Sunday 29 April 2012

Rowing in the Rain

It's raining heavily and gusting Force 8 out in the finest rowing waters in the world, so no rowing in Chichester Harbour today.
So where to go? Perhaps I shall row the River Krath at Slavna. Slavna has emerged from the terrible Communist decades almost exactly as it was under Sophy, the girl from Essex who rose to become queen. I expect I will put in at the pontoon next to the old Royal Palace, slip under the ornamental cast iron bridge and up the North River. The warehouses are converted into flats for the BMW-owning capitalists now, but the fragments of the old walls and Suleiman's Tower have been nicely restored.
Turning down the South River brings one back to where one started, for the two channels circle the old city.
If I am feeling very athletic I might row the five miles downstream to the old wooden bridge. If I'm in a lazy mood I might turn into the canal that runs through the centre of Slavna and tie up at one of the bars in St Micheal's Square.
Or perhaps I shall go to Bekla. The Barb, the lake in the Upper City, is a charming place to spend an afternoon though it is too small to get any real speed up. The houses of the Ortelga nobles cluster round it, their gardens tumbling down to the water's edge. And the Pool of Light is simply magical. The problem these days is the swarms of tourists and no, of course I'm not a tourist. I am a traveller, with a genuine appreciation, not just a gawping fat suburbanite with a camera.
Not at all. So not Bekla. Another trip up the Miskatonic River through Arkham, Massachusetts, has a lot of appeal, with a diversion up Hangman's Brook. Arkham is just as creepy as ever - somehow it has never shed the miasma of menace created in the famous witch trials of 1692.
Of course, Alca or Penguin Island is only a short hop across the Channel at the moment and RyanAir go there now despite the navigation problems posed by the island moving about under the direction of the Archangel Raphael. Rowing round the coast enables one to ignore to some extent the factories and offices that have sprung up on formerly green fields.
The rain has developed into stairrods. Nothing for it but to travel to the finest rowing waters of all, joining Jim Hawkins and the others in the last trip of the jolly boat under the fire of the long nine aimed by Captain Flint's gunner, Israel Hands. I may be gone some time.

Saturday 28 April 2012


HM the Q finally got a good look at her new barge when she re-opened the Cutty Sark at Greenwich. She looks totally spiffy with all the carving and gold leaf in place. This is the way I want to travel. Can't wait to see the boat at the Diamond Jubilee Pageant.

Thursday 26 April 2012

Mollyhawk at Depoe Bay

Andy Linn did make it to Depoe Bay, and one of the Toledo Community Boathouse Mollyhawks was completed at the show and made it onto the water. Rowed well, apparently, and even worked well with a motor on the back, though why they should do that beats me.
My attention has been drawn to a couple of slips in the original post - Andy lives not in Toledo itself but in Salem, 79 miles away, which shows how dedicated he is to the success of the community boathouse.
And their river is the Yaquina, pronounced ya-kwin'-ah.
Andy's report is at Duckworks Magazine's May Splash article (scroll down about half way for Andy's bit, but read the whole thing, it's all excellent) and there are lots of lovely pics at the Toledo Community Boathouse site.

Sunday 22 April 2012

Depoe Bay

It's the Depoe Bay Wooden Boat Show, Crab Feed and Ducky Derby in Oregon this weekend, an event I've always wanted to go to. Andy Linn in nearby Toledo was hoping to demonstrate two Mollyhawk rowing boats there this year, but so far no indication on his Sleeping Schnauzer blog on whether the boats were complete in time.
Depoe Bay is billed as the world's smallest harbour, or the 'hole in the wall'. It is more or less a cleft in the cliffs facing the Pacific, with a bridge making the entrance seem even smaller. The wooden boat festival attracts boat nuts from round the country every year.
Andy hopes to join in the Scottish Coastal Rowing phenomenon by building a St Ayles skiff or two at the Toledo Community Boathouse, but to test the appetite for rowing on the Yachina River he and a group of volunteers are starting out with the more modest Mollyhawk design from John Welsford. It is a flat bottomed, stitch and glue sculling pair that should go like a dose of salts.

Friday 20 April 2012

Mackinaw Boat

Alec Jordan is hoping to repeat his amazing achievement of rekindling community rowing in Scotland in the New World. He has flown to Tawas City on the shores of Lake Huron to help build the prototype Heritage 23, a recreation in modern materials of the historic Mackinaw boat.
The Mackinaw boat is named after the narrow straits between Lakes Huron and Michigan. It is a fusion of native American and European boatbuilding traditions. When fur trappers arrived in the Great Lakes, they were highly impressed with the Indian sewn bark canoes and their ability to carry large loads swiftly over the lakes and up rivers. Their double-ended shape was ideally suited to their purposes.
The only thing that was missing was a sail rig, which they provided together with a centreboard. The Mackinaw boat was the workhorse of fur trade until the mid-nineteenth century, and was adapted as a fishing boat until refrigeration meant that the fishing business went to larger vessels.
Very few Mackinaw boats survive, but they may be set for a come-back. Heritage Coast Sailing and Rowing, a non-profit organisation, have commissioned a design from Richard Pierce and Alec developed a kit for it.
The boat is built of epoxy ply, 23ft long and, as with the St Ayles Skiff, is intended for construction by amateurs. The hope is that the boat will stimulate village boat construction projects up the lake shore.
The design has the advantage that it can be sailed as well as rowed - this could lead to some interesting regattas if courses can be devised that encourage participants to use both oars and sails.
Follow progress of the first Heritage 23 here.

