Sunday 29 December 2013

Winter Weather

Open rowing started at 07.30 today, a gruesome time. A bunch of photographers were shivering outside the pub as I arrived, and one of them sent over this wonderful snap of Langstone Lady rowing out towards Marker point.
On the way, we overtook the pilot gig Spirit of Langstone.
I love this time of year.
But later this week, I might be less in love with winter if the weather forecast is even half correct....

Saturday 28 December 2013

A Row of Two Halves

Went rowing with the Dinghy Cruising Association today, from Itchenor to Sandy Point, the spit of land on the Hayling Island side of Chichester Harbour mouth.
At Itchenor, two Mirror dinghies were almost rigged. Here is David Sumner with his (note the home made gaff rig with topsail) with Cliff Martin and Sarah Sorensen in the background. The sun was shining and the wind was a gentle westerly. Lovely weather indeed.
They had to beat into the wind down the channel, so I was considerably faster in my sliding seat boat Snarleyow. I tried getting up the rythe to My Lord's Pond but it was almost exactly low water and the channel was too narrow.
On the way back I noticed a big yellow can marked 'Black Can' in big letters. Shows what happens when a universally-known local landmark gets replaced by someone with no sense of history.
Notice the nasty big black cloud in the photo. Half an hour later, having lunch on the beach, a front blew in with a vengeance, driving rain before it. Luckily, we could shelter under the balconies of Hayling Island Sailing Club.
When the rain stopped, I decided to hightail it for home through the gathering gloom before the next gust came in. Several showers could be seen coming up the Channel outside the harbour mouth.
By this time the tide had turned and I had both wind and current pushing me along. I got the boat strapped to the roof of the car just before the next shower. Wish I could manage such brilliant timing every trip....

Thursday 26 December 2013

Boxing Day with Langstone Cutters

Went rowing in the pilot gig Heart of Hayling on Boxing Day morning, a lovely crisp windless midwinter day. Chris Bream played the mouth organ.

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Cruising Rowing Boat

Paul Fisher has sent me a design he has had on his drawing board for a while, from one of those projects that starts with enthusiasm and then goes quiet. It is a rather nice skiff based on the American Whitehall, with smooth lines, a transom small enough to stay out of the water most of the time but to support the weight of the larger passenger or cox when necessary. She also has enough freeboard to cope with Chichester Harbour and the Solent.
Paul has added side buoyancy tanks that support the rowing thwarts while enabling them to be adjusted as necessary and to be easily removed to release lots of space for camping.
Now, the only thing missing to make it a nice vessel for joining DCA events is a sailing rig to allow the rower to take a break when the wind is on the beam or abaft.
The famous St Lawrence River Skiff has a spritsail but no rudder, being steered by adjusting the sail and your position, like a windsurfer. This appeals very much to my minimalist instincts. Clint Chase in the US builds a lovely kit for his skiff Bobby - how does she perform, Clint? Does sailing such a long, thin boat involve much involuntary swimming?
Would mounting a windsurfer rig in the bow work? I have a sneaking suspicion this is much more complex than it seems. Getting a windsurfer sail mounted and dismounted appears to involve massive amounts of faffing about on large areas of lawn. And the foot of the sail wouldn't clear the gunwale unless the mast was stepped on a thwart.
What do you all think - would a simple rig mounted forward like a catboat provide enough propulsion to be worthwhile? Would it improve matters to use an oar to steer with?

Monday 23 December 2013

Up the Creek with Four Paddles

Taking a 30ft galley up a narrow winding river with oars sticking out either side is not easy, so on our jaunt up the Hamble to the curry house at Botley we took paddles as well. On the way up, we had no cox so I sat in the cox's seat and steered with a paddle. On the way down, I took Dragonfly and her crew transferred to Avery A, so they had a cox. Mind you, steering a 30ft boat at low speed with a tiny rudder is tricky, so a good deal of 'left hand down a bit' was needed.

Saturday 21 December 2013

More Carbon Blades

Talking of carbon oars, I am finally refurbishing the second hand pairs I bought for Langstone Cutters' sculling boats. 
The rubbish paint has been stripped off, and the question now is: what is the best paint to use on a plastic surface?
Yesterday, by a startling coincidence, I used another pair of the identical blades, which were made in Germany and supplied by George Sims sometime in the last millenium.
They were fitted in Dragonfly, a lovely double skiff designed by Ed Wilkinson and built in strip plank. She is slender and quick but weathercocks rather a lot in a bit of wind, probably because of the relatively high freeboard. I rowed her back down the Hamble from Botley against a brisk wind funneling up the valley (more on this trip later).
I asked the owners (Ed's mum and dad) about the paint they had used on the very smart pairs of Sims blades, and they said it was ordinary enamel. 
So unless any of you experts out there have any better ideas, my blades will be coated in the residue of the vivid scarlet paint I bought for Snarleyow's wooden oars.
Dragonfly at the top of the Hamble, with the Meakins' Kingfisher, an Ian Oughtred design.

