B28 - Bowlocks Midsummers Day 2015

....that's June 24th, so it is a little late(and despite all good intentions I missed Michaelmas as well, so it's Christmas - sorry!).

1. Beale Park Boat Show

I know I bang on about this show – but I still think (or hope?) there is a place for a show which is well removed from the white heat of competition (both of money and status) which can characterise other events. This year the organiser put a real effort into revitalising the show, and overall it worked – plenty of boats, a great atmosphere and a wide variety of things to see.

 Good to see that the Wooden Boatbuilders Trade Association had supported the show by getting together to make an interesting stand, and there was a good range of boat jumble too. I was seduced into idle thoughts of putting together a double-paddle canoe by the purchase of a Klepper double paddle – beautifully made and reasonably priced.

Some controversy was courted by having a few sessions of a jetski champion doing stunts. There was a good deal of tutting that it ruined the atmosphere or wasn't appropriate, but I must say that on balance I thought it OK because

b28 it is always impressive to see something done well (and it was very much a "how on earth did he do that" session). After all you don't have to like something to admire it.
b28 it broadened the appeal, particularly to younger attendants. A number of youngsters don't get their rocks off on clinker boats like their dads – and were probably a bit bored at the show, so it probably livened it up for them
b28 I can't see the point of a bunch of very large (and smelly) dogs sploshing around in the water rescuing people, but lots of people love it. In the case of both Newfoundland Rescue Dogs and jetskis – who am I to judge?

The best bit this year? It had to be the Napier Railton special – a Napier Lion 24 litre W12 aero engine dropped into a Railton chassis built in 1933, which went barking up and down the field. It holds the record for the fastest lap of Brooklands – 143 mph – which it will probably hold in perpetuity since the Brooklands circuit was closed in 1936. All that without front brakes. This appeared as part of the Railton Owner's Club annual meeting; rather as the Classic Car Show alongside the London Boat Show – there is clearly a common appeal.

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Anyway, taken as a whole the show was successful enough for the organiser to set dates for next year, namely 3rd, 4th, 5th June 2016.

2. Cordless Canoes & their pilots

Well this year we decided – after the workshop guys were inspired by the video footage – to enter our own contender. Being of an ambitious nature I thought a hydrofoil would be possible – see human powered hydrofoils and if a guy paddling can do it, then surely it is possible with cordless drills. Sums were done, weight budgets set (and amazingly met) and the fine craft Brown's Torpedo was created (not crafted, created) almost entirely from the offerings of our local builder's merchant. Inevitably the programme slipped a tad to mean that first trials happened 3 days before the show.

Trials went extremely well – as long as you remember that there are always two extremes. So we took the foils off (!) and went to Plan B – a twin screw canoe.

I had to go on to Beale Park, leaving the guys to do the mods – so imagine my surprise when the boat appeared at the show not only suitably modified, but also sporting a set of teeth a la Mustang fighters. Now I must confess that it is pretty shabby for a professional naval architect not to have done all the propeller sums – I last did some about 35 years ago and must have lost an awful lot of brain cells since then. I took one look at the sums involved, and decided to proceed "empirically"! So it was a case of trying out various model aircraft propellers until we found one which seemed effective without overstraining the drill. Rather to our disappointment a most impressive looking 3-blader proved to be somewhat ineffective.

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Spot the difference!

The pilot – Adam Brown, hence the naming of the craft – was chosen for his winning combination of light weight and blissful ignorance. And all that bodging paid off because Brown's Torpedo proved victorious, partly because the leading boat in the final ran out of oomph with 50 or so yards to go, and had to do a battery change.

I have done a report of proceedings in the relevant edition of Watercraft Magazine, but three things stood out this year

b28 The Thames Electric Launch Co have to date been kind enough to lend us a launch as a Marshal's craft which has served beautifully. This year however we simply couldn't keep up with the 3 leading boats. That's progress.
b28 The competition was very close – both in the heats and the finals there were boats very evenly matched – including a dead heat in one of the heats.
b28 On the speed side of things, a step change (either planing or foiling) is coming within reach. On the practicality side of things a cordless outboard of useful power and endurance seems more possible than before.

Now if any of you know a team of cunning engineers/students/designers who would like to have a go, I'd be happy to share experience with them, even if they beat us on the day. The boat which nearly beat us was running on one of our spare propellers – oh, the irony!

See Youtube (search for Makita Cordless Canoe Challenge) for a couple of videos.

3. Other bits and bobs

Classic Sailor

You may or may not have heard that Dan Houston – editor of Classic Boat magazine for about 15 years – has decided to step down from that post.

I'm not sure which is the chicken and which the egg, but certainly CB seemed to be headed in a sort of corporate direction, which I'm not sure sat that easily with the oddity which is the classic boat thing (wouldn't like to call it a market!). Articles were ranked in order of likely ad revenue (rather as a politician asking where's the votes in that?) and certainly it did seem to be all big stuff in the Med/Caribbean while there is much going on – as mentioned here – in the small boat end and in organisations like the OGA.

So he and some colleagues have started a new magazine called Classic Sailor. Is this madness? There are a number of good reasons for thinking so – can the generally shrinking market for print magazines cope with another? Is it a zero sum game whereby sales have to come from other magazines? It could easily be a very silly idea.

But I have long argued that it is the people not the things which make up a community, and a magazine which builds on and speaks directly to the people who own, enjoy and maintain Classic Boats could work. Maybe there is scope in the non-UK market, too. WoodenBoat – a fine magazine which does well – is perhaps a little constrained by its title.

