Friday 23 December 2011

Merry Christmas

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Thames Raid 2

Now that autumn has arrived with its mists, and even the mellow fruitfulness has passed, the summer seems a long time ago. The latest edition of Water Craft magazine contains a pleasant reminder of the trip the HBBR stalwarts took down the River Thames during five days in June. 

We gathered at the Beale Park Boat Show where the Friday and Saturday were lovely sunny summer's days, however Sunday the day of our departure dawned damp and misty and got steadily wetter and windier as the day went on. There was talk of mutiny in the ranks, a postponement perhaps, or even a triumphal departure followed by a sneaky return under the fence and into the beer tent to wait for better weather, but schedules, camp-site bookings, and an appointment with a mini bus at the other end to get us back to the start and our cars meant it was now or never. 

So while visitors huddled under umbrellas and exhibitors started to pack up, we set off. Thankfully the weather did improve during the week, and we all had a splendid time, although its a long time since I've been as wet as that first day.

Here then is a brief slide show of the trip with a suitably damp soundtrack. Some of the photos are very low res. taken on mobile phones and some are just blurred through misty lenses, but I think it all adds to the general ambiance of wetness.   


Sunday 23 October 2011

Speed Bonnie Boat

I got a phone call from Alec Jordan a couple of weeks ago. I've known Alec for a few years now and recently his calls have been to introduce me to new Coot builders who have joined the ranks building from  one of Alec's kits. We have quite a self help group going now.  So I was quite surprised this time when Alec asked me what size my garage was!

Alec has been the main instigator behind the Scottish Coastal Rowing resurgence which I've written about previously here  Fae Fife?  and here Happy Birthday Skiffies

You'll remember that Alec got together with Iain Oughtred who designed the fantastic St Ayles Skiff to encourage competitive coastal rowing and provide kits so that communities could build their own boats cheaply. 
The project took off and the St Ayles Skiff has now become very popular throughout Scotland and abroad with communities and groups finding a common cause in building these beautiful boats and then going out to thrash their neighbours from near and far. 

Alec felt there was a case for a smaller boat which could be rowed by one or two people maybe with a lightweight cox.  It could be used by clubs when there wasn't a full crew available or by people who wanted to build and own their own boat.  And so the Wemyss Skiff came about. 

Once again the boat was designed by Iain Oughtred and this shows in the distinctive lines and close family resemblance to the St Ayles skiff.  The boat is 16ft 6ins overall and has a beam of 4ft 9ins.  

Once the prototype "Swan" was built Alec took it up to Portree on Skye to let Iain try her out, which is where these photos were taken. The top photo shows Iain trying her out single-handed with Alec below and the pair of them pulling together in the last one. You can see how much flare she has, giving her bags of reserve buoyancy making her a very good sea boat. She is also rumoured to be very fast!

There is some development work to be done to include buoyancy tanks and kits should go into production at the end of November. So if you really hurry you might just get one for Christmas.

Alec told me that Iain had already started thinking of ways to improve her even more, including making her longer, but Alec was concerned it wouldn't fit into an average modern garage, hence the phone call !! 

Alec is marketing kits for the Wemyss Skiff from Jordan Boats 

You can find out more about Scottish Coastal Rowing here.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Here's one I made earlier.

I've had literally hundreds of enquiries (well one actually) about the progress on Katie Beardie recently.

So its time for an update. 

Regular Readers will remember that Katie was launched back in July, but that was only to see where she floated, and if Cee Dubbs and I had got our assumptions right and that my ass was in the right place. 

Everything looked to be tickety boo so it was back to the Port-na-Storm research and design lab for some development work. 

Of course nothing happened for several weeks while I dealt with the ongoing pleasures and challenges of being son, husband, father, and grandfather, sometimes all in the same sentence.  I'm sometimes a brother too but my sister likes to have me all to herself on the phone. Usually for a couple of hours.  However, I digress..............

There are of course no detailed plans for Katie, well actually there aren't any plans at all, other than two sheets of A4 showing how to cut the ply for the planks, and I even managed to make a resounding cock up of doing that!  So when it comes to internal layout, rudders, centreboard, sailing rig etc. the world is indeed yours to doodle with. 

