Saturday 28 August 2010

Lively Lady aground

Here's a sad picture. Lively Lady, the boat that Sir Alec Rose sailed to fame in his 1968 solo circumnavigation, sits on props ashore at Hayling Yacht Company's yard.
A dispute over money between the yard and the charity that owns her has kept her out of the water for more than a year now and there are concerns that she may just rot away.
I passed by on a training run in Lotty, one of Langstone Cutters' Teifi skiffs, with Geoff and Nigel. A lovely day after all the wind and rain of the past week.
Being slightly late arriving at the slipway, I had hurried away from the car and forgot (a) to retrieve my waterproof camera from the glove pocket and (b) to put my non-waterproof mobile phone into the glove pocket. Luckily the phone didn't get wet, but it still took a crap picture.

Friday 27 August 2010

Front-rowing trimaran

Another newsletter hits the inbox, this time from Ron Rantilla, inventor and maker of the Frontrower system. The headline item is a rather strange-looking front-rowing trimaran. The amas can be moved inboard when rowing, so the oars can drop down properly, and extended right out for sailing.
The kayak was built by Axel Ziegler in Switzerland, with the collaboration of German boatbuilder Jurgen Volker, who supplied a stitch-and-glue kit of his Razor design.
When reading Ron's newsletter, be sure to scroll down and read about the Native Alaskans who wanted to give their sons a suitable rite of passage. They built a couple of Ron's boats and Frontrowed all the way round a local island - over 150 miles. Great stuff.

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Not gone fishin'. Yet.

I have always been slightly nervous about fishing from my skiff Snarleyow, fearing that if I caught a big one I might be dragged in - as you can see from the masthead, she is rather slender. I have a line and some lures for mackerel but have so far never used them.
So I looked with wonder at the fish Kurt Beacham manages to haul out of Victoria Harbour, British Columbia, from his Whitehall Spirit 14. The Spirit 14 is a little wider than my Chippendale Sprite and also has buoyancy chambers which must be reassuring.
Kurt, who manages the fibreglass production at the makers of the Spirit, Whitehall Rowing and Sail, snagged a 35lb halibut recently which was apparently something of a struggle. If I had caught it I would have gone over the side without a doubt.
Things might be easier with the novel rowing boat designed and built by Gary Baigent in New Zealand, featured in Duckworks Magazine. It has a big gutter down to the stern, so a fisherman can haul a catch over the stern and up the boat without capsizing. Frankly brilliant. Apparently it also enables you to board the boat over the stern when pushing off from the beach.
Another nice touch is the cutout in the bulkhead immediately behind the oarsman so you don't knock yourself when you lean back.
Must remember to pack the fishing line next time I go out.
PS Sign up for the Whitehall Spirit newsletter. It's really good.

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Water Craft out

Lots of rowing stuff in the latest issue of Water Craft, including a great article about the Scottish Coastal Rowing project by Alec Jordan, pictured here with co-builder Chris Perkins at the Water Craft stand at the Beale Thames Boat Show.
Also featured are the IBTC's St Lawrence Skiff that I had taken out for her maiden voyage at Beale the previous year, and Nick Coppins's stunning double-ender Norfolk Skies.
The construction of a Selway-Fisher Thames skiff is detailed, and an interesting article describes building medieval-style surf boats for the new Ridley Scott film Robin Hood.
Kathy Mansfield writes about the BJ17, a development by Nigel Irens of his admired sail/oar raid boat, the King Alfred School Expedition Boat. It is slightly longer, slightly narrower and has a slightly more pronounced wineglass transom, all of which should maker her faster under oars. Indeed, Irens himself comments: "The result, I hope, offers some interesting sailing and, as a bonus, a hull that should tempt the most sedentary of owners to get a nice pair of oars out."
Disappointingly Kathy, who I know can row very well, does not seem to have even loaded the oars onto the boat. Come on Kathy - you've only done half the review!

Saturday 21 August 2010


Sydney, Australia. Midwinter.