Thursday 19 April 2012

Gloriana is launched

Gloriana, the new Royal Barge, was launched in the Thames at Isleworth yesterday. She looks stunning, even without most of the gilded carving that will be attached later. She will head the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Thames Pageant in June followed, at a respectful distance, by me in Langstone Cutter's Clayton skiff Mabel.
Gloriana cost a million squids and looks it. Over 90ft long, she takes 18 oarsmen and up to 34 passengers and crew. The material is the newly popular sweet chestnut, taken from the Prince of Wales's estates.
The next stop is Greenwich, where she will be presented to the Queen when she opens the newly-restored Cutty Sark next week.
There's a nice BBC report here.

Monday 16 April 2012

Chris Duff Prepares

The amazing Chris Duff is preparing his converted Sprite skiff (compare with the picture of mine on the masthead) for an epic row from Ullapool to Iceland.
He now has sail assist, from this brightly-coloured parasail and a small triangular lateen. Training with the parasail has been a bit trial-and-error, as Chris says on his Facebook page:
The instructor is a bit daft at times - seems he's never done this kind of thing before and there is quite a bit of tangled lines at times and a lot of zig and zagging going on but in the end, I learn some little trick which makes the next time even more productive and fun.

Chris is blogging his exploits here. All good luck, Chris - I think you are going to need it!

Thursday 12 April 2012

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Sunshine and Showers

Went out yesterday in Kittiwake and battled my way through the white horses brought up by the Force 6 westerly whizzing through the bridge. The sun was out and it was really rather fun.
Looking inland showed a different story - there it was dark as a monstrous crow and raining.
Today I went out with the Cutters in Bembridge and the same thing happened, except that we had only occasional sun and the wind was a moderate F2. Over land there was thunder, lightning and hail. Again, we had a lot of fun and stayed almost totally dry.
Schadenfreude is a lovely feeling.

Friday 6 April 2012

Ratty hits the water

Martin Corrick brought the skiff he has built to Langstone for her maiden voyage. The weather was fabulous and we rowed with the Teifi skiffs Millie and Lottie to the Ferryboat Inn at the mouth of Langstone Harbour for lunch.
The boat, now named Ratty, is Lillian Woods's Linnet design. She is very similar to the Bee that I am building, so I was particularly interested in giving Ratty a workout.
The main difference between Linnet and Bee is that Linnet has two chines and a flat bottom, whereas Bee has one chine and a V bottom.
I rowed Ratty down to the Ferryboat and Martin rowed her back.
She certainly slips through the water easily and I found I could easily keep up with the Millie and Lottie. I like the flotation tanks, but the tanks down the side are too close together to allow sleeping on the floor, so I suspect I will leave them out of my Bee. The torsional strength will be beefed up with a few frames that will also support floorboards.
Here is a little video of Martin putting Ratty through her paces:

Monday 2 April 2012

World's largest Rowing Class

The world's largest rowing class was held in Victoria, British Columbia, last month. Olympic gold medalist Adam Kreek (Beijing 2008) took the class, held not so much for education as getting into the Guinness Book of Records. 219 boats took part, and it is gratifying to report that not all were fine boats. A fleet of locally-made Whitehall Spirit sliding seat recreational boats were part of a the diverse fleet.
According to Whitehall Spirit's newsletter:
Many of us had a chance to get out and participate in setting a Guiness Book world record on March 9 as Olympian Adam Kreek conducted the world’s largest rowing class on Victoria’s Upper Harbour. All in all there were 219 rowers in slide seat boats including all the Whitehalls from the WSRC of Victoria with club members on the sculling oars.
A highlight of the record breaking rowing class was when Adam had all the rowers and paddlers and even the crowd watching from ashore sing “Row Row Row Your Boat” in the round. This singing was also likely a record breaking event as well as being a whole lot of fun. 
Adam Kreek was widely admired for his singing of 'O Canada' on the Olympic Rostrum.
I may have mentioned that Langstone Cutters are restoring a second Solent galley, Sallyport. Geoff Shilling, our bosun, has just sent a picture of a new member who dropped in to today to wield a heat gun: