B23 - May 2011

How I have the nerve to call this a newsletter after a gap of years I have no idea – I suppose it is a triumph of hope over experience. I am not alone in this, however, as evidenced by the following:

"A brand new shop has just opened that sells husbands. A woman enters the shop to find a strict set of instructions
"You may visit this shop ONLY ONCE! There are 6 floors and the value of the products increase as you ascend the flights. You may choose any item from a particular floor, or may choose to go up to the next floor, but you CANNOT go back down except to exit the building”
-The 1st floor sign on the door reads: Floor 1 - These men have jobs
-The 2nd floor sign reads: Floor 2 - These men Have Jobs and Love Kids.
-The 3rd floor sign reads: Floor 3 - These men Have Jobs, Love Kids and are extremely good looking. "Wow," she thinks, but feels compelled to keep going


-She goes to the 4th floor and the sign reads: Floor 4 - These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Good Looking and Help with Housework. “Oh I can hardly stand it!” she exclaims
-On she goes to the 5th floor and sign reads: Floor 5 - These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Gorgeous, help with Housework and Have a Strong Romantic Streak. Tempting, but she goes to the 6th floor and the sign reads:
-Floor 6 - You are visitor 31,456,012 to this floor. There are no men on this floor. This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible to please. Thank you for shopping at the Husband Store.
To avoid gender bias charges, the store's owner opens a New Wives store just across the street.
-The 1st first floor has wives that love sex.
-The 2nd floor has wives that love sex and have money.
-The 3rd - 6th floors have never been visited.

OK – so what is new at Classic Marine (or at least new since the last update)?

Much has happened to Classic Marine over the last year or so.

The most far-reaching change in many ways is the fact that after 18 years we finally outgrew the shed by the riverside, charming though it was.

The shop side was OK, but as more and more stuff was needed from the workshop the limited access (we used to have to run heavy gear up and down a set of portable rail tracks, see picture below) and the limited room for people meant that we just had to find bigger and more convenient premises. Plus the new landlord was – probably still is – somewhat demanding.

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So we moved – address details are on the contact page – to what is described as a unit on an industrial park. Panic not – discard all those mental images of tidy corrugated steel buildings with parking spots and reception areas. The reality is that we are in a wooden barn in a pig farm.

The downside is that various forms of wildlife become rather more free-range than was planned for, so now and then a pig or two will come charging through the shed, and rodents of various sizes (dormice to rabbits) scuttle around. So we added a pest control officer to the payroll, pictured here working hard for her living.

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The plus sides are many, however, and easily outweigh the downsides. The space means we can:

  • fit more people and equipment into the workshop, so we have done just that
  • store more materials – one of the reasons we didn’t do much by way of stainless fabrication before is that we couldn’t possibly store the material. Now we can and do as described later
  • take on physically larger jobs – this sometimes helps for boat-related work but comes more into its own for the architectural side. For example we had to make a 9m run of racking for a café, which could be all dry-fitted here before painting and installation. The shopfitter had allowed 4 person-days to fit the racking. It actually took 6 hours.
  • Last, (and though it should be least, it isn't!) there is room for toys here which range from a semi-derelict Citroen H-van (maybe it will be my office one day?) via boats to a selection of reasonably bizarre 2-wheeled vehicles. Everyone needs a shed, and we have a great one.

Shows and other short stories

Hard to say what role boat shows play these days. A key aspect used to be that a show was where you could see all the various offerings, and compare them – but much of that you can do online now. There was also the more-or-less stage managed “we have got this customer who has just signed up to buy the new ACME 45 footer” routine. Now not so many people are buying boats, that is a bit more muted too. So perhaps the main thing now is meeting up with your mates, or having a grand day out with fellow club members.

In that context you can understand why Classic Boat magazine have been central to the creation of the classic boat feature at London’s Excel Boat Show. To start with I (and I suspect the organisers) thought it was meant to be a commercial venture, but I see maybe that I was missing the point. It was much more to do with maintaining the community – a sort of non-virtual Facebook!

I'm sure it was that kind of atmosphere which made it far and away the most popular part of the show for all visitors – not just the classic boat brigade. We took part in 2009 and 2010 – and it was a privilege to be there. A practical snag is that it is 2 weeks in London, so for many potential exhibitors who are smaller enterprises (and they comprise many of the participants in this sector of the business/community) it is hard to justify the time or living expenses.