Hayling Island, England, Midsummer.
Went rowing with the Supervets in the Clayton Skiff Gladys down to Sparkes Marina, near the harbour mouth. The wind was F4/5 and it threatened to rain the whole time.
It was all in stark contrast to the picture Peter Miller had just sent from Australia, showing the beach at Newcastle Harbour.
Mind you, there were compensations. That blob you can see on the shore in the picture above is a seal. The board paddler wasn't put off by the wind, rain and cold, and this attractive Dunkirk Little Ship was parked in Sparkes.

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Ulla wins!

Ulla, the Ullapool St Ayles Skiff, has started winning. The first triumph was at the Dorna Sail and Oar on the Clyde at the weekend, when Ulla beat rivals Port Seton. The secret seems to be a combination of practice, physical fitness and replacing the steering oar with a more conventional rudder moved by a yoke and lines.
The picture, by Chris Perkins, shows the new arrangement plus the now-unused 'wart' for the steerboard.
Congratulations, Ulla, and keep up the training!

Monday 16 August 2010


I am one of the least competitive people in the world, but I stand in awe of idiots who enter events like the Red Bull X-Row last weekend. Crews had to row from Lucerne to Zug, towns 30km apart on completely different lakes so they had to portage between the two. For some reason the organisers added another portage to cut a corner on Lake Lucerne as well.
There were some ingenious methods of carrying the boats, as regarding the portages simply as 'carrying the boat from the water to the boathouse, but longer' was obviously not going to work. Most teams seem to have had six people carrying the boat and a couple for the oars. A German crew called the Marcel Hacker All Stars won, and the Strength and Purchase crew from England came third. The picture shows a team from Austria - more pictures here.
Despite my lack of competitive spirit, I have signed up for the Great River Race in London next month. I went out training in our Solent Galley Bembridge on Sunday, heading for Itchenor (you can see the satellite track here).

Sunday 15 August 2010

Kayaking in Lyme Regis

This is a boatbuilder. You can tell he's a boatbuilder rather than a manic kayaker for what he has committed and omitted. He has omitted the lycra, helmet and plastic bag containing all his electronic gizmos, but he has committed a pencil behind his ear. I suspect he doesn't even know it is there.
The picture was sent over by Emma Brice at the Boatbuilding Academy in Lyme Regis to promote an interesting new course/holiday they are doing. The idea is that budding boatbuilders and kayakers stay at a farm near Lyme for ten days, during which time they will build the traditionally-styled West Greenland kayak and a paddle.
At £1,700 each, it would be an expensive holiday, or an expensive kayak, but for both it is great value for money. Click here for details.
OK Emma - how about doing a rowing boat for next year?

Saturday 14 August 2010

Ben goes rowing

This picture is stunning, but the story behind it is truly heart-warming. Read it here.

Thursday 12 August 2010

News from round the Web

Henley heroes visited the UK Open Surfboat Championships at Saunton Sands, apparently giving the event 'added respect'. I think participating in a frankly terrifying sport like surfboating gives the 1829 Boat Club crew 'added respect'.
The Artemis transatlantic rowing crew, who smashed the record for rowing from New York to England set 114 years ago by a couple of mad Norwegians, met the Queen Mary on the way. Congratulations to the Artemis, though I have added respect for the original guys, who were correctly dressed for the occasion.
Construction has begun on yet another St Ayles Skiff, this time in Dunbar. 28 kits have now been sold. Tremendous!
But the BEST news of all is that Ben of The Invisible Workshop is back home from hospital. His crewmates rowed across the harbour to welcome him home. Here's wishing you a speedy return to the water, Ben.

