Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Return of the Oak King

photo courtesy David Coulter

This is basically my holiday greeting card to all who read this weblog. Dave Coulter is a horticulturist and environmental blogger in the Chicago area. While I almost never post about non sailing or boat related blogs, I feel David deserves your attention. His writing often obliquely addresses large issues. This single photo is an example. On the surface a simple reference to the pagan celebration of the Solstice, I think, on reflection, it has several layers of meaning. His website, osage +orange, is full of such insight. Informative, sensitive, sometimes poignant, he never screams his message, but it's there, and addresses issues we all face. This is a subtle website with a calm surface but a subtext that is a call to awareness. Thanks, Dave.

And wishing you all a sublime Solstice Season!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Roger Taylor on Furled Sails

all images courtesy Roger Taylor
altered versions © Thomas Armstrong

Furled Sails, the sailing podcast, has a two part interview with one of my favorite twosomes, Roger Taylor and Mingming. I posted earlier on their summer voyage to the Arctic Ocean, specifically Jan Mayen Island. The images above are screen shots from one of Roger's videos taken during the voyage while he was sailing through bergy bits. I highly recommend the Furled Sails interview with Roger, and Furled Sails in general... Noel and Christie are doing a great job and there' s an overwhelming array of great interviews with sailing personalities, with an emphasis on small boat adventurers. I also urge you to visit Roger's website for his articles and videos. Roger's book, 'Voyages of a Simple Sailor' is a must read for anyone who enjoys this weblog. It's available from Roger directly or from my bookstore on the right of this page. Roger is preparing Mingming for the 2010 Jester Challenge, and I'll be writing about that soon.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mary Ellen has been sold!

courtesy Mick King

Intrepid voyager Roger Taylor has been the subject of several posts on 70.8%. One of those articles revealed that Roger was willing to part with his classic gaffer Mary Ellen. It's my pleasure to announce that Roger has sold his boat, and done so through a connection made with the help of 70.8%. It took awhile, the original offering of the boat was put up in May, and the sale finalized, I think, in October. Both buyer and seller are reportedly happy. If you have a classic wooden boat, a traditonal small craft or a plastic classic you'd like to move, please write me with some details and maybe we can sell your boat as well. My email is listed to the right. Let me hear from you.

courtesy Hugh Bourne

courtesy Roger Taylor

Roger Taylor, skipper of Mingming, and author of Voyages of a Simple Sailor is reluctantly offering his 1934 Gaff Cutter Mary Ellen for sale. Roger is preparing to leave shortly for the Arctic Ocean on Mingming, and gearing up for the 2010 Jester Challenge. Here's the lowdown:

Mary Ellen was built in 1934 by Kidby and Sons, Brightlingsea, Essex. They were builders of fast smacks and built her to their own design as a gentleman's yacht for a local farmer. The hull shape is that of an Essex smack, but with a spoon bow and a transom stern.
LOA 38'
LOD 30'
Heavily double sawn oak frames, pitch pine planking, solid mahogany interior, all original. She displaces approximatly 7 tons, has 4 berths in 2 cabins, and a Vestus c.550.
Since 2000, Roger has been making steady improvements, including:
Refastening the hull with bronze screws.
A new hollow spruce mast and yard.
A new Douglas fir boom and bowsprit
New sails by James Lawrence of Brightlingsea
New hand spliced standing rigging
New blocks and running rigging

Roger has an extensive archive on the yacht, which has been cruised as far as St. Petersburg.

Asking £12,000. GBP, or just under $19,500. US.
Interested parties should contact me via email (available at the top of this page) and I'll put you in touch with Roger.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sgoth Arcach, ' Gobhlan Gaoithe' aka Swallow, an Orkney Yole on the Isle of Skye

"The rebuilding of an Orkney Yole from the 1920's. Work done in Camuscross from 2002 onwards, mostly by Fergus Walker between 2004 and 2007, with timely help from family and friends."


Good lines

Boat in 2003 after several planks put in by Gus MacLean

Lots to do

The boat would be ritually taken out every year to make way for hay into the hayloft. Sometimes she even blew over in gales.

Night light

This is the boat after I had spent a summer replacing the planks on the starboard side.

New plank

The work done here was as done at the end of the summer of 2006. New material was a while in coming - this is it having arrived in about May 2007!


Having been ill for two months, the arrival of Tjerand (fellow student from boatbuilding in Norway) and Paul - the both of them being students at the Chippendale furniture school near Edinburgh - was a godsend! Just about on the mend, the work they did was a real kick start

Celebrating a good day's work

Tjeand and Paul at the local

Hard at work

Tjerand removes most of the stem

One strake up

6th strake ( one full plank length of boat) all done

Not a patch on the old plank!?

Screwing patches onto joins (scarphs) of a strake made up of dodgy short bits stops it losing shape when you remove it


Sawn frames fitted on the port side.

Floorboards begin

Middle floorboard section resting on beams fixed to the sawn frames

Marking floorboards

Fergus uses skills learnt at Bunnpris, Coop and Rimi in Norway

Floorboards finished!

High speed tarring

Tar mixture is 1/3 pine tar, 2/3 linseed oil and a bit of turps on the inside.

The smell of tar

Susan and Malcolm

Getting tanned

Fergus and Jared

Arrgh the midges!

Jared scratches, Fergus sensibly has his shirt on


"The launch, on the 11th August 2007, turned out to be brilliant day, with crowds of people from Camuscross and beyond, as far as Norway, Germany and the Netherlands, coming to see the spectacle and join in in their boats. A dance was held with Fergie MAcDonald afterwords at Duisdale hall."