I love this aspect of the build, it reminds me of knocking up carts and rafts when we were kids.  You got an idea in your head and immediately started to build it with whatever happened to be lying around. Straight from your head to the wood. However it does mean you can waste a lot of plywood!

 I made my rudder and centreboard ages ago, because I like to get as many of the fiddly jobs as possible done before the hull is built. However it does require quite a bit of guess work if you haven't built the hull its going to go in yet. 

I decided on a centreboard because a) that's what the old Victorians had. b) I think it will work better than a lee board c) a centreboard fits snugly inside its case where a dagger board has to be lifted out and then it gets in the way. d) a centreboard acts as a depth sounder while a dagger board just trips you up. 

Of course the great big obvious elephant in the room is you have to have a centreboard case bang in the middle of the boat just where you don't want it. So the challenge is to try and make it as unobtrusive as possible while still trying to ensure it actually does its job as intended. 

And so, here we have it. A low profile case, with a longish board resulting in a high aspect ratio foil i.e. deep and narrow which should theoretically do the job. 

 After a conversation over at  HBBR  when Frogsider discovered the hard way that he had under engineered his rudder I consulted the good doctor and we agreed that the 6mm centreboard I'd made probably isn't going to take the lateral forces expected of it once I get in and the wind starts to blow. So after hunting around the garage floor a piece of 4mm ply was found and the two duly sandwiched together. Thickening up the board of course meant the case had to be widened so the old Japanese Pull Saw split the case and wider spacers were inserted. 

The jig-saw ripped a hole down the middle of the floor and the case was epoxied in against the new centre bulkhead.  At this point the horn on the centreboard had to go as it would foul the bulkhead. A little detail which hasn't quite been resolved yet.  You can also see where I've started to shape the side decks, the forward mast step and a hard-board template for the coaming. 

The eagle eyed will have spotted that the original board is as flat as the proverbial witch's, due to its lack of thickness so the opportunity was taken to carve some shape into the new wider board. 

While I was at it the rudder needed beefing up,  I also decided I didn't like the shape of the original so this time I just made a new one out of some spare 6mm and then gave it some profile to match the centreboard. 

Onward ever Onward............................................... 

Monday 3 October 2011

Rear of the Year

Here's a quick run round the rest of the boat show with a few of the other boats which took my fancy. 

I've been an admirer of Francois Vivier's boats for quite a while now. His boats are all very traditional in design, obviously drawing on French heritage, and he seems to have a superb eye for a sheer. 

I've had one of his boats on my future build short list for  a year or two, but which one?  
  At first I was drawn to the Beg-Meil with it's side decks and bowsprit, very classic, but then the more work like Ilur, which is the same hull with a lug rig, or the Aber, which is a little bit smaller but very pretty. 

Francois has recently extended his 8 and 10 foot tender Morbic up to 12 foot, and it was really good to see it for real, somehow it looks much more attractive in real life.
Decisions Decisions!

 This one was built by Adrian Donovan

Will Stirling who trades as 

Stirling and Son

brought along a couple of his smaller boats. 

This gorgeous 14ft Clinker Dinghy really is a stunner, and shows how it should be done.

Its good to see she has a beautifully finished traditional Lug Sail rig. 

This 12ft Rowing Boat is also a bit of a stunner. 

Will builds a range of boats from little tenders right up to his Smuggling Lugger Alert

He very enterprisingly brought along sets of plans for the public to purchase, presumably as much for their aesthetic appeal as anything.

And Finally!
But by no means least .

I give you........

Eve, all the way down from the Northern Isles of Scotland is an Orkney Yole built by
Ian Richardson of Stromness.

Now the weather up there can be a bit extreme, so their boats have to be robustly built, which this one certainly is, but they also have to be capable of handling the conditions. 

Just look at these lines, look at the curve of the sheer, 

Look at those firm bilges and that deep keel. 

The deep protected cockpit .

But oh! Dear Reader, feast your gaze on Ian's speciality,  

The eliptic stern. 

Now , how do you go about doing that in clinker ply? 

Wednesday 28 September 2011


I promised to show you some of the nicer boats and friendlier people at the Boat Show.

Out on the pontoons, amongst all the white plastic, nestled into a corner, sat Morwenna. 

She is a Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter. 