On then to Beale Park Boat Show happening on 10-12th June this year. Originally set up as a showcase for the smaller boatbuilders a dozen years ago, I have in the past described it at its best as being a picnic. Reverting to the community theory that is just what it should be. If you like it is the club gathering for all those people who often wouldn’t consider belonging to a club (or a club wouldn’t have them!). I don't formally exhibit there any more, I just go along to meet people and soak up the atmosphere.

Beyond the now customary but far from normal group of exhibitors (where else could you find as many genuine experts willing to share their knowledge freely), this year Watercraft Magazine are hosting – with help from Makita power tools – a cordless canoe challenge. This entails rushing (maybe) around the lake in Beale Park powered by the battery packs from cordless power tools. Laurels are to be awarded for the craft which completes the course in the fastest time, of course, but for such an event I can’t help feeling that the scope of awards could be widened. I’m thinking along the lines of potentially brilliant but flawed, or potentially flawed but brilliant. Andrew Wolstenholme and I have been bludgeoned into judging the entries, and advising on the lakeworthiness of the entries. In that capacity we have had a chance to look at some of the proposed entries, and without wishing to give any secrets away, some of the entries look wacky beyond your wackiest dreams – I think this promises to be a great celebration of inventiveness and eccentricity. You have got to be there.

Happenings

In the last 2 years, much of the froth has blown off the marine industry, leaving me grateful to be active in an area where people get involved because they are really passionate about boats, not merely wanting some sort of status symbol (ie something they didn't really want with money they didn't really have!). The classic boat end of things has held up remarkably well.

Even given that resilience, we have had to make changes, perhaps the main area being the increasing use of stainless steel in the custom work we make. I think this is partly because bronze has become outrageously expensive – in raw ingot form about $10,000 per ton – and partly because many classic boats are getting “younger” in the sense that some craft which used stainless fittings are now being restored. A couple of examples below.

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Masthead fitting for a 60 ft Alden Yawl

And fittings for a replica of the Fife 19/24 class recently built in Germany

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Steering Wheel for a Saunders-Roe launch

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One of the originals in the 1890's

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..and how they launched them then...

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in distinct contrast to now – this of course the 2010 version

That isn't to say we neglect the bronze side of things. Some years ago we supplied the steel metalwork for the new-build Mylne 12-metre Kate. She was rigged as a cutter, but charter guests found the 45 foot boom somewhat intimidating, and in truth she was quite a handful. So a re-rig to yawl has been in progress, and at the same time many of the steel fittings have been replaced with bronze. The net effect being that she is easier to handle, and faster

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Some of the recent bronze fittings for Kate

Staying with larger craft – equally hard sailed, we were pleased to provide the bronzework for Kismet, the second of Richard Matthews' Fife designs (doesn't everyone have 2?) which has been campaigned successfully- here seen at West Mersea just days after the re-launch.

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Other examples of our work:

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- Star Yachts new “gentleman's launch” the Bristol 22

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- An amazingly over-engineered solution to attaching an oar to a boat – but since it derives from a German design, it must be the “ultimate rowing machine”!

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- An new engraved boom end for a Sparkman & Stephens yawl

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- a repaired brass binnacle for a barge

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- the first wetting of a Laurent Giles Sandpiper

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We still work in galvanised steel where required – such as the ironwork to support the re-build of Germaine (pictured above) – a Nicholson design dating from 1882

Actually one of the things about finally getting round to doing a letter like this is that I get to remember how much stuff we do.

Useful bits - I think/hope

Modern ropes

I have never counted myself in the traditional school of classic boats, taking the line that when they were launched what we now call classics were at the leading edge of technology available (and yes that applies to working boats too, the design of which was optimised over many years). For a semi-rant on this theme see www.classicmarine.co.uk/articles/classic.htm.

And the heart of the matter is the attitude of the owners – not engaged in possession as much as stewardship. Now whether that means preservation or upgrading is an argument which will never (can never) be resolved. But like the people who now have polyester sails, a modern diesel engine, a radio and waterproofs that work, put me in the upgrading camp.

So I thought I'd have a look at the use of modern fibres in rope, particularly for classics. I must say that the more I looked the more interesting it became, to the extent that 3 articles are currently being schemed, namely

Firstly what is available, what it does and where best to use it – this one is done and on the website at http://www.classicmarine.co.uk/Articles/Dyneema1.htm

Second, how you join, splice and terminate these kind of ropes – still working on this using amongst other things a rig pictured below to experiment with cleating arrangements.