The boat sets off

Heave ho


Sea blessing from Carmina Gaedelica by Ian Urquhart. The boat is named "Gobhlan Gaoithe" - Swallow

Og båten går å hoooiiiiii!

Only the intrepid Fosen people remain in the water

Sailing well

Having come through the dornie, heading for Eilean Iarmain Pier


"All trips are sunny on Gobhlan Gaoithe. The camera never lies."

An Cuiltheann

An Cuiltheann is a sawtooth range of mountains on Skye (ed.)

Machiel and Fergus

Easy sailing

On watch

Gavin, Fergus, Machiel



Turas gu Loch na Beiste

Fergus with makeshift boom

Through the Kylerea narrows



Malcolm a streap

all photos, titles, headers and captions courtesy Fergus Walker except where indicated

Here's a story that 'warmed the cockles of me heart'. An Orkney yole restoration on the Isle of Skye . A young Fergus Walker is the main protagonist in this story, with supporting roles from his father and other members of his local community. The boat was purchased in 1997 by Fergus and his father from a man who'd been working in Caithness, said he'd bought the boat there. Built, he said c. 1920, rigged with a single lug sail and jib, but later Fergus discovered a mast step forward and figures she was originally rigged in the traditional manner of these boats, two masted sprit rigs with a jib tacked to a bowsprit. Fergus suspects she's a Stroma Yole. They sailed her, Fergus and his dad, for a couple of seasons, then the leaks got so bad they abandoned her ashore for a decade or so, until Mom threatened to burn the boat if they didn't do something with it. Moved into a shed, they had a local boatbuilder replace a few of the worst planks. Fergus then went off to Norway, attending the renowned folk/craft school Fosen Folkhøgskole, where he built the local craft (the Åfjords Boat) and learned traditional Norwegian boatbuilding skills which would prove useful in his endeavor to recreate his boat. Upon his return he commenced his restoration. As you can see from the photo essay, Fergus had lots of help from family and friends. The boat was christened 'Swallow' or Gobhlan Gaoithe in Gaelic, for the birds that took up nest in the shed during the rebuilding. The literal translation of the Gaelic is 'fork in the sky'. Fergus reports that as they launched the boat, a flight of swallows careened above the boat. You'll find more about his journey through this process on Fergus' weblog about the renovation accompanied by his photo log on Flickr. I've asked if there are drawings, did they take off lines, but have yet to hear from Fergus about that. I'll let you know.

Fergus pointed me to the Orkney Yole Association, where I found a new boat, Lily, under construction, and, surprise, it's been built in the traditional Norwegian way, right side up, though they did use molds.

Fergus has finished his course in Product design at Dundee University. His 'Degree Piece' , a sort of thesis project, is the Human Powered Flour Mill, found here.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Jigsaw 2.0, addendum

Mike, Phillipa and Kate, with Jigsaw in the background, all at an' earlier stage of development'.

construction photos of Jigsaw

"Clouds of sail"

all photos courtesy Mike Harrison

Mike Harrison, resident on the Channel Island Jersey, sent me some additional material on Jigsaw (see previous post). Mike says:

"I learned about traditional Jersey Fishing boats as a child crewing for Bob Kempster, an old Le Rocque fisherman, and also Reg Nicholle, my sailing master at Victoria College. He was an amazing character who used to tell us tales of the La Rocque Boats, racing under "clouds of sail" (photo attached) and how they fished the Ecrehous and Minquiers reefs under sail and oar.
It was by chance that Mike Jackson was restoring the Volunteer for the Jersey Museum when I was looking for a "handy boat" for day sailing and fishing with my young family.

Volunteer would have been built as a sprit cutter and later changed to lug. Different rigs were used according to the type of fishing that the boat was doing. It was not unusual for a boat to have three mast steps."

Chuck Cole: Sunspirit

This book ultimately brought Chuck to my attention.

Chuck Cole

Deb, seen here sailing Moondancer, is a recent addition to Chuck's crew, in the role of first mate.

Chuck built his Lynaes dinghy Moondancer from the book above, adapting the drawings to his needs.

She has traditional pine tar finish, though the lug rig is Chuck's adaptation.

The first Sunspirit was a 22' Block Island 'Cowhorn' (Chapelle)or Double Ender (Block Islanders),
*see Chuck's comment below

The boat appeared in Block Island: The Land by Robert M Downie

Chuck's sail loft in a yurt

Spar construction for the more recent, larger Cowhorn, with what looks suspiciously like a Hobbit dwelling in the background.

The larger, newer (building commenced in 1983) boat is a 37' Block Island double-ended cat schooner, built lapstrake with white cedar on black locust.

I said 37' lapstrake! Double-ender!

Could Chuck Cole be a reincarnated Viking?

Trying the rudder

From the stern

From the cockpit before...

and after stepping the masts

all photos courtesy Chuck Coles

Living off the grid, in yurts, heating with wood, building traditional boats by traditional methods, using wood felled and milled on his property in Wellfleet, Cape Cod, Chuck Cole is living a life that many of us would envy! (Maybe not all of us.)
I found Chuck on a WoodenBoat thread while searching out info on Christian Neilsen, a Danish traditional boatbuilder and historian. I'm not going to say a lot more other than to refer you to the thread and discover Chuck for yourselves, except to add that in recent email conversation Chuck reports that he's found his ship/mate, Deb, and that they hope to launch the 'cowhorn' sometime in 2010 and to begin cruising more southerly climes. I wish them godspeed in doing so, but not before I can arrange a visit to Wellfleet, maybe for the launch!