Saturday, 4 July 2015


Snarleyow Too was born and raised on the Thames in Berkshire - so why is she known as a Hampshire punt?
Back in the 19th century wildfowlers wanted a way of bringing themselves, their guns and their bag home. The answer was a flat-bottomed boat that could be dragged out over the mudflats at low tide before dawn, ready for the birds to leave their roosts. After the shoot, they would return to the boat and row home as the tide came in. 
That's my understanding anyway. If you know better, hit the commets section.
The type became popular on the Thames as workboats for lock keepers and platforms for fishing, still known as Hampshire punts.
Today Snarleyow Too ventured for the first time from the Thames to her ancestral waters at Prinsted, on Chichester Harbour.
She took to it with aplomb, though of course I wasn't going to drag her over the mudflats at the crack of dawn. But her ultra shallow draft meant I could navigate over the variious mudbanks and bars in the area with confidence.

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).