Thursday 29 December 2011

Rowing for Heroes

I recently posted a lengthy whine about the condition known to doctors as 'skiffer's arse', but the latest blog post from transatlantic rower Rory Mackenzie puts it all in perspective.
Cpl Mackenzie, an Army medic, had his right leg blown off by a roadside bomb in Basra. Now he is taking part in the Atlantic Challenge with an Army crew including three other amputees - Row2Recovery.
However hard you train, the real thing is always tougher and Rory discovered as then pushed westwards that the pain was unbearable. Some previously undetected fragments of shrapnel, just pinhead size, were working their way to the skin as the muscles were working.
So this was Rory's Christmas:
"On Christmas Day I dosed myself up on some pretty hard core painkillers and spent ages gazing in the mirror at my behind – not recommended – and picking away with a pair of tweezers to try and pull out the offending shrapnel. I also scrubbed the area pretty aggressively as well. To be honest I was pretty spaced out while I was doing it but it seems to have done the trick."
Amazingly, he is back in the rowing seat and pleased as Punch: "I feel like I’ve been given a new lease of life. It’s so good to really feel like I’m playing my part in things rather than just being a big lump that the rest of the boys have to row across to Barbados."
We saw Row2Recovery come in at the Great River Race, when they got a storm of applause. They are clearly going from strength to strength, currently positioned fourth in the twelve boats still in the race.
You can follow them here, and please donate lavishly here.

Saturday 24 December 2011

Ralph Stockton's Rowing Girls

I love this. Modelmaker Ralph Stockton, based at Setley Pond in the New Forest, has created a remote control coxless pair.
The girls have a very odd circular rowing action and they can't feather, but they have the boat under complete control and manage to avoid a threatening narrowboat half way through the film.
I'm almost inspired to create a model rowing boat with a proper stroke including feathering, but I'm too busy rowing.

Friday 23 December 2011

Slow Rowing

This should be the worst rowing boat ever. She is short, fat, flat-bottomed and has a 'bow' that is even wider and blunter than my Simbo. Rowing should be a mighty pain, taking huge amounts of effort to get nowhere in a very long time.
But for Water Dancer's builder, Thomas Mauer in Pennsylvania, she is the best rowing boat ever. As he relates in an article in the brilliant online boating magazine Duckworks, she is great for fishing from, as a base for swimming and as a picnic table (as shown in the picture).
The design is the Puddle Duck Racer (PDR), a sailing boat for youngsters designed to be as much fun as an Optimist at a tiny fraction of the price. The box shape makes it easy and quick to build, and she sails well because it forms a V in the water when heeling. But she was not designed to row.
Thomas's big discovery is that you can often go out under oars when sailing is impractical, and that a wide, stable boat is great for a lot of things that aren't rowing, such as fishing, birdwatching and picnicking.
I have discovered this recently. My sliding seat skiff Snarleyow (pictured in the masthead) is not getting used as much as she used to be, because I like doing the stuff that you can't do in a boat so narrow you can't let go of the oars without risking a sudden immersion.
There are always times, of course, when nothing will hit the spot except a fast and furious bash round the harbour in Snarleyow. For all those other times, a boat designed for comfort rather than speed is what I need. 
Slow Rowing? Yes please!

Thursday 22 December 2011

Shortest Day + 1

Went out in Kittiwake at dawn, which at the winter solstice at 50 degrees North is 0803 hours. Not hot, but not cold either. Light breeze. And had the whole harbour entirely to myself.

Monday 19 December 2011

Skiff Calendar for sale

Here's the ideal present for any traditional rower - the Skiffs of Loch Broom calendar for 2012, featuring lots of lovely glossy pictures of St Ayles skiffs by Ali Foote, Chris Perkins and others. A slideshow of the pictures is here. Tremendous value for a fiver plus P&P - just drop an email to to place your order.

Sunday 18 December 2011

Rowing Tat

I am fairly tolerant when people assume that because I love rowing I will love to own rowing-related ornaments and display them in my home, but I wish to announce right now that if anybody gives me this for Christmas there will be swift and bloody vengeance.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Anyone know Chesapeake Bay?