Morwenna is run as a Charter business mainly around the south coast, so of course the guys were drumming up interest, hoping for business but they did it in such a friendly and open way it seemed rude not to have a look round. 

As you can see here, although the boat is traditionally built and rigged she has all the modern conveniences. 

Down below there is plenty of room with the paid crew in the stern and the paying crew up forward in their cosy bunks.

"Guests" are expected to get involved in sailing her, supervised by Skipper Stewart.  It must be very confusing at first getting used to all those ropes.  I thought my little Gaff Rigged Coot had too many lines on her, look at this lot!

So the mainsail throat halyard will be the buff coloured one, no not that buff one, that buff one! 

I know at least one HBBR member who would just love it, eh Wayne? 

You can find out more about Morwenna on their site

Sunday 25 September 2011

Crisis What Crisis?

The world may be heading off to hell in a handcart financially speaking but the the great white boat building industry seems to be carrying on as normal. 

I spent a couple of hours at The Southampton Boat Show today. Such is my enthusiasm for this festival of all things decadent that I normally don't go near the place unless there are free tickets around, I really do have better things to do with £20. But once again my mate Peter came up with the goods and so there we were rubbing shoulders with lots of other folk who couldn't afford the boats either. 

However it seems some could afford them, show tittle tattle has it that a Russian chap turned up the other day and ordered three Gin Palaces at 14 million quid each.  Well you wouldn't want just one would you?  Probably means the wholesale price of gas is about to go up again.

It does seem a bit crazy to have boat salesmen wearing suits, but I suppose it does differentiate them from the proper sailors.   Of course none of us poor people are allowed anywhere near these boats. If you should be daft enough to try to board you are politely but firmly fended off by the hired muscle. If your credit card is inspected for spare cash and found to be either sufficiently in credit or dare I say sufficiently in debt only then may you approach.  However there doesn't seem to be any requirement for taste. I would love to turn up at the Ancient and Venerable in this, but it wouldn't go under the bridge at any state of the tide.

There are of course some more down to earth boats on show, with real sailors who positively encourage you to come on board and look around. You'll have to wait for the next fun filled instalment for that though...............................................................But here's a sneak preview


Monday 22 August 2011

Dell Quay no Dories.

The Coot with a couple of Mirror chums moored off Pilsey Island in Chichester Harbour.

I'm just back from the DCA week at Cobnor in Chichester Harbour. 

A superb week of sailing, camping, and talking about boats way into the night around the campfire.

The weather was a bit variable as usual but we got out most days

sometimes it was a bit too calm 

Sometimes it was a little too windy, 
but when the wind and the tides were in our favour there was always the possibility of a visit to the pub.

There is something very cool and just a little superior about arriving at a tourist filled pub by boat. 

But pride comes before a fall as they say, so it was inevitable that I would sail off that lee shore with my mainsheet wrapped around my tiller resulting in an argument with someone's mooring buoy before I got myself sorted.

Don't think anyone noticed.  

Sunday 31 July 2011

Meanwhile Over on the Sports Channel.

My good friend and HBBR co-conspirator Chris Partridge has posted a video of Katie's first outing on his Blog.  
There was a rumour that footage had been shot but it seemed to disappear like the original Director's Cut of the Wicker Man. 

However it seems Chris was having trouble with the You-Tube gremlins and has finally managed to up-load it.  

If you listen carefully over the din of the tiny outboard pushing the fairly hefty ferry-boat in the background you can hear me announce to the assembled crowd that I was probably about to go A*se over T*T. 

I didn't and I apologise for my language. 

There also exists footage of yours truly demonstrating his Scottish Country Dancing steps, taken the next day in a pub garden in Tewkesbury. I hope that stays buried. 


Sunday 24 July 2011

Katie Gets Her Petticoat Wet.

Photo by  Chris Waite aka Cee Dubbs Katie's designer. 

Katie finally got wet on Saturday in the River Severn near Tewkesbury

I took the opportunity of an HBBR rally to bring Designer, Builder and Katie together. The idea was principally to see how and where she floated before adding all the other paraphernalia required of a sailing canoe.
 The answer is she floats exactly on her lines, is really very stable and quite quick.

Designer and Builder very happy.

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Why I don't like rowing.

Lets do the time warp again.

