Monday 29 April 2013

Seax Gig setting up.

I have spent the last week reinforcing the molds, a good supply of well seasoned pine boards came out of a friends barn and they were just the job.
I could have increased the station spacing & saved myself some work but i do not want to run the risk of the hull going flat between the molds so it was time well spent.
The building jig is being set up for building initally in foam sandwich but with very little modification could be used for a cedar strip wooden hull.

Tomorrow I will be doing final adjustments to the molds & then fasten them to the strongback. Then its bevel & fair the molds & start putting the stringers on.
The lofting floor is still in use for working out positions of thwarts & structural inserts into the foam core. Thing with foam cores is you cannot bolt through it but must link the inner & outer skins with solid or high density inserts where you are going to put any fastenings. At the sheer & keel the core stops & the hull tapers or steps down to single skin.
The workshop reached 20 degrees C today which is ideal temperature for GRP work.
Just as well, you can just see two of the workshop heaters in the roof there are 6 x 3Kw, 18Kw in all, fire them all up & the electric meter sounds like the Starship Enterprise winding up to Warp 9. Needless to say i dont intend to use them often if i can help it!

Had a visit from the Police this morning, a house was burgled nearby & one of the perps was chased across the railway line behind the workshop. The Police had a very large black Alsatian with them & he was obviously raring to go.
Glad he wasnt chasing me!

Monday 22 April 2013

Seax Gig building as we go.

Well here we go! Piles of timber has been amassed from here & there, some purchased, some bartered for.
A good cutting table & rack for rolls of glass has been built and its also been handy to transfer the moldshapes from the master body plan from the lofting floor.

Excuse this being on its side! but the picture quality goes wonky if rotated.
Shows the master body plan having a pattern lifted using polyester drafting film.

Molds being set up temporarily, they still have to be beefed up so they can carry the stringers of the building jig.

Molds sat in place, Starting to look like a boat.
Tomorrows job is to start beefing the mdf molds up with pine boards along their edges.
Anyone who has ever tried to screw into the edge of Mdf will know why!

She is looking long & lean & pretty fair so far.

I do like this bit!

Foam ordered last week & on its way from Switzerland.
Going to be an interesting build!

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Small boats on the creek

Unlike some people we have a small fleet of boats!
The one on the left is a Heyland trout that came from Barking boating lake. a friend rescued her & sold her to me for 30quid at the yacht club annual dinner as he was emigrating the next day!
My son Nick & i stuck a rig on her, mast was an old boom from a broken up Seaking yacht, sail is a cut down mizzen from a seadog. She cost us about £100 on the water. She is named "Beag" i am told gaelic for small!

The boat in the foreground Emily Ann is from John Gardners book "Building Classic Small craft" She is from the lines published therein similar to a Spurling rowboat.
She was the last boat my father built back in 1993 and she was never launched.
After 20 years in his barn he asked me to take her away & finish her off last year, this was her maiden voyage.

Not to be outdone my wife Wendy has her own small boat Skellum!

Skellum is a Blue streak class GRP dinghy, these were popular hire boats n the Norfolk broads & were built in the early 60's. Some years ago we saw a pile of these at the back of a boatyard in Stalham stacked like slipper limpets.
She is somewhat over engineered & heavy but is a fine little boat. The dog seems to enjoy sailing even though he can be a bit clumsy at times.

Friday 12 April 2013

If ever a boat had a soul

A Funny title for a post but read on! "Billows" Is a Rye Beach boat, built as a sailing tripper boat probably to run out of Folkestone.
She was built in 1938 by Harry Phillips of HJ Phillips & Sons of Rock Channel Rye in Sussex. Apparently at this time the yard won a contract for 10,000 whaler sweeps for the Admiralty and so she was planked in Archangel white pine, a very tight grained spruce from northern Russia. Her framing was sawn oak floors with steamed timbers above to the sheer.
She came to Benfleet yacht club in 1946 when she was bought by AF Taylor known as "Buck". A consumate & careful sailor, He put a cabin on her & sailed her regularly until his death in 79. After that his relatives took her to the Broads.
In 1990 we were looking for a nice open boat & someone said "what happened to Billows?" A couple of phone calls later i had found that she still existed & yes she was for sale. A trip to norfolk later she was on her way home.

