B27 - Spring 2015

Bowlocks Lady Day 2015 - that's March 25th, so you don't have to Google it.

And Shock! Horror! An edition out on time?

1.Classic Boat awards - 6 out of 12 for Classic Marine

Just for a change a quick blow of our own trumpet. I went along to the Classic Boat magazine's Annual awards, which I'm pleased to support, by sponsoring the "Spirit of Tradition - under 40 ft" category. After all you get a glass or two of champagne and some tasty canap es if you st and near enough to the kitchen.

 More seriously though, it was most gratifying that of the 12 craft which were awarded prizes, we had been involved in 6, though ironically neither of the winners in the category I sponsor.

"Our" boats are:


Misty – runner up Restoration under 40 ft


Kelpie – winner Restoration over 40 ft


Spirit of Callisto – winner Spirit of Tradition over 40 ft


Droleen – winner traditional new build


Caracal – runner up traditional new build


Lady Charlotte – winner powerboat

A privilege and a pleasure to have been involved with these fine craft.

2. Shows

I wasn't planning to go to the London Boat Show, but then I got the offer of a free ticket to the Classic Car show which was running in parallel, so off I went. First to the boat show , where the entrance had a large square portal which rained down a curtain of water on people as they entered.

" What's that all about? " I asked the girl on the ticket desk. " I have no idea, but most people are going that way " she said, pointing to curtains to the side of the entrance foyer. It led through the Raymarine stand - and I hope they did very well out of the idiocy.

Memorable things - Bloodhound SSC which is simply awesome, and a folding canoe, Orukayak made from the stuff that estate agents (realtors) use for " For Sale " signs. The man on the stand looked a little sheepish when a yachting journalist and I asked him to let us put it together - but we pointed out he hadn't much else to do, the aisles being empty enough to play cricket in. So unfolding we did go and of course soon attracted a crowd of interested onlookers - well they hadn't much to do either. And when it was pointed out that there was a pond at the end of the hall and wouldn't it be a good idea to try it out, he looked even more nervous, but off we went with one of the casual observers saying it was the best fun he'd had at a boat show for years. And that sums it up - it just ain't fun any more, because if you want to find out about bits, you can trawl the internet and get the best deal, and if you want a big ticket item like a boat, I reckon you would go to the factory or workshop to see the thing and the people, and if you want a fun-filled family day out, would you spend it in a shed in Docklands?

As for the industry, I hear the US are heading off in the direction of "pontoon boats" which now represent some 25% of the market. These are glorified rafts. If we go in the same direction I'm going to get really grumpy.

As an aside on to the classic car show – which was interesting in that I'd never been to one, and it was the first one to be held. The main feature touted was a "runway" which cars could trundle up and down. Actually that feature was a bit tame, but some of the other features were spectacularly well done. I don't know why, but my favourite was a series of Motor Sport covers next to the actual cars depicted on the covers – simply awe-inspiring. So were the prices of some of the cars!



Enough digression – back to boats.

I suppose I'm something of an apologist for the Beale Park Boat Show, having helped organise the first 4, but it is a welcome reminder that boats can be fun, affordable, pretty, unostentatious - all the things that seem to be forgotten at the London Show. Plus there is the unalloyed idiocy of the Cordless Canoe Challenge, and this year Classic Marine will be entering a craft, the like of which the world has never seen. We are going to try to make a cordless-drill powered hydrofoil - by the time of the next issue of Bowlocks we'll know whether that was successful or not. My last attempt at a sailing hydrofoil was so successful that at the third assault on the Johnny Walker Sailing Speed trials in the 70's the good vessel Collapso was described as a foil-carrying displacement craft . After that level of success, I had one of those never again moments. Until I saw this website on human powered hydrofoils, one of which was a guy paddling a K1 canoe onto foils. Now paddling has got to be one of the most inefficient modes of propulsion ever, so if he can with a paddle, we can with some cordless drills. Or maybe it'll be a case of " after hubris, debris " . Watch this space!

3. Random Things you should know which may not feature in the magazines, but which are mentioned here in order of remembering about them

Classic Channel Regatta

In the organisers' words " The Classic Channel Regatta is a very special event with a unique blend of racing, passage making and informal parties, calling at three of the finest ports in the Channel and bringing together a fine collection of classic yachts and their crews to share and celebrate their love of sailing classics. " Not just marketing puff - it's true. It runs from July 11th to July 18th starting in Dartmouth, then to Paimpol, then St Peter Port.