Thursday 19 December 2013

Carbon Blades

Oars are such a nightmare. To carry, to photograph, to wrap, to send in the post....
Anyway, Steve Woods has a number of practically-new carbon blades for sale. They have been used two or three times in our abortive initiative to get Langstone Cutters onto sliding seats. The boats had to go back and the oars now need to go too.
He has four thee pairs of Braca standard Macon sculls, list price £700/pair. He would like £500 a pair. £280 per pair, saving 30 per cent off list price [update from Steve].
Steve also wants to dispose of a training plank, a rather strange flat object with outriggers and a sliding seat, designed to help new rowers get used to the sliding seat action before facing the extra challenge of a cocktail-stick boat. Invaluable for clubs. It is listed on Janousek's price list at £1,470 but can be yours for £1,175.
While I'm on the subject of sales, Steve's neighbour Sadie is selling her immaculate Salter double skiff 'Holly'. Complete with two pairs of sculls and a combi trailer, Holly is a snip at £999. (Actually, Sadie said she wants a grand but if Tesco says lopping all those zeroes off the price makes a difference, it's clearly worth doing).
If you are interested in any of these items, email me and I will put you in touch.

Monday 9 December 2013

Vote for Rowing!

Classic Boat Awards 2014 are coming up, and two of my favourite new rowing boats are nominated, so it's time to get voting. Perhaps if they get enough votes for oar-power they will feature some in their pages instead of endless glossy pics and gushing prose about museum-piece gentlemen's yachts and obsolete power boats.
In the 'Spirit of Tradition under 40ft' category, the St Ayles Skiff is nominated. This boat is not only beautiful, seaworthy and fabulous to row, she is also a phenomenon. Scottish Coastal Rowing has ignited community rowing in Scotland and has already spread round the world. So vote for it now!
The 'Traditional New Build' category includes the St Ives Sculler (sic - actually punt), a traditionally-built recreation of a type of boat that had died out in the wild. Two are now on the water, which with the new St Ives Jumbo fishing craft are the source of much local pride, and have also been the focus of highly successful regatta events, so vote for her too!
The awards voting page is here.

Friday 6 December 2013

Tudor Eel Fishing

Yes, I've been watching the telly again. I blame these early nights. Tudor Monastery Farm is a great prog, and not just because most of it is filmed at my favourite local museum, the Weald and Downland just up the road.
"Eels Ahoy! Thar she blows!"
This week, the rumbunctious Ruth Goodman went fishing for eels with a basket maker called Simon Cooper (it is about 7 minutes in). They made traditional eel traps out of withies, willow wands that grow conveniently at the water's edge, and set forth in a rather wonderful punt, a massive flat-bottomed boat with lots of room in the middle for the eel traps.
The oars are rowed against single thole pins, held in place with a strop or grommet (known as an estrop in Catalan or a humliband in Scotland).
It looks fun - look out for the moment an eel climbs out of the keeper basket and freaks Ruth out for being 'far too snakey'.
At this point the look of the boat began to ring bells...I had seen it somewhere before...and indeed it is Mike 'Kipperman' Smylie's Severn punt, seen here at Beale Park in 2005.
The river looks fabulous too - anyone know which river it is? The upper reaches of the Severn, maybe?

John Lockwood has kindly informed me that Simon Cooper is much more than a 'basket maker', as described in the programme. He is a farmer, fisherman, boatbuilder and conservationist as well. The Severn punt is part of a collection of traditional fishing boats - see the Salmon Boats site for details. And take a look at how flax can be used for skin-on-frame boats such as curraghs here.
On looking at the Beale Park picture again, is that Simon standing next to it?

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Rowing a Paddleboard

How about this for a versatile boat? It is a paddleboard with a sliding rigger rowing unit strapped onto it, so you can paddle or row.
It's called the OarBoard, and is made by Whitehall Rowing and Sail in the US, using an all-plastic chassis and powder-coated aluminium riggers for resistance to salt water. It can be strapped to any paddleboard.
Cleverly, the sliding rigger keeps your bum stationary on the board to avoid the hobby-horsing that would be inevitable if the rower's body was shifting along the board all the time.
The staff at the stern is for a camera or light.
The only downside is that it costs the thick end of a grand, without the paddleboard or oars. Looks like enormous fun, though.
The designer, Harold Aune, writes in his latest newsletter:
"Just last weekend, we were out shooting video and stills with Andrea Guyon sculling an Oar Board unit on an ATX touring-style paddle board. We got some great shots and at one point a Dragon boat team paddled by and an impromptu race started. Andrea required only about half power to match speed and didn't want to see anyone overstrain themselves so she took it easy on them."
Congratulations, Andrea, but dragon boats deserve no mercy. Next time, THRASH THEM.

Monday 2 December 2013

Dimbleby Junior Rows

The agony that is Britain and the Sea continues. Dimblebore has a major talent for the crashing platitude. But this time his son rowed him ashore and demonstrated a nice rowing action, arms straight at the catch and a good finish. Well done that man.

Christmas is Coming

A memento mori for rowers.