Monday, 29 June 2015

Atlantic Beach Boat at Beale Park

At the Southampton Boat Show last year I met Colin Evans, who was showing a model of his Atlantic Beachboat, a four-oared lug ketch for coastal rowing and sailing. At Beale, I saw the real thing!
She really looks the business, with a long (28ft) hull but with a reasonably broad beam (6ft). For comparison, a Cornish pilot gig is 32ft long with a beam of just 4ft 10in, so they are a little hairy to sail, I am told.
The rowing arrangements in the Atlantic Beachboat are very interesting. Each rower sits on a sort of box so the deck is unimpeded at the side, which must make moving around the boat much easier when sailing - no more climbing over the thwarts like a pilot gig.
The oars are straight sea oars and seem to be made of wood, though the brochure says they are of carbon/glass - perhaps they are wooden oars made up for the prototype. They fit in rather stylish square stainless steel rowlocks.
The hull is a simple stitch and glue construction designed to be easily built by communities, youth groups or schools, in the same way as the St Ayles Skiff.
For outward-bound operations, the Atlantic Beachboat looks as though it has a lot to offer and I'd love to have a go.
You can follow Colin on Facebook.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Algonquin at Beale Park

Peeping out from between a couple of tents in the upper reaches of the show was Algonquin, built in larch on oak in Canada in about 1925 as a tender to a coastguard boat on the Great Lakes. At that time she must have seen action against the rum runners smuggling booze to the US. She looks fairly slippy with her double-ended hull and narrow beam. The original oars with the pinned rowlocks are still with her.
The boat was bought by an English academic working in Canada during the War and brought over to the Thames. She was restored by Henwood and Dean in 2007 and worked on by Stanley and Thomas in 2012.
She is now for sale at £4,950 including the trailer and if I had five grand lying about doing nothing I would buy her. Details and more pix here.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Marcelle at Beale Park

You know that nagging feeling at the back of your mind..."I've seen that boat before..."? Well, I didn't have that feeling at all when I saw Alan Staley's lovely boat Marcelle at Beale Park.
But I featured it in this blog back in 2009 when I saw her at Southampton. Memory's clearly going.
Anyway, this time Alan had included a leaflet with a lot of interesting history. It seems she was built in 1947 by a 14 year old pupil at Canterbury Art School, John Harmon. He took the lines off a boat on Whitstable beach, building her in the family back garden, probably with the assistance of his brother who was an apprentice boatbuilder. She was launched in 1947.
In  the storm of 1953 she was used to rescue people from their flooded homes. John sold Marcelle when he emigrated to Canada in 1955.
Alan says she was just days from being a beach bonfire when he found her and persuaded the owner not to do it. The back board and bottom boards where missing but surprisingly the original oars had survived.
Now look at her. Well worth the effort, I think.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Pirate Paddler at Beale Park

I would have given my eye teeth for one of  these when I was a kid. A fully armed pirate ship of my own! With gun! And parrot! And flags!
The Chipper Paddle Boat was designed by Netherlands-based Doug Halacre as a fun but safe boat for his grandchildren to get on the water. They were at Beale Park too, paddling round the lake like mad, clearly enjoying themselves immensely and learning boat skills as they went. They couldn't go far, being on a safety line, but as they were only about three that didn't worry them too much. Soon, I suspect, they will have the strength and ability to range more freely.
The Chipper Paddle Boat is available from Doug, who also supplies plans. See his web page for more details, or follow him on Facebook.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Playing at Lifeboats

I had a lot of fun yesterday at the Hayling Island 999 Day, an event to show the emergency services off to the public. Langstone Cutters helped re-enact the rescue in 1865 of three of the crew of the schooner Ocean, which had run aground off Hayling beach. Colonel Francis Festing of the Royal Marine Artillery commandeered a 10-oared cutter used to tow targets for the guns of Fort Cumberland, and got together a crew of fishermen to row it out to the stricken ship.
The incident gained national publicity and led to the foundation of the Hayling Island lifeboat station.
We rowed out in bouncy conditions to the plastic fishing boat that was standing in for the schooner, whereupon the real lifeboats (inshore and offshore) roared up and the helicopter arrived. Cannons were fired and flares ignited. Maroons were sent up. Everyone had a jolly ripping time.
In view of the sea state we used a Cornish pilot gig rather than the more delicate Solent galleys. We were asked to dress up in 19th century gear which was a bit of a challenge for me as I don't have any. But then I had an inspiration - my genuine fisherman's jersey, an item that has remained unchanged from the dawn of knitting and fitted the bill perfectly.
(Photos by Ron Williams)

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Home Built Boat Rally on Film

Top canoeist Pete recorded the HBBR's trip down the Thames on video and has put together this great little film. Unfortunately it includes rather a lot of me but you can't have everything. Snarleyow Too looks rather nice I feel.
Also lots of footage of Chris Waite making rapid progress with his own design of pedal-powered yuloh (he calls is a peduloh). Al Law is seen sailing majestically before the wind with heavily reefed sail. Graham Neil paddles Katie Beardie with assist from the mizzen. 
One boat appears only in glimpses, unfortunately. That is Bram, Adrian's beautiful canoe, that he and Pete were in, so here's one Ratcatcher John took at Beale Park (unfortunately with me infesting the foreground again).