There is also good evidence that niche print magazines last a good deal better than generalist titles. I thought some years back that everything would go online – Yippee I'd not have to print another catalogue! But I do, and that is because people ask for it, and (I don't know why) I find it quicker to riffle through a catalogue than search a site. And paper is portable and independent of power.

So though the prospectus for Classic Sailor was definitely aimed at the three Fs (family friends and fools – I'm not related, but surely 2 out of 3 qualifies me!), and I'll have to be sanguine about the level of return to expect, I have put in a bit of money. If Classic Sailor can speak to and for the community of classic boaters – including motorboats, of course – then it may have a future. Go on get a subscription for Christmas http://classicsailor.com/

Pandora

In 2001 we had the pleasure of providing the fittings for Pandora a 46ft LOD gaff rigged 9-Metre R from 1907. Designed by Johan Anker, she is the only gaff-rigged 9mR still in existence. It has been an enduring pleasure to help fit out metre boats of all ages. Then a few weeks ago we get a call from her current owner. Apparently something of a coming together had broken a few bits and pieces at the sharp end. Which is where being in business for a while comes in handy. A look through the customer records for a previous owner turned up all the specs and drawings we had used last time, so it was easy and quick to get new parts out to enable her active use to continue.

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Anchor Stowage

An area where the zillions of motorboats which are afloat have an advantage over traditional sailing craft (maybe the only area apart from windward performance in a calm) is that of anchor stowage. The stumpy little troughs often combined with a twin-roller carriage type thing allow the anchor to be raised and lowered at the push of a button from the cockpit. Even though such craft are unlikely ever to anchor, this arrangement holds the promise of avoiding the umpteen sprained backs, bruised knuckles and swathes of mud to a large extent.

Gaffers with bowsprits do tend to use their anchors, and in true gaffery style they can be quite heavy. But the bowsprit and bobstay very much get in the way. So we have tried:

b28 double rollers hinged at the stemhead – OK but anchor tends to hook up on the bobstay. If it misses that it then scrapes up the stem, and if it stops doing that, then it tends to bash the bowsprit once stowed.
b28 A long trough set parallel to the bowsprit, which extends forward. With a single roller, the retrieval tends to stop at the link between the chain and the anchor (chain horizontal, anchor vertical - stuck). With a twin-roller bogey it works better. But such an arrangement is fabulously ugly and uses a good deal of material – making it expensive.
b28 Single roller set out along the bowsprit – OK until that final link – so can work without damaging the stem if you can reach out and help the anchor in
b28 Double roller out along the bowsprit – difficult to engineer the pivot well enough to be long lived.

 b28Where from here? Our current thinking is to forget about rollers completely, but fit a large curved trough out & down from the bowsprit. The large radius allows the anchor to be raised and lowered without snagging and avoids all the issues of rollers and pivots. If you know which anchor is to be used, then the fitting can be sized to allow the thing to be stowed. In the case pictured here I got the CAD files from Lewmar. Here we also made the device to clamp onto the bowsprit – so no through bolting, and the position could be adjusted. The snag is you can't retract the bowsprit so easily, though the fitting is removable. The joy is, it works. Another example of how it is handy being in business for a while.

Roman Artillery

Now if you reckoned that making fittings for old boats was niche – try making Roman artillery pieces (1st century). Now these were primarily big crossbows whose arms were powered by torsional springs. As your 1st century artilleryman wound back the string which fired the projectile, these

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 springs wound up, releasing their energy into firing the projectile. Originally made from hide, a modern substitute is polyester rope – hence our involvement in something you never realised existed – don't you just love it?

Limerick Competition

Most – actually nearly all – way too salacious to include here, so selecting from the very small subset of acceptable ones....

There was an old sailor from Rye

Who said I'll see Naples and die

His wife (on the tipple)

Thought he said nipples

which earned him a juicy black eye.

And there is even a printable version of the "old man from Nantucket" (you can easily find others)

There was an old man from Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket.
His daughter, named Nan,
Ran off with a man,
And as for the bucket, Nantucket.

And there was some stretching of the genre

Mary had a little boat,
Ship shape, with brand new rowlocks,
tried to row the boat race fast,
slipped and soaked her goldilocks.

But my favourite was one in the style of Patrick O'Brian

In the midst of a pers'nal upheaval
I confronted the nature of evil
in the choices I made
my misfortune was laid
in selecting the lesser of weevils

Which wins the composer a bottle of malt whisky

And finally...............

........I do mean finally. After about 25 years of running Classic Marine, I have decided to sell the retail/shop side of the business to the Suffolk Yacht Harbour at Levington. They know their way well round classic boats; the SYH Classic Regatta has run for 15 years; most of their workshop time is spent working on classics, and they even know how to run a chandlery! They will trade under the name Classic Marine, while I'll carry on making stuff under the banner Bronzework Marine. I'll be concentrating on the bespoke metalwork side of things sold to the trade (including of course Classic Marine). This will happen on 8th January.

I'm sure you will be looked after at least as well (whisper it - probably rather better - I bet they get newsletters out on time), and I'm sure we'll continue to meet up at random intervals and/or events.

So this is the last edition of Bowlocks by me, and in the words of Douglas Adams - "So long, and Thanks for all the Fish"

All the best for 2016

Moray MacPhail

December 2015