Here she is looking rather sad. She was a real time warp still with Bucks oilskins hanging on a hook in the cabin.
Two days later her rotten cabin was removed & she looked so sweet without it that the decision was taken to put her back to original.

Many months of hard work later she had a new stem & apron, all new deck beams & deck, new sheerstrake & new centreboard case, etc etc!

This shot was taken just prior to her relaunch & shows her sweet lines & planking.
Anyone who aspires to be a clinker boatbuilder could do worse than study this boat!

Rigged as a Gaff sloop she proved to be a superb sailing boat, I had made new hollow spars including a carbon & spruce gaff.
This shot was taken in the 95 Nore race on a windy day.
Half an hour after this was taken we were running downwind in a heavy wind against tide by the medway buoy when she took charge & nearly jibed.
The tiller broke of at the rudder head & she rounded up into the wind with green water pouring over her side.
The nearest i ever came to sinking a boat. We came last!

Two years later the same race with very light winds we won an embarrasment of trophies.
Every leg of the race was a Kite reach & this suited Billows rather well!
This is a poingnant shot for me as the guy in the middle Terry harding was diagnosed with a brain tumour a week later & was dead within months.
Gareth Jones on the left died of a heart attack aged 48 a few years later.

To this day it was the best days sail i ever had. Thank you for crewing lads & RIP.
And back to the title. Billows is a boat that gets under your skin. She has that Row away factor where when you leave her on the mooring you just have to row round her rest on the oars & just admire her.
If ever a boat had a soul she has.

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Hanningfield Skiff

This is a good 18ft skiff, she is the same hull as was used on Hanningfield reservoir in deepest Essex. These were used as hire angling boats for fly fishing. The fleet was disposed of in 2002 & got split up.
It is clear that originally a mould was taken from a wooden boat as rivets were clearly visible in the old boats. Who built her & where is unknown.
The GRP boats were fitted with a heavy plywood & grp solid floor & heavy interior seat & gunwale moulding. They were appallingly heavy at over 700lds.

 This one Leigh Ho was one of two original boats from Hanningfield that i stripped & rebuilt for our local rowing Club

 8 more were built at Heybridge Basin & i acquired the mould a couple of years ago. The first boat i laid up was Zev, she was built as light as i could go with a combination of CSM & Biax cloth. She could be rigged as pair sculls, pair rowing, or Randan. As you can see she is capable of carrying a good load!

Zev in the GRR Photo Courtesy of Birdman photography.

The skiffs have consistently done very well in the Great river race often winning trophies & featuring in the top placings.
Lara one from Heybridge was in the top 5 for several years.

Here is another shot of Zev in the Round Canvey race 2 years ago, its a 14 mile race round Canvey open to all types of rowing boats plus sail & oar boats too!
I borrowed the lugsail rig from my wifes sailing dinghy the night before the race!
Of the wind or on a reach she goes like the clappers. To windward its time to get the oars out!

Monday 8 April 2013

Starting a new Gig

A new project starts! East Coast Rowing association have taken on this redundant Scout hut & i am building a prototype Gig, basic idea is a genuinely afordable GRP gig that is suitable for clubs & teams.
She is one of a series of designs i have been working on for several years.
Designed using Delftship pro Software.
The building jig or strongback is all but finished and you can see on the floor the white painted panels that she is lofted on.

A new use for the old Scouthut!
Some say that using modern design software that lofting becomes redundant. However in my case i decided that the risk in not doing it was too high!

The problem with software like this is it is extremely powerful & the time required to train & practice to utilise it to its full potential is often not available if you are trying to make a living!
There were some inaccuracies but on the whole the lofting was a pleasure & she was not too far out!