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Just to give you a feel for the possibilities, with modern jammers and cleats you need a particular size of rope, and the braided fibres don't grip at all. But using traditional belay pins and cleats it is not only possible to cleat these braided ropes, but also to do so in such a way that you can release them under load. Watch this space.

Third, the practical applications on a real boat. Some way to go on this one – and my own seasonal preparations aren't really going as quickly as planned, so don't hold your breath.

However I have (either boldly or rashly) had a load of cruising Dyneema based rope made with a soft buff outer covering. In the right application it will save you weight, windage, stretch, maybe even money! See http://www.classicmarine.co.uk/boatstore/product.asp?P_ID=511 for the range

Raid England

For the first time a number of people got together to devise a “Raid” on the Solent last year. Whatever the origins of such events, some racing under sail & oar, others more a cruise in company, some 40 boats gathered at Keyhaven (at the very Western end of the Solent) for a 4-day perambulation. What marked out the fleet was that it wasn't just a collection of dinghies, or a regatta for yachts, but that the often dispossessed 16-25ft range of open trailerable boats – some ballasted, others not - came together to make for a really interesting fleet. You had modern craft – Andrew Wolstenholme's Kite, Swallow Boats Bay Raiders – mixing with a number of Iain Oughtred's boats which have been so successful in some of the Scottish Raids, and then a number of purpose built craft which show great ingenuity. So what? Well it ties together my twin themes that classic boats need to be a developing thing together with the sense that that development takes place within a community of individuals of like mind (and any doubts it wasn't a community were easily banished at the very good dinners!). It is happening again this year – see http://www.raidengland.org/?page_id=13 for details. There is also a really good range of photos from the 2010 event on that website.

Two things come of this. Firstly there is proof positive that I do go sailing sometimes (see Kathy Mansfield's picture below) and secondly I have said I'll get one together on the East Coast for 2012.

Finally, I think the best line of the year has got to be

“We have some spare DNA sequencing capacity……..” in the middle of a discussion on what the gunk found in the bottom of an oil lamp reservoir consisted of.

At which point I reflect in awe on the talents of some of my customers

People who have lost the plot even more than you have

1. Me – again – still haven't got boat into water this year

2. Suffolk Police, whose focus on safety – see strapline on rear of car – may leave them a hostage to fortune

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3. Talking of straplines, I collected a number of them at the 2008 London Boat Show. They reflect the gung-ho mood prevalent at the time. Here are some of them:

  • Experience the Difference
  • Think Beyond the Standard
  • Challenge the Wave
  • Where Fun Lives
  • Passion for Performance
  • Yachting into the Future
  • In Your Element
  • Made for Life
  • Mastering the Elements
  • Travel at the Speed of Life
  • Britain & Europe’s Finest
  • Instinctive Innovation
  • Authentic Experts of the Sea

4.…..and now using your skill and judgement complete the following strapline “After hubris ….....”

How the other half live.

I mentioned earlier about the expense of accommodation at boat shows, so here are a couple of solutions. The first – by Nat Wilson of the International Boatbuilding Training College in Lowestoft (http://www.ibtc.co.uk/) - is inspired by travellers caravans of days gone by, complete with solid fuel stove and, since this picture was taken, colourful detailing of the paintwork. I have never had an answer to the discrepancy between the length of the demountable body and the Land Rover beneath but it could be

  • a simple boatbuilders error
  • a balcony, or
  • perhaps the job took so long that the Land Rover grew in the interval

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A somewhat different approach taken by us reflecting the metal-bashing nature of the business. With obvious acknowledgement to both Airstream and Teardrop trailers – both of course US in origin – my old and now decrepit camping trailer was converted into this vision of loveliness.

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Initial use at Beale Park last year in very hot weather left me feeling somewhat like a take-away meal in foil wrapping, so I may have to spoil the purity of line (yes I am making this up) and put some vents in.

...and finally

A reader kindly sent the following photo – I can assure you it is not an advert placed by me.

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All suggestions for improvements, ideas for content, quips and bright ideas for this letter would be gratefully received at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . As mentioned before, if there is anyone you'd like to forward it to, please do so. The next edition will appear when it appears.

See you at Beale Park?