Sunday, January 31, 2010


Despite their constrasting size both these boats shown here were classed as 'Jumbos' and are typical of the St.Ives shape which enabled the vessel to remain upright when taking the ground. Legs would have been torn off in a crowded harbour, as shown below. The one on the right (above) and those against the quay (below) are so similar to 'Celeste' they are almost certainly from William Paynters' yard.

Photos reproduced by courtesy of The St.Ives Museum


Jonny Nance
serving splices with Joe.

Photo; Pete Greenfield

'CelestFish Festival 31st Aug 09. photo: Colin Sanger
'Celeste' at Newlyn Fish Festival 31st Aug 09.

photo: Colin Sanger

Festival 31st Aug 09. photo: Colin Sanger

View looking forward

Photo by Peter Chesworth, courtesy of Water-Craft magazine.

Wrought iron foremast gate.

Photo by Peter Chesworth, courtesy of Water-Craft magazine.

Securing the mizzen boom

Photo by Peter Chesworth, courtesy of Water-Craft magazine.

Wrought-iron stemband and 'scud-hook'

Photo by Peter Chesworth, courtesy of Water-Craft magazine.

Photo by Peter Chesworth, courtesy of Water-Craft magazine.

Photo by Peter Chesworth, courtesy of Water-Craft magazine.

Celeste at low water

Photo: Ian Murren

Jonny Nance with Pete Goss, a finisher in the '96/'97 Vendee Globe. Pete's latest adventure was the recreation of Mystery, a Cornish Lugger which carried 7 Cornishmen to Australia in 1854/55. Upon completion of the boat, Pete and crew sailed the Mount's Bay Lugger in a recreation of the voyage. The new boat and venture was called Spirit of Mystery. I believe the occasion of this photo is Pete's purchase of a 'share' of/for the building of the new Jumbo.

photo Pete Goss

Jumbo II under construction:

all photos courtesy Jonny Nance unless otherwise noted


Jonny Nance is an apostle for traditional boats and boatbuilding, and community involvement in these areas, in his native St. Ives, Cornwall,UK. He's created something called The St. Ives Jumbo Association to further these aims. And is doing a great job, as you can see at the Association's website. Celeste is his first replica and another is nearing completion. I was struck by the craftsmanship and attention to detail when first seeing the photos on the website, and paid closer attention to what was going on here, and my attention has been amply rewarded. This seems a model project.
Jumbo's were a late development in the local fisheries, a scaled down version of the larger mackerel luggers. The name arose in this way:
"To fishermen familiar with the much larger and more numerous mackerel boats the new Jumbos would have seemed particularly diminutive and so were ironically nick-named after London Zoos' famous African elephant - the biggest creature in captivity.

Jumbo had caused a storm of protest in 1882 following its controversial sale to the Barnum & Bailey Circus in the USA. "

It's Jonny's intention to race the two boats as a way of getting the community interested and involved in the skills needed to preserve and continue their local heritage. But for me he has a more interesting goal. Jonny see's the revival of these inshore fishing craft as a means of protecting local fisheries and promoting sustainable fishing, eco fishing, if you will, via a return to fishing under sail. In his words-

"When sailing the Jumbo you can readily appreciate why the lug rig remained popular for small fishing boats through to the last days of sail. To start with you've a wonderfully clear working area with the masts out of the way, and no boom to duck under. Even when close-hauled the sail and sheets are clear of the work area. This, combined with he manageable scale of the boat and rig makes the Jumbo an ideal model on which to develop skills and explore the potential of fishing for a living - under sail.

Our aim is to establish a racing class of these boats at St.Ives in order to regenerate a waterfront community in decline. How much more effective it would be if, in addition, these boats could be eventually used for the purpose for which they were designed whilst providing a seasonal income for a couple of individuals!

Clearly, there may come a time when, in addition to any green, carbon neutral credentials, a sail-operated fishery could become commercially viable or at least a natural way of conserving resources (as demonstrated by the Falmouth oyster fishery -much celebrated as the last in the world to be worked under sail). In the meantime the skills required need to be developed.

There's a growing recognition that this approach would at least address some serious issues; the sustainability of fish stocks, the rising cost of fuel, the dependence on imported goods and the lack of employment opportunities in rural areas to name a few.

And if successful, the model could be readily repeated elsewhere.

Only a few months ago such a proposal would have been dismissed as romantic fantasy. So far however, my inquiries have been met with a degree of excitement .

Stephen Perham, the Harbour Master of Clovelly, who has been working the herring season there for decades, explained he has been thinking of reviving the 'picarooner' (their Jumbo equivalent) for the purpose. It's no coincidence that a replica of this particular craft is currently under construction by students on the Traditional Boatbuilding Course at Falmouth Marine School.

Nathan De Rozarieux, the Project Director of Seafood Cornwall reckons there's sufficient public awareness to support a significant premium for 'zero-carbon' fish when sold direct to the customer. This would ensure a market for the smallest catches. This view is shared by Matthew Stevens MD of Matthew Stevens and Son, the regions leading supplier of fish and seafood based in St.Ives,who said,

"Clearly the time is right for an initiative like this. We look forward to receiving their first catch!"

Even the authorities are supportive. The Marine Fisheries Agency at Newlyn inform me that obstructive legislation has been amended to allow unlicenced (unpowered) vessels of under 10m. to land and sell fish.

Without realising it individuals from each of the contributing sectors: boatbuilders, part-time fishermen, fishing authorities, and marketting have been quietly thinking along parallel lines but as yet have not joined forces.

We are on the threshold of a revival that could see several small, inshore and engineless fleets springing up around our shores over the next decade.

The logical place to start is where we left off - and engines took over.

Sceptical? Of course - but just think where the organic industry was only 30 years ago!"

Apparently the British House of Commons is taking notice of such ideas. Other institutions are taking notice of Jonny and the Association's initiatives as well. The esteemed Tate Gallery held a fundraiser last spring to help make possible the completion of the second Jumbo.

Even an American group of descendants of the Cornwall Nance's is taking notice and appealing for help. If you can do so, please!

Addendum: In response to my questions regarding the origin of the Jumbo plans and their availability, since which a reader has also inquired about in the comments to this post, Jonny has this to say:

"The National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, London hold a body plan for a jumbo by Philip Oke redrawn around 50 years ago from a sketch by William Paynter. From this, by way of a half-model and lofting, I produced the moulds, reducing the scale to replicate the smallest recorded jumbo (keel 19' 6") suit our requirements. Jumbos varied in length and construction the largest being carvel and upper 20's in length where upon they are almost identical to small pilchard boats (the next class up).
My father took the lines off the St.Ives Punt (13') which was the first I replicated. No original jumbos or constructional drawings exist today.
Not much has been published on William Paynter despite his ledgendary status. I know it was something my father thought should be pursued.
As regards working drawings - there's currently only one which I'm using. All construction detail is my own supposition based on photographic evidence, a thorough knowledge of local practice and commonsense.
A dilemma hovers over its' publication: As you know, this entire project has been conceived to stimulate activity to benefit St.Ives. Our scheme is to establish a centre where jumbos and other craft may be built and maintained within the town, training and employing locals. If there's any interest to join the one-design jumbo class and commission a 3rd jumbo it will be something we have generated through our efforts entirely from scratch. At the risk of sounding 'protectionist', we are naturally keen that our overall project should be the first to benefit from such a demand at least at this early stage.
That said, our project is all about creating and inspiring opportunity and empowering the community and so if our model proves successful we will be encouraging others to do the same wherever he potential exists. Obviously the jumbo was designed to meet conditions at St.Ives. I hope a successful outcome of our planned experiments for commercial fishing under sail will encourage others to research their jumbo-equivalent. If ever there was a case for replicating our heritage this is it!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Matt Billey builds to a boat design collected by Christian Nielsen

Work in progress, two bow shots

Laying the deck

Forward hatch

Interior looking aft

Mast step, trunnels, and what looks to be a grown floor

Jette is certainly being well crafted

tree·nail or tre·nail also trun·nel
A wooden peg that swells when wet and is used to fasten timbers, especially in shipbuilding.

all photos courtesy Matt Billey

scanned images courtesy the publisher's of Wooden Boat Designs by Christian Nielsen

The book 'Wooden Boat Designs Classic Danish Boats Measured and Described by Christian Nielsen', is a book that inspires.
Originally published in 1977 by Høst and Søns Forlag, Copenhagen, in cooperation with Handels og Søfartsmuseet. The English translation is from 1980 and inspired Jon Wilson, founder of WoodenBoat Magazine, enough that he wrote the forward to the English edition. Chuck Coles
found inspiration to build his Lynaes dinghy Moondancer. Add Matt Billey, underway (7 years worth) with the build of a replica Bornholm Boat, Haabat, to Nielsen's lines. I discovered Matt's project on Russ Manheimer's weblog about his beloved Sjogin, another Scandinavian double ended design. When I wrote Russ asking if he'd put me in touch with Matt, I had no idea the boat that Matt was so finely crafting was from the Neilsen book. In email conversation he said:

"I first discovered Christian Nielsen's book "Wooden Boat Designs: Classic Danish Boats Measured and Described" while up at the Apprenticeshop in Rockland, Maine. This is the same book that Chuck Cole got the design for the Lynaes Dinghy he built. Of all the boats in the book, I loved the Bornholm Island boat "Haabet" the most. I am especially interested in the hull shape and the construction method. For some reason, I seem to like ancient double-enders that have slightly wider shoulders than hips. I've built a Maine sailing peapod that has that same "cod head, mackerel tail" sheer. Joggled frames and trunnels have always fascinated me and I wanted to have some first hand experience with them.

There are a few sentences in the Nielsen book that really peaked my curiousity. ......

"Since the boats from Bornholm, even with their small size, were superior to the Belt and Sound boats as far as seaworthiness was concerned, the local fishermen in the Langeland Belt became interested in this type, and in the period down to 1920 a considerable number of Bornholm boats were sold to them. Thus, until World War I, once could see both Sound and Kattegat boats, Belt boats and Bornholm boats, such as Haabet of Listed, in the same area catching the same kind of fish. They were all sharp-sterned shoal-draft vessels; as far as their construction was concerned, they must be said to belong to the same group, but their local feaures indicated that they had been built in different places in Denmark."

I guess I want to find out what makes the Bornholm boats so seaworthy. So, it has always been my plan to build the hull using traditional materials and construction method, build the rig as drawn in the plans, but change the deck layout so as to be more comfortable for coastal cruising. As you can see from the pics, "Jette" will have wide side decks, a small cabin and a cockpit for passengers. The only thing I'm retaining from the original deck plan is the footwell aft for the helmsman."

He's well on his way, building slowly and meticulously, as you can see. He seems to know what he's doing. I will look forward to the launch, and hopefully manage to get aboard.

I originally found this book while researching a Nielsen drawing of a 'Norwegian' pram I'd found in Thomas Gillmer's A History of Working Watercraft Of The Western World. The boat in question is not in Neilsen's book, but an inquiry to the Danish museum turned up a CD which has all the Nielsen drawings along with his commentary (the comments are in Danish, but w/Google translator, that should pose no problems). They also have the book, in Danish. The English version is, I believe, out of print. I found a second market copy on line. To inquire about ordering the CD, write to : or click my title bar for the museum store, the CD is just under the book. I have a copy on the way.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tim Robison's 'Resting Dinghies' @ The Peregrine Sea

All photos courtesy Tim Robison

Tim Robison is, among other things, a sailor and a photographer. Rather a good photographer, I'd say. His website Pergrine Sea, named after his boat Peregrina, has several galleries, one of which is pictured above. It's called 'Resting Dinghies', a name suggested by Tim's friend, Webb Chiles, who wrote to me about Tim. Tim explains:
This is a collection of photographs taken at the Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle, Washington. The small boats, their beautiful details of there construction, and the setting at the south end of Lake Union with still water, make for some interesting photography. These photographs are a combination of recent digital photos and scans of slides from years ago.
My friend Webb Chiles, after viewing several of these images suggested the photographs were “compositions of resting dinghies.” I had not not thought of the the collection that way .......

This is just a sliver of the collections on tap at Tim's well crafted website, most of them related to sailing and sailing adventure. Tim and Sandra live aboard their 40' sailboat and wander when they can, and their wanders and journeys are chronicled at their site. There's lots here, and lots to like. Take a look, dig in, you'll find much to enjoy.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Orkney Yole Calendar

Arriving home yesterday I found a very welcome surprise! I had reserved a calendar with the Orkney Yole Association, but hadn't got round to sending my payment. Nonetheless, there it was, air mailed through the Royal Mail. And it's delightful! The Association is doing some great things up there at the ends of the earth. They may still have a calendar or two left as well, inquire through their website. Member Len Wilson politely reminded me that the Orcadians are not Gaels, but have Viking heritage. Their boats were imported to the more western Islands, however, which may explain the similarities. I'll likely be writing more about this group soon, but in the meantime, give yourself a treat and visit the website. And maybe there's still a calendar for you (great photo's, but I've given away enough here).

Ok, ok, I'm sending the payment. Thanks, Len.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bell Seagull: with a little help from my friends

Two rare birds 'Sabine' and 'Steffi' (alas no longer with us)
rafted up, Scottish West Coast May 1991,
Sabine dried out Piel Is Aug 1992 An attempt to show hull profile
courtesy Edwin Dewhirste

Sabine under sail in Caernarfon Bay 2007 cruise
courtesy Edwin Dewhirst

Beating down the Sound of Raasey with the windvane doing the work
May 2009 cruise
courtesy Edwin Dewhirst

Sabine back in Tobermory Harbour
May cruise 2009
courtesy Edwin Dewhirst

Sabine moored in the river bed in Cemaes harbour . Anglessey Very sheltered in the harbour but plenty of wind outside
August 2009 cruise
courtesy Edwin Dewhirst

Chris Fretz's Seagull, first sail
courtesy Chris Fretz

Chris Fretz's Seagull, first sail
courtesy Chris Fretz

Chris' 'Gull
courtesy Chris Fretz

Chris Fretz and his Seagull at home
photo Thomas Armstrong

Chris' Seagull
photo Thomas Armstrong

This will be a post about one small boat but will shoot off in several directions, so please pay attention. The design in question is the Bell Woodworking kit boat, the Seagull. A product of the boom in postwar Britain of small, trailerable family cruisers, most originally built in the amazing 'new' material, plywood. I found this design while researching the postwar phenomenon of dinghies and family cruisers which revolutionized yachting and brought it within reach of 'everyman'. Bell Woodworking of Leicester, UK, was a producer of many kit boats, beginning in the early 1950's. Ian Proctor, of Wayfarer fame, designed at least three of their offerings, and he was in good company. Bell also commissioned legends Jack Holt, Percy Blanford and Uffa Fox to draw boats for them. One of Mr. Proctor' designs has quite caught my attention. I love a well drawn reverse sheer, and this, along with a well proportioned cabintop and nicely done hard chines, drew me to the Seagull. Bermuda rigged, small for a cruiser at 18'6" LOA, she has spacious accommodations for her size, and has a retractable fin bulb keel which enables her for both shoal and deep water sailing. The Seagull was a popular design in her day, with over 300 kits being sold, and early on an active and enthusiastic owners group. As times progressed and fiberglass or GRP boats began to replace the owner built ply boats, the Seagull waned in popularity. Today there are only about twenty or so owners clustered around Edwin Dewhirst's forum for both the Seagull and her larger sister the Seamew. Edwin also maintains a website on these boats where he recounts his cruises in his beloved Seagull Sabine as well as providing essential information on both the Seagull and Seamew.
Through Edwin's forum I was able to locate and contact an owner of a Seagull, fortunately about 20 minutes drive from my home in Phoenixville , PA. I made contact with Chris Fretz and found him affable and forthcoming, with a beautiful story about his 'Gull. Chris is a passionate sailor and campaigns his e Scow on the New Jersey coast. Genetic. Chris' grandfather, Harold Pelham, built several of the Bell kits. A pram, the GP 14 (Jack Holt) and finally the Seagull. When his grandfather passed, Chris discovered the Gull, the basic structure was complete but lacked fittings and finish. Chris fell to and completed his new/old Seagull. He'd had the boat in the water for about four seasons, sailing from his base which was his Grand's shore house in NJ, when a road accident while trailing the boat back to PA for the winter sidelined the Seagull. She needs some work and I have offered help, to get the boat back in the water next summer. Knowing that there are no extant plans available for this boat, I approached Chris with an idea. If we could take lines off we could build a table of offsets and rescue the design from obscurity. Chris is enthusiastic, and when I explained that John Brady at the Independence Seaport Museum has a laser and a jig for taking the measurements, Chris offered to trailer his Seagull down to Philly, and suggested that John might want to build a class around the taking off of lines. Great! The next step was to approach John with the idea, and I found him enthusiastic also, with the caveat that we would need to have an appropriate number for a class, at least five bodies, and he'd like to open such a class up to help survey some of the boats in the Museums study collection. Wow, this is great, I thought. So here's a call to all my readers within striking distance of Philadelphia. If you'd like to learn how to survey an old boat and take her measurements, please raise your hand by emailing me or John.

There's a glitch, though. I would like to be able to offer plans to members of Edwin's group, and others interested in the Seagull. I have even contacted Paul Fischer of Selway Fisher, a British designer known for rescuing traditional boat designs and reworking them for modern homebuilding techniques. He expresses interest also, but only if copyright issues could be met and dealt with. And there's the rub. According to Edwin, although the boat was designed by Ian Procter, he was working on commission for Bell Woodworking, so the plans belonged to Bell. Folks who bought the kits received a set of construction drawings, but not a full set of plans. Bell Woodworking closed it's doors some years ago, leaving little to trace the copyright holders down, at least through the internet. My endeavors have been futile, including requests to the University of Leicester Library (Bell was located in Leicester). So I'm putting out a second call to my readers. Especially those in central England. If you know of the Bell heirs, or those holding their copyright, or if you are the holder, please help me out here. We could all benefit.

Please visit Edwin's website here.