The beauty of the process is that hull displacement & hydrostatics data can be calculated instantly along with resistance calcs.

Timber for the molds arrives later this week & then its time to start setting up.

Saturday 6 April 2013

Another one i built earlier1

Here is the four oared Gig Dauntless, originally she was an 18ft Skiff from Hanningfield reservoir. Back in 2003 I & a bunch of like minded individuals started a rowing club, this was Lower thames Rc, As Chairman the need for a boat was rather pressing, so the most beat up of the 18 footers was extended at the stern.
She was now 21ft long and we just managed to cram four oars on her though she was very cramped for the rowers. We raced her at Heybridge Row 4 a reason & won our class but it was apparent that she was really too heavy to be succesful.
Dauntless nearly completed, new midsection in grey..

In 2005 i took her into our front garden (at the time a building site)& sawed her in half, She was pulled apart 5ft & am mdf mould for the midsection planked up.
While i was at it all the heavy grp floor, thwarts & gunwales were removed.
With cost an over riding consideration the gunwales were made from 3/4 x 1 1/2 tanalised roofing batten. Cheap, strong & rotproof!
The pine thwarts came out of the building site skip.
Despite now being 26ft long she was in fact 200lds lighter & was transformed into a very usable & nice to row four oared Gig.

Re Launch day 2005

A year later i built another cut & shut Proud mary in Dauntless boatyard shed.
The Great river race organisers not quite sure what they were called them "Hanningfield hybrid Gigs".
Despite their unconventional even lowly origins they have served well for over ten years now & clocked up a huge number of miles.

America's Yawlboat

I built this shapely boat back in 88, she is a Pete Culler Whitehall which was originally built as a pair of boats for the replica of the Schooner America.
She was cold moulded from western red cedar veneer with oroko & ash trims.
Many people regard the Whitehall as one of the ultimate working rowboats.

She was undoubtedly fast but her draft & ruler straight keel meant she was very hard to turn. She was also trim sensitive and did not like being nose down.
I did my first Great river race in 1990 in her, a great experience but she was handicaped most horribly by the organisers!

later she was used in the Sky mini tv series "Scarlett" the sequel to Gone with the wind. In this she was fitted with a spritsail rig and had to sail in a storm on the Paddock tank at Pinewood studios. I got the job of technical adviser & was promoted to stunt double. Pity more jobs like those dont come along more often!

Friday 5 April 2013

Another blast from the past

Back in 1984 Voodoo Child was built by myself Richard Smith, John Dickens, George palmer with help from various others.
Voodoo Child in the Southend raft race.
 He was a 36ft flying Proa (proas are normally male)and was built from 3 ex USAF grp drop tanks cut & shut together. An outrigger or Ama was mounted 16ft out on the windward side & the rig was borrowed from an admiralty whaler. all up weight was in the region of 850lds.
With over 220 sq ft of sail Voodoo child was a beast to sail and was the only entry ever to arrive at the Southend raft race and go home by sea.
Over 7 years over £3000 was raised by the crew for the RNLI.

A Good Rowboat.

Why start a blog? I have been messing around in boats on Benfleet creek all my life & dont suppose i will ever get bored with it.
First decent rowboat i ever had was this 16ft clinker Skiff, built as a Southend pier hire skiff in the 30's. A fleet of around 30 worked off the beach near where the 3 shells cafe is today.

Southend hire Skiff, pic taken around 1989
I bought her from Halcons yard at Canvey point & rowed her home to Benfleet one flat calm September evening under a huge harvest moon. Her bottom was covered in barnacles so she was rather sluggish. Halfway home a seal started following me & swam next to the boat for half a mile actually dipping under the oars as i rowed.
I arrived back at the club very thirsty & just made last orders! 

The Skiff was very old & tired with all but one of her planks split & most of her ribs broken. Despite being held together with patches & polysulphide sealant she was a lovely boat that rowed extremely well & gave me a lifelong love of rowing.
In the end she became so leaky that she was laid up ashore & ended her days one winter in the workshop stove. I never did give her a name!