - more on this later.
Thanks to Peter Williams for the headsup.

Thursday 11 March 2010

Dimbleby Rows Out (again)

Every week I swear I'm not going to waste my time watching David Dimbleby spouting platitudes about history in Seven Ages of Britain, and every week I notice a bit of rowing magic. This is a wonderful shot of the Royal Shallop Jubilant rowing past Greenwich University (formerly Naval staff college, formerly Naval Hospital). What a sky.
Then Dimbleby blew it by banging on about Nelson as a commoner who 'rose through the ranks', as if he joined AB and was promoted through the hawsehole instead of being a fully paid-up member of the officer class with excellent family connections at very senior levels in the Service.

Wednesday 10 March 2010

The Rowingest Man in the States

This lovely clip from the Pathe archive (click the image to start) dates from 1964 when lumberjack Tony Calery, otherwise known as 'Seaway Tony', rowed 2,000 miles from Michigan to the World's Fair in New York in 75 days, despite rowing with a cigarette in his mouth. A very nice double ender he had, too.

Sunday 7 March 2010

Adventures with GPS

As you all know by now, I am a big fan of the Nokia Sports Tracker application which makes it extremely simple to record where you have been, how fast you were going and lots more. But today's row showed how much slack you have to allow for.
Langstone Cutters club rowing today consisted of Ian, Nigel and me, so we took out Millie, a Teifi skiff that has just been beautifully refurbed by our bosun Geoff Shilling. A few weeks ago she looked a bit tired, poor dear, and now she is a symphony of varnished wood and gleaming white 'glass.
We headed for Langstone Harbour. There are two obstacles, the road bridge and a line of iron caissons that used to support the branch line affectionately known as the Hayling Billy. These are very close together and you have to go through the central opening that used to have a swing bridge to let sailing boats through.
Now, I admit we cut it a bit fine going through (from left to right in the Google Earth image) but not as fine as the GPS track seems to indicate:
The whole track (at least, that part of the track after the point where I finally remembered to switch the thing on) is here.
PS: The white lines running up and down the picture are electricity cables supported by a particularly egregious and offensive pylon. Last week, it was removed, hooray, hooray! One eyesore down, let's tackle the rest!

Saturday 6 March 2010

A coastal and adventure rowing boat

A new company, Hartwanger Rowing of East London in South Africa, is producing an interesting line of boats for 'coastal and adventure rowing'. The Bombaloza is designed for adventure rowing, with a hatch in the forward buoyancy compartment to keep dry stuff dry. Unusually for commercially produced boats, the 6m hull is made of epoxy ply for strength and lightness - it weighs just 35kg.
The video is great - rowing through the surf on the Indian Ocean looks a blast!
The price is R16,500, which is about £1,500 plus shipping and import tax (until the pound dives again - buy now at pre-election prices).

Friday 5 March 2010

Rowing facing forwards round the Sea of Cortez

 The father and son team Herman and Martijn Stephout have just started a major journey of 1800km down the coast of Baja California (that's the bit that sticks downwards, around the Sea of Cortez, and is part of Mexico). Martijn is paddling a kayak but Herman is rowing an Odyssey 180 designed by Ron Rantilla, powered by Ron's unusual Frontrower. Herman built both boats - the maiden voyage of the Odyssey is pictured above, and the picture below shows the intrepid pair heading out on their first day.
Apparently, the Sea of Cortez is much less wild than the Pacific but not exactly the Thames either, so it will be very interesting to see how Herman copes with the Frontrower. So far, all has gone well except that they made the classic mistake of getting in about three times as much stores as they could fit into their boats, as related in their entertaining blog Baja Paddle.

Wednesday 3 March 2010

Bus Bailey plans available

Larry Westlake has written to say that plans are now available for Colin Masson's beautifully restored double-ended Luoma handliner, built for salmon fishing in 1937 and which he uses for commuting to work. It is named Bus Bailey after a previous owner.
Colin writes in his excellent blog:
“Bus”, a thirteen-and-a-half foot, double ended carvel-planked rowboat, is well-proportioned with a well-defined and balanced sheer providing a solid “sweet” appearance. Frank Hackwood, the third owner (at right in picture, with Colin), tells me that Bus Bailey paid twenty dollars in 1946 for a fully outfitted boat with the original pair of fine spooned oars of tight-grained old-growth fir and an oak ‘dry-ass’ seat.
More about the plans can be found at Larry's website - click the 'Heritage' button. It is a treasure-trove of plans for traditional North American rowboats, including a long and slender Fraser River Skiff of 1905 originally used by fur traders.
The heritage plans assume traditional construction in solid wood, but if you prefer modern clinker ply you could look at the pretty Brightsides hand troller, Larry's own design.