Tuesday 31 May 2011

Up the River Ant with the HBBR

A really lovely weekend on Barton Broad with the Home Built Boat Rally started with a brisk row up the River Ant to Dilham, passing Hunsett Mill, a windmill that powered a pump for draining the levels behind.
I posted a picture back in 2008 when I passed for the first time, attracted by the fabulous boatshed which I lusted after something chronic.
The complex has now been restored and converted into a large family home. The old millkeeper's cottage has been extended with a fan of 'shadows' clad in charred Japanese oak boards to a design by Adams Kara Taylor of Acme.  It won the uber-prestigious RIBA Manser Medal last year, though local opinion on its merits are, shall we say, divided.
The boathouse has been rebuilt and the staithe extended, but no boats were visible within when we passed, sadly.

Saturday 28 May 2011

Rowing and Camping

Those amazing guys Colin and Julie at Angus Rowboats have produced a sliding seat rowing shell you can sleep in, designed for expeditions to remote regions.
When you get to a bay, you just attach a pair of stabilisers to the outriggers, get the tea table out of the foredeck, and brew up. The foredeck contains a bunk.
It is a very interesting design but not for me. If I ever get to go long distances it will be in a boat you can sail as well as row, with enough room inside to move around without feeling I will get an impromptu bath if I put a foot wrong.
On the other hand, Colin says in his blog that he had a comfortable night anchored right here, so the boat is clearly capable of stopping in places I wouldn't dare spend the night in.

Thursday 26 May 2011


At the Boat Building Academy in Lyme Regis, graduation day is approaching. A record twelve boats are being launched on June 12, including this lovely and interesting Spitzl by Uli Killer from Germany.
The Spitzl is a lake boat, very much like a Thames skiff designed for larger waters with a more angled stem and a bigger transom while keeping the wineglass shape. Uli has based his design on boats from Tegernsee in Bavaria.
He has done a wonderful job. Almost the last process was to oil the hull rather than varnish it. Oil has to be applied every half an hour or so, apparently, until the wood can take up no more, so Uli started work at 7 in the morning and religiously applied oil every 30 minutes until it just flowed off - 26 coats later. The day of incredibly hard work paid off, as the wood then had to be left for a week for the oil to impregnate properly. Uli took his family to Cornwall for a well-deserved break. There is lots more on his blog (it's in German but if you load it in Google Chrome it will translate it for you automatically. It won't translate it very well, but for non-German speakers like me it gives the gist).
Tegernsee has its own traditional rowing boat, with a long beak-like bow and a flat bottom. All the illustrations show one man rowing and a load of passengers doing nothing but admiring each others' dirndls or lederhosen, so it it is obviously designed as a ferry rather than a pleasure boat (pleasure for the oarsman, that is).

Sunday 22 May 2011

We can bail it out

In retrospect, perhaps it was rash to assume that the Solent Galley Sallyport was OK for a row round Hayling Island after a brief paddle in calm conditions with only three people aboard.
With six up for Saturday's event, Sallyport took water right from the start and in the lumpy conditions out in the Channel they were tossing out water as fast as they could. Christine was still bailing hours after the race finished.
They were rewarded with the trophy for sportsmanship, and well deserved too.
As the Beatles nearly sang:

Try to see it my way,
Do I have to keep on bailing till I can't go on?
While you see it your way,
You won't stop rowing though our boat may soon be down.
We can bail it out,
We can bail it out.

Why don't you just stop rowing.
You can just carry on and still you think that it's all right.
But the water's inflowing,
We must bail like hell and get it dry, or say good night.
We can work it out,
We can work it out.

Saturday 21 May 2011

Galleys and Gigs Round Hayling Island Race

Did we have a good row today or what?

Friday 20 May 2011

Solent Galley Sallyport arrives at Langstone

Langstone Cutters have a new toy to play with. Sallyport is a Solent Galley, sister to Bembridge. She has been languishing in a boathouse near Oxford for the last couple of years, so we are hoping to bring her back into use.
In the water for the first time for yonks, she has a few chronic leaks but these will probably go as she takes up.
It had better be quick, because she is going round Hayling Island in the Cutters' Round Hayling Race tomorrow.

Sunday 15 May 2011

Up the River Arun

Rules of Rowing I broke today:
1) Apply sunblock even if the weather forecast says 'sunny intervals'.
2) Wear a hat even if it means schlepping back to your car because you have left the bloody thing in the back seat.
3) Remember your elbows get just as much sun and wind as your head.
I'm convinced so-called 'after-sun' lotion does no good beyond relieving the symptoms slightly. I mean, it can't cut out the ultra-violet rays retrospectively, can it? So I'm going to bed feeling like a lobster in Hugh Fearlessly-Eatsitall's boiler.
It was a fabulous day, though.

Saturday 14 May 2011

Rowing Kittiwake

Took out Kittiwake today - a traditional clinker boat built by Wootton Bridge Industries. She is kept in the Langstone Cutters boat sanctuary and generously made available for us to use.
Oddly, however, I'm the only one who takes her out much. Admittedly, she will never be a flyer with her short 10ft length and large transom dragging her back in the water, but she is a nice, balanced hull and very stable, so for a potter round the harbour she is lovely.
It is probably the oars. The straight oars that come with the boat are too short and not nice, and don't fit very well in the round rowlocks (technically called crutches). I use my Douglas Martin square rowlocks (technically known as pivots), with a pair of spoons that are nearly long enough. Then rowing becomes a joy. Proof once again that a little work getting your boat set up properly will reap big dividends.

Friday 6 May 2011

Dangar Dory Derby

The Dangar Dory Derby is a race in paradise. Dangar Island in the Hawkesbury River north of Sydney is traffic-free except for emergency vehicles and the garbage truck. When a few golf buggies were brought onto the island a few years ago the uproar forced them to be withdrawn. Everyone uses wheelbarrows to tote stuff about.
The boats are mostly Swift Dories built by John Murray, seen above in red striped blazer and speedos preparing for the race.
Peter Miller has been rowing in the Dangar Dory Derby for years, and sends this report from the 2011 race:
I was going to write an entry about the Derby but could not do better than the one here. 18-year-old Asha did the 2.7km in the record time of 15 minutes 42 seconds. That is an average speed of over 10 km/hour. It was a superb demonstration of technique, endurance and local knowledge.
Yours truly did a personal best and came in third.
As usual the day is filled with a competitive but very friendly atmosphere.

One boat sank in the 'Twelve Apostles' race

Monday 2 May 2011

Funny Ha Ha; Funny Peculiar

As we rowed up to the St Denys club on Saturday, we were passed by a coxless pair. I've never done it, but rowing a pair boat is horribly difficult I believe, just asking for frequent duckings. The power on either side has to be exactly balanced if you are to stay upright. And rowing a coxless pair is perfectly insane - you bump into things all the time as well as getting the duckings.
Among the lovely vintage rowing boats at the St Denys club are several coxed pair clinker boats, which look precarious enough though the risk is much lower than with a modern flying toothpick.
We wanted to try one, but it had been put in the water for the first time since last summer and was filling rapidly so we didn't.
I have this vague memory of my mother telling me that a  pair-oared boat was known as a 'funny'. Does anybody know definitively what a rowing funny is?
It's no use googling 'funny rowing boat'. You just get stuff like this:

Sunday 1 May 2011


On Saturday the St Denys Sailing and Rowing Club in Southampton had an open day in  their lovely boathouse on the River Itchen. They have a great collection of antique rowing boats, so Langstone Cutters took the antique Solent galley Bembridge along to meet up.
The most attractive boat was a tiny clinker-built single skiff, Merlin, which probably dates back to Victorian times. The slender hull and wineglass transom is a work of art, but the outriggers are a bit of a klutz. Could they have been added later?
Here is Merlin being pushed along by slimline Damian Grounds:
Note the difference change in freeboard when a person of average dimensions gets in. A whole extra strake is underwater. I really must cut down on the biscuits.....
Thanks to Graham Neil of St Denys Sailing and Rowing Club for the bottom picture. He has posted a video of Bembridge departing, and another cruel shot of what happens when two large blokes get in a smallish boat, on his blog Port-na-Storm.