OGA Trailer Section

For those of you with smaller craft, the OGA Trailer Section may be of interest. This is one of the most active parts of the Gaffers with events around and beyond the UK. See the link above for a list of events


English Raid

After last year's very successful foray around Falmouth, this year Peter & Terie Chesworth are organising one around Plymouth Sound 7-11 September.

Helping to Save the World's First Operational Radar Station

Bawdsey Radar was formed by a group of local people in 2003. Its aim is to conserve the Transmitter Block and create a new exhibition for visitors to learn about the groundbreaking work that took place at Bawdsey. I took my father-in-law there (he is a WW2 radar operator) under sufferance, and found it fascinating. They've commissioned a mug showing the "Daventry Experiment" when an aircraft was first detected by radar


Though I think the bloke looking out of the front of the truck was cheating!

Harwich Mayflower Project

And now for something completely different - let's build a copy of the Mayflower (the Pilgrim Father's one) and sail it across the pond. Not a cheap venture, so many varied schemes are being worked to raise funds. I went along to the launch of an on-line auction of items created and donated by artists  - for which the headline act was a turn by John Cooper Clarke, the performance poet. Combined with a pipe band (in Harwich?) and a number of people dressed as Puritans, it made for a surreal evening. And moving quickly past the question of how you are going to maintain the ship once built, in its educational and adventuresome aims the project should be applauded. This is the first frame being constructed.



Robert Simper does it again

His latest in a long line of historical maritime books is entitled "The Beachman's Coast", a record of the men and boats that worked off the open beaches of Suffolk. The book launch is at 12 noon on Good Friday (April 3rd) at the Aldeburgh Bookshop.


(Apparently the boat on the front cover is plastic................)

b27Lastly - and I hope not to make a habit of this - I'd like to pay a brief tribute to Mel Skeet, who died at the end of February. Now I realise that the vast majority of readers won't have a clue who Mel was, but bear with me. He ran the Melton Boatyard with his family, and was also an enthusiastic collector of fire engines. It was he who constructed the coracle ponds for Maritime Woodbridge using techniques for making temporary ponds from ladders and tarpaulins developed in the Blitz. Combined with his self-avowed ability to talk for England he was one of the big characters on the Deben. I used to have a proper job, but in that existence didn't meet anyone so widely skilled and generous.

It was no surprise that at his funeral the chapel and its annex were overflowing.

4. Skipping lightly on, some recent oddball requests with which we cope as best we can

  • Please make it Hempex. It was for coffin handles (I am making a coffin in the shape of a Grand Banks Dory) and biodegradable would have been better .
  •  I'm looking for a Holystone to wet-sand my teack decks the way it used to be done in the British Navy. Do you have these in stock ?

5. Competition

Bolting the stable door when the chickens come home to roost.

It was during a pub session after a talk in Arthur Beale's that the idea of finding the silliest mixed metaphor was hatched, and much fruit poured forth from the wellspring of your offerings.

Some pointed out that there is a long tradition of such things

'I don't like it. When you open that Pandora's box, you will find it full of Trojan horses' said Ernest Bevin, Labour Foreign Secretary, on the idea of a Council of Europe, 1948.

"It's just ham-fisted salami-slicing by the bean counters." A Pentagon staffer in the mid 1970's

'They've put all their eggs in one basket and it's misfired' A sports pundit on Sky TV

But many of you seemed to spend your time in ways even odder than maintaining and sailing old boats, for example by

  • biting the hand that rocks the cradle, or
  • holding your horses until the cows come home, or
  • crying over spilt water under the bridge

But the one which is not only funny but makes you (well me anyway) wriggle a bit is the idea that someone is

"sent off with a flea between their legs"

A bottle of whisky may soothe the discomfort.

For this month's competition:

The challenge is easy and quick

a prize for the best limerick

on a subject marine

(but please keep it clean)

and humorous too. Fantastic!

6.....and finally


Thanks to Adrian Noyes for that one.

The next edition will be appearing on June 24th - Midsummer day. Suggestions and contributions always welcomed.

Moray MacPhail