I have received the following email:
I enjoyed reading about you and your little craft. I have a Tanzer 16, and hope to camp cruise the innerside of the Delmarva this spring. Any thoughts on availability of sandy beach, camp grounds, laws pertaining to beach camping, etc.?
David J. Cortes
Unfortunately I know nothing about waters below 50degN, so can anyone help David out?

The picture above, by Pink Pfeffernüsse, shows racing at the Mid-Atlantic Small Boats Festival at St Michaels, MD, last year. See the splendid blog 70.8% for a report on this year's event.

Monday 12 December 2011

Traditional Rowing at the Carrow Cup

There were some lovely traditional boats at the Carrow Cup Festival. Above is Adrian Hodge's lovingly restored Thames double skiff JoJo, complete with video camera on tripod. I'm looking forward to the film!
Sliding seat skiff
A couple of Victorian sliding seat doubles with outriggers made an appearance (right), looking very elegant with their slender planks and little transoms.
Roland Harris bought Raineach, a Shetland faering designed by Iain Oughtred and built in real tree-wood by Adrian Morgan in Ullapool. Apparently the larch of the planks took up faster than the oak of the frame which caused some problems in the first few years, but she has now stabilised. That's real wood for you, I suppose.
Finally, the ferry from the Norwich Rowing Club to the Carrow Yacht Club where we launched was a totally non-traditional plastic dory. Adrian rowed us back after the prizegiving as the sun went down on a truly great day.

Saturday 10 December 2011

Carrow Cup Traditional Boat Race

Solent Galley Bembridge rowed in the Traditional Boat Division at the Carrow Cup in Norwich today and we won!
Only by 12 seconds over a Cornish pilot gig, but that's good enough. Especially as their crew was a lot younger than us (the codger crew of 60 year olds that have had a very good year).
More later when the pics come back from Boots get uploaded.

Friday 9 December 2011

Currach for Sale

The Irish currach is one of those survivals that win because they are still the best boats for the job in the wild Atlantic swell off the west coast. Skin on frame, they are rowed with narrow sea oars that may lose on grip in the water but don't clip the waves so badly on the return (and it may also be something to do with short supply of long knot-free timber thereabouts).
Mike Morris in Chester has a nice example for sale. He writes:

Hi Chris,
I have a currach for sale and was wondering if anyone would be interested in her. 
She is a 14 ft Toraigh (Tory) Island currach made by Holger Lonze as part of the Loch Neagh boat project he ran. She has a replacement skin which I put on. 
These currachs have the advantage of a false keel, which means you can drag and launch them more easily than others, and she tracks much better, which is good for river rowing, although she is designed for the sea. The history of this type is set out on the Meitheal Mara website. She is very stable and good for a single rower plus passenger (she can take two rowers if desired). I imagine she would be good for lake fishing. Drawback is that although she can be put atop a large car or van, this is quite a task and she really needs a trailer, in which case she can be launched single-handed. She has original oars but really needs a set of new ones, which are fairly easy to make. She can also be fitted out with a rudder and for sailing.
She's a nice little boat with a real pedigree and I'm only selling her because I already have a 16 foot Naimhog from Meitheal Mara and have now built a wood/canvas canoe which I can car-top myself. 
She really needs someone who loves rowing and has an interest in skin on frame boats to get her out on the water. For anyone who hasn't rowed a currach, the narrow oar blades used are a revelation, and never fail to surprise people over the power they generate.
Her name is Branagan Mhara, ('Little Crow of the Sea') and I've cut and pasted the original canvas patch with her name on onto the replacement skin.
If anyone is interested, I'd be happy to discuss her further and go for a test row on the Dee in Chester, which is five minutes from my house. I can also make suggestions about usage, maintenence, etc. based on my trial and error experience of currach ownership. The sail can be included but there is no mast or rudder.

If anyone is interested, drop me an email and I will put you in touch with Mike. I'm off to Norwich now, to take part in the Carrow Cup Festival tomorrow. Should be a hoot (but a bit chilly) - a report will follow.