Thursday 31 May 2012

Jolly Jubilee Boating Weather

Jubilee Weather - a Short History

1897  Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee - thunder, lightning and hail.
1937  King George VI's Coronation - cold and grey.
1953  Queen Elizabeth II's Royal River Pageant - heavy rain.
1977  Queen's Silver Jubilee - coldest and wettest June in history, with strong winds and downpours on the day.

Outlook for Sunday:

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Jolly Jubilee Boating Weather

The forecast for next Sunday.....

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Chris Duff reaches the Faroe Islands

After nearly a week at sea in a boat the same size as mine, Chris Duff has reached the Faroe Islands. 
In his latest blog post, he vividly describes having to cross strong tidal overfalls round Sumba Head, the southernmost tip of the islands. He had no alternative - brisk northerlies were forecast that would have blown him back to Blighty if he didn't carry straight on. He writes:
"In hindsight I would have to say that - though it was one of the scariest experiences of my being on the sea - given all of the variables that were a part of that night, in order to land safely, I would have to do exactly what I did. The most direct line to safety, and the closest shelter from the predicted winds was to head straight across the overfalls for the shelter of the cliffs." 
The picture shows Chris rowing Northern Reach in Lewis before his departure. Now he waits for conditions to turn right for his passage to Iceland. Good luck, Chris.

Thursday 24 May 2012

The Trouble with Trailers

Trailers are a pain behind, and empty trailers are double pain. I went to bring the Bee from the shed she was sharing with Sallyport, so I can finish her off at home, so I had to take the trailer ten miles down the road. I mean, how difficult could it be?
For a start, the rubber supports on the cross-bar were positioned for my old boat Nessy, so they had to be unbolted and the struts reinstated for the Bee's V-hull. But the trailer has been standing outside for several years so the bolts were rusty as hell. After much heaving and cursing I got three off but the fourth had to be sawn through. Off to buy new bolts.
Then I tried to give a squeeze of grease to the bearings, but both nipples ripped off in a demonstration of the quality standards that have made Chinese engineering a byword round the world. Did any local dealer have the 45 degree nipples required? Did they hell. So I ordered some on eBay. Two to use now and a couple of spares - they were less than a couple of quid each - four in all.
This is what arrived a couple of days later. Forty grease nipples will last me out, I reckon.
Finally, I had to devise a way of attaching the light board to the trailer without any boat to attach it to. Duck tape to the rescue!

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Sallyport hits the water

Here's a man who looks justifiably pleased with himself. It is Geoff Shilling, boatswain of Langstone Cutters, with our new Solent galley, Sallyport. Over the last few months she has been taken back to the bare wood, the gaps filled and revarnished inside. Outside, she has been painted a fetching shade of royal blue.
Geoff did the lion's share of the work as well as directing operations, and a stunning job he made of it. Sallyport (the name recalls the gate in Portsmouth's sea wall where Nelson left for Trafalgar) immediately took part in the Galleys and Gigs Round Hayling race on Saturday.
The race was huge fun, 14 miles down Chichester harbour, along the beach and then back up Langstone Harbour. I rowed in our other Solent galley, Bembridge, and we won in a new record time for a galley of just under 2hr 10min. We beat all three six-oared gigs too. The photo below shows us moving into the lead.

Sunday 13 May 2012

Hamble River Raid

The Hamble River Raid is always great fun and this year it happened on the first sunny day after the wettest April since records began, so everyone was in a genial mood.
The race is unusual in that it starts off the beach at Hamble-le-Rice, crews sprinting to their boats and getting off every 30 seconds. Then it's over the river, round a buoy and up to the Jolly Sailor and back. The distance is around 4.5 miles and the faster boats did it in about 45 minutes including Ian Maclennan and me in Millie (that's Ian with his back to me next to Millie and Lottie, Langstone Cutters' Teifi skiffs). We came third on time, which was not bad as the winner was Maggie May, a four-oared gig that is about a mile longer than us.
Maggie May and Zaranna were bought by a group of Hamble rowers from a club in Teignmouth for a sum estimated at 'not much money' by one of the new owners. They have six rowing positions but the bow and stern seats are so narrow as to be almost useless except for maneuvering so they are being rowed four up.
But the star of the show was Toby, aged 10, who rowed the course in his single skiff, a tremendous achievement. He got a huge round of applause and a special trophy consisting of several plastic containers filled with sweets. Hooray for Toby!