Let me take you back to Barton Turf.
On the Sunday we took a trip to Sutton Staithe because we'd heard that the usual pub in Neatishead had gone down the pan a bit so to speak. 

Getting there was very enjoyable, there was a bit of wind in the trees and once we got onto Sutton Broad it was a broad reach all the way to the pub. 

The pub its-self wasn't much to write and tell your mum about but they were friendly and those that wanted it could have a few slices off the carvery.

Getting back proved to be a little more interesting. 

The wind was whistling down the broad, and after a very experienced sailor tested the depth of water with the tip of his mast I decided that discretion was the better part of staying dry and opted to row rather than sail. 

I made very poor headway and sometimes I didn't make any at all until eventually I was rescued by my old chum John "Ratcatcher" Lockwood who gave me a tow. 

Once we got back into the trees I decided to have another go on my own, and well, it didn't go much better.  Thankfully my good friend Phil. was on hand to record the event for posterity on his phone. That's him chuckling away and offering encouragement.

So what's wrong with this picture? Well there is far to much sail and rigging flapping around in the breeze for a start. 

You can see why I was getting a bit worried about the Thames Raid !  

Sunday 26 June 2011

Cordless Canoe Challenge.

This year there was a new attraction at the Beale Park Boat Show.

The Cordless Canoe Challenge.

Entries were invited for boats powered by cordless power tools, and about a dozen boats turned up to take on the challenge. Some were sublime while some were frankly ridiculous but all of them showed how ingenious people can be, and how many ways there are to solve a particular problem.

This short video was made during the early heats on the Saturday when the sun was still shining and shows the breadth of designs entered, including Ayrspeed the paddle wheel entry from Slade Penoyre of the Amature Yacht Research Society, Jo Moran's skin on frame geodesic canoe, and Tobias Vokhul's sublime King Canute. 

WaterCraft ensured the entire event was filmed for posterity and you can see it here, intruduced by the illustrious ed Pete Greenfield

Notice the dramatic change in the weather on Sunday when those indominatable guys from the UK-HBBR were getting ready to set off on the Thames raid II.

Only in England my friends............................

Saturday 18 June 2011

The winner takes it all.

We're back!

John Milnes' stunning Tammie Norrie took "Most Professional Looking Boat"

Its been a busy week.

Firstly there was Beale Park Boat Show with,
not only,
 the WaterCraft Amateur Boat Building Awards (ABBA)
but also,
the Cordless Canoe Challenge,
plus all the usual sights to see at England's premier Boat Show for "Proper Boats".

Then there was the HBBR Thames Raid part two,
from Pangbourne to Walton-on-Thames over five days.   

So plenty to report over the next few days. 

Above is John Milnes' immaculate Iain Oughtred designed Tammie Norrie. 

John's boat took the prize for "most professional looking boat" and well deserved it was too!

John is a retired nuclear submarine captain and told us his next build might be a wooden sub, "its really just a big barrel".

We decided to co-opt him into the HBBR as he's a kind of handy guy to have around. 
Congratulations to John for a well deserved win.

HBBR member Peter Martin also won an award for

 "The Most Innovative Home-Made  Boat"

Peter's boat is a Paradox micro cruiser, designed by Matt Leyden. 
It is finished to a very high standard. personally I think the paradox is a matter of taste, but they are serious sea boats capable of epic journeys, and you can sail them in your slippers. 

Read about Peter's build and see more photo's here. here Johanna. 

Also in the competition was Paul Hadley's  Illusion, based on Matt Leydens tiny Elusion. 

sadly not a winner, Paul did row and sail her on the Thames Raid and deserves a medal for determination.  Here's Paul on the left chatting to Cee Dubbs.

This year there was a new category for kit-built boats. I entered The Coot as she was going to be there for the Thames Raid anyway, and as a cheapskate I'll do anything for three days free entry to the show. 

So here she is with her fellow competitors either side. Farthest a Selway-Fisher Cegall kit by Seabird Boats and nearest the camera a Selway-Fisher Northumbrian Coble plank kit by Alex Jordan. 

And I am very very pleased to announce that my little boat won the section.
 I am truly Chuffed to Bits.

More details of the Cordless Canoe Challenge, and the Thames Raid II to follow.