Friday, 19 June 2015

Back to Beale

This rather elegant sliding seat skiff was lying casually at the lakeside at Beale, for sale at £1,900. But it wasn't available for long - it was soon marked as sold.
It was described as a Bursledon Skiff but I think it was an early version of the Collars Skiff, made on the Hamble by Salterns. See for details of the latest model with built-in buoyancy.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

A Shocking Picture

We had a brief but vigorous blast up an old loop of the Thames during the Magna Carta Relay on Sunday while waiting waiting waiting for Gloriana to arrive. Steve Woods spotted this, which we agreed is symptomatic of everything that is wrong with Britain today.

PS It is of course entirely possible that the householder has a boat and was out rowing it when I took this picture. In which case the above is a cheap shot unworthy of the high ideals of this blog and I unreservedly apologise.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Magna Carta Relay

On the Thames again, to row in the flotilla celebrating the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta by King John, which introduced the fundamental principle of rowing liberty viz: that "all fish-weirs are in future to be entirely removed from the Thames and the Medway, and throughout the whole of England, except on the sea-coast". This has been the unsung success story of Magna Carta - having rowed down the Thames from Lechlade to Beale and Cookham to Runnymede in the last couple of weeks I can confidently report that not one of the pesky things was in evidence.
The two day event started with a row down from downstream of Marlow to upstream of Windsor, in several 'escorts' each designed to get through a lock in one hit. The escorts swapped over in a rather complex way so everyone had quite a bit of hanging about. Luckily we got to hang about at the boathouse at Cliveden, one of England's grandest country houses and the location of the famous politicos and tarts scandal starring Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davis. We hoofed up the hill and wandered round the spectacular terraces.
The next day was a mass row down to Runnymede where there was a pageant including jousting and all that sort of stuff. 
Langstone Cutters had smart traditional English rowing caps with the wrong wording on (thanks a bunch, embroiderer idiots). Skiff crews came dressed in striped jackets and boaters, while the amazing City Barge lot in their gondolas, sandolos and djhajsas cut a dash in medieval gentlefolk costumes. The picture at the top shows us moving alongside the Queen's Rowbarge Gloriana for the final salute.
What a great crew we had in Les, Marion, Steve, Sue, Marilyn and Jenny.
And there was TEA.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Rowing Round Things (6)

These are artists (OF COURSE). JocJonJosch is an Anglo-Swiss-Slovakian collective that commissioned this work from the Boat Building Academy in Lyme Regis a couple of years back. It symbolises many things. Their timing is awful and they need to keep their arms relaxed and straight at the beginning of the stroke and lean back. Then they will row in circles with style.
Back in Victorian times an Edinburgh businessman by the name of John Cox (ha!) promoted a gigantic health park called the Royal Patent Gymnasium, featuring rides combing thrills and exercise. The biggest was the Patent Rotary Boat, also known as the Great Sea Serpent, a vast wheel pivoted horizontally above a pond. Up to 600 rowers sat on seats round the edge and rowed, achieving the speed of a small steamship apparently. You can read all about it here.
These items were contributed by Scottish Coastal Rower supreme Robbie Wightman, who has a deranged sense of humour. Thanks, Robbie!

Thursday, 11 June 2015

On the Thames

I am proud to announce that my grandmother's Hampshire punt, Snarleyow Too, is back on the water after nearly 50 years in a barn.
The elegant launch ceremony took place at the Trout at Lechlade last Sunday week, captured in this tasteful shot by Graham Neil.
She floated nicely with only a small seepage - I suspect there is a small vacancy at the top of the chine log which will be easily fixed with a dribble of epoxy.
The main problem was the rowing position - the legroom and rowlock height were totally inadequate for a person of average height such as myself. Rowing down to Beale Park for the boat show was something of a trial, involving scraping my knuckles down my knees for the next five days, but spacers on top of the rowlock sockets should make life easier. Tracking is non-existent so she needs correcting all the time, but the addition of a skeg will solve that (I hope).
But the trip, with the great guys of the Home Built Boat Rally, was fabulous fun. It rained (of course) but cleared up on Wednesday to give way to fluffy clouds and sun. The nights were cold (of course) but so was the beer.
On the way I passed the old boathouse at the former Carmel College, where I think Little Snarley was built in about 1960.