Saturday 12 May 2012

Another Bundle Boat

Canoeist and boatbuilder supreme Tim O'Connor spotted this interesting home-built boat, well, raft really, on the island of St Lucia (the loveliest place in the Caribbean, in my opinion). Although the guy is paddling it, the tall rowlocks show it can also be rowed. Tim seems to think it bears a family resemblance to one of my boats. Ha!
Tim also took some great pics of the characteristic local fishing boat, the St Lucia canot. It is a dugout with extra strakes attached to increase the freeboard so it can be taken through the surf and offshore.
The St Lucia canot is unique in having the dugout part extended forward into a sort of cutwater or ram, which even seems to function onshore as a sunshade for sleeping dogs.
As the cutwater is solid wood it must provide a lot of protection against the rocks around the coast, but I suspect it is there mainly for swank. You can read more on the canot at Indigenous Boats.
I love the names of these boats, most reflecting the deep religious conviction of the St Lucians. One is called Prayer, another Psalms 121 ("I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help").
So the boat called Opinion seems to be sending a different, more sceptical message. This picture of her mighty crew certainly shows that all over the world red-blooded young men will install the biggest outboard they can find and roar about flexing their muscles. Bless.

Monday 7 May 2012

Tossing Oars

Here's a video of Solent galley Bembridge, the other Cutters boat taking part in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Pageant, tossing their oars as they returned from a run down channel today. They suffer from the need to undo their gates before they can up oars, so a bit more practice is clearly necessary....

Sunday 6 May 2012

Tossing Oars

I learned the noble art of tossing oars today. All rowing boats taking part in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Thames Pageant are required to perform this operation as part of a mass salute to Her Majesty, so we thought we had better learn how as it sounds like a recipe for dropping oars on people's heads and starring on YouTube for the rest of recorded time.
The procedure is described in an invaluable volume called the Boy's Manual of Seamanship and Gunnery, which should be on every boy's shelf. We had to adapt the system to bring the oars inboard a little so they could be lifted out of the crutches (the boat in the picture has simple ports in the gunwale). But as long as you don't rush and everyone follows stroke it is surprisingly easy and flowing. Everyone on the foreshore was very impressed.
Tossing oars had a practical use as well - it is very handy to be able to bring the oars up when approaching a harbour wall, pontoon or the side of a warship.
Tossing oars as a salute goes back to Norman times when ships entering English harbours were expected to salute the sovereign by letting the sails fly so the ship was effectively brought to a stop. The message was 'Your Majesty, I am helpless and submit to your mercy'. It was also a very visible token of peaceful intent. Tossing oars has the same function for rowing boats, patently bringing the boat to a halt so no hostile act could be contemplated.

Friday 4 May 2012

Bundle Boat

Bob Holtzman at the always-interesting Indigenous Boats has posted this picture from Tim Severin's classic book The Sindbad Voyage.
It is a shasha from the Batinah coast of Oman, made of bundles of palm fronds. As Bob points out, it is a simple and practical boat for a place with no timber. He also draws attention to the blades, which are attached to the oar shafts diagonally to reduce the twisting moment. A true 'diamond scull'.
Reed boats are usually paddled because of the difficulty of attaching the thole pins securely enough to take the strains of rowing, but the fishermen of Oman seem to have solved the problem simply by extending the frames upwards where appropriate. 
The palm fronds used to be held together with palm ropes but nowadays polyprop has been substituted. Extra buoyancy is provided by strategically placed styrofoam. There is a good description of the boat here
As elsewhere round the world, this interesting and characterful boat is being edged out by fibreglass things with outboards. Sigh.