I tried to insert a bit of traddy boat and rowing interest into my piece on Pete Goss and his wonderful new Spirit of Mystery, a reconstruction of a Cornish fishing boat that made an epic voyage to Australia in 1854, but it was spiked dagnabit. So, not to waste it, here it is:
BOATS IN THE OLD STYLE
The tall ship Jeanie Johnston is a faithful replica of one of the last sailing ships on the transatlantic passenger trade before steam took over. The original took 2,500 Irish emigrants to America to escape the potato famine, and the new Jeanie Johnston was built using traditional methods by the people of Tralee to mark the 150th anniversary.
The three-masted barque now acts as a sail training vessel and floating museum of the famine, dramatically illustrating as no room in a building can the privations that were endured by the 200 emigrants on each voyage. Food was basic, facilities virtually non-existent and privacy a dream. But still the original Jeanie Johnston never lost a passenger in her 16 crossings. (pic by sliabh, via Flickr)
When Mike Bell visited the steamboat museum at Windermere, he fell in love with the style, the elegance, the varnish and brass, and the sounds and smells of steam. He had to have one. “I wanted as near a replica as possible of a gentleman’s tender from Edwardian times,” he says. Over the next few years he built Annabelle, a 30ft river cruiser to a design by naval architect Paul Fisher, powered by a twin-cylinder steam engine built by Roger Mallinson.
A big open cockpit forward is ideal for picnics or just lazing on a summer’s day as the scenery floats past. To the stern is a big saloon with galley and heads – there are none of the privations often associated with small boats.
Mike and wife Liz now trail Annabelle to take the water from Bristol to Windermere, and next year they will be joining a steamboat rally on the Ammersee in Bavaria to celebrate the twinning of Windermere with lakeside community Diessen.
For hundreds of years, every London Livery Company had its own barge to take the Master and Wardens to festivities and ceremonies such as the Lord Mayor’s Show, but by the 1980s all had been lost or relegated to museums.
But then it was decided to revive these lovely craft as recreational rowing boats, according to Colin Middlemiss, clerk of the Worshipful Company of Watermen and Lightermen. The new boats are small versions of shallops of yore, known as Watermen’s Cutters.
“There are 27 now, built by Mark Edwards at Richmond, first in wood but more recently in fibreglass to keep the costs down,” says Middlemiss.
The new cutters are usually rowed by six oarsmen and a cox, but the boats are designed to be rigged with four oarsmen and a ceremonial canopy for passengers at the stern. They make a great show at the annual Great River Race on the Thames. Earlier this year, two were rowed from London to Paris in a record time of just over 95 hours.