Tuesday 10 August 2010


Front-view mirror innovator Robert Bells is lucky enough to row in British Columbia, which he is understandably smug about. The video shows him rowing on Buntzen Lake, and if you can drag your eyes away from the spectacular mountain scenery for a moment you will observe a copy-book example of the noble art of feathering going on in the foreground.
Robert writes:
Hi Chris,

Buntzen Lake, a reservoir for hydro power generation, is the small lake that I use for my rowing and conditioning. . The scenery is very pretty, and I wanted to share the joy of it, perhaps even avoiding "smugness," in the hope of interesting other folk in appreciating our lovely natural environment.
The "Salish Sea" is a designation, hopefully soon to be official, that respects the territories of the Coast Salish First Nations People. It encompasses a portion of the Inside Passage between Vancouver Island and the Mainland (the area south of Campbell River, the coast of SE Vancouver Island, the islands of the passage, and the fjords of the mainland); the Straits of Juan de Fuca out toward Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, and Neah Bay on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, USA; the San Juan Island group; and the waters and Islands of Puget Sound, past Seattle down to Olympia WA. And it includes the tidal and navigable waters of the rivers draining into the ocean, which then include some of the gigantic coastal lakes, like Pitt Lake, Harrison Lake, and the waters of the Fraser River to about 160 kilometers inland. The drainage basin area is much larger area, vast, from Mount Waddington south to Mount Ranier.
A lot of these areas can be at times very treacherous for unpowered craft, the tides can create races through the mouths of many of the narrow fjords and arms. There is a famous reversing 3m tidal fall at Skookumchuck Narrows, where Sechelt Arm meets Jarvis Inlet. It is a favourite with kayakers. If anyone wants to attempt to row it, I would suggest watching from shore for at least a few days, keeping an eagle-eye on the tide tables and their watch, and making firm friends of the local kayakers, gaining their assistance and expertise. And then doing it at the easiest time. Even off Vancouver, certain tidal conditions can create currents, off Spanish Banks or near the mouths of the Fraser, that run at about 6 knots.
In addition, there are many large inland lakes, like the Nahatlach, the Anderson Lake, Lillooet Lakes, most which have road access and places to put in, but have to be treated with respect as well, as they are large enough to generate serious weather.
Of course, BC has many large recreational lakes that are not associated with the Salish Sea, the interior Okanagan Lake, stretching 135 kilometers, and the sprawling Shushwap Lake area east of Kamloops.
Most famous may be the Bowron Lakes Circuit, 116 km of lakes, waterways and portages, which has been completed with a light rowing boat, a Pygmy Wineglass Wherry, but usually the 6 to 10 days of rough tenting and paddling is done by canoe. This latter is very popular with Europeans.
I am hoping that I over the next few years, I can produce some amateur photo and video essays of some of the near attractions, the Fraser River from Fort Langley down to New Westminster, and the protected (?) waters of Burrard Inlet and Indian Arm, and the rugged beauty of Howe Sound up to Squamish.
Robert Bells

Sunday 8 August 2010

Lyme Bay pilot gigs

Steve Sagrott visited Lyme Bay recently and spotted Rebel and Black Ven of the Lyme Regis Gig Club out training. He writes:
"Lyme Bay looks like a lovely place to row nice behind the cob and challenging once outside.
Thought you might like a few pictures I took.... they were taking out four new members of their club (check out positions 1 & 2 in the latter photos)."
Black Ven is only a year old, having been launched in August 2009. Built by the only woman pilot gig builder, she was a star exhibit at the Beale Park show this year when she narrowly missed being totally beaten in an ad hoc race on the Thames by a St Ayles Skiff crewed by a crack team of Home Built Boat members.

Tuesday 3 August 2010

One of those days

It was one of those days where nothing goes right.
The superior Sealskinz waterproof socks I tried a few weeks ago sprang a leak on their second outing, so I decided to try a pair of ordinary knee-length footie socks instead. It would be wet, but they should dry out quickly, be cooler than trousers and I wouldn't need to change from wellington boots to slip-ons to row.
It was a disaster. Gravel and mud got between the socks and the sandals and felt horrid. The socks were still wet when I got home. And worst of all the sandals had no grip in the stretchers so I couldn't pull forward properly. So it's back to trousers and wellies in future.
I rowed from Bosham to Cobnor where I got out to have a chat to some Dinghy Cruising Association chaps on the beach. When I got back in, I felt a nasty sagging sensation in the seat. It still slid, so I rowed back but very, very carefully. It had split half way across.
The magic of epoxy will make it good as new but it was the cherry on the cake. Gin for moi tonight, I think.