For love of a boat – 40+ Fishing Boat Association

Last Thursday’s (6th August) edition of the Western Morning News had a centre spread entitled “One man’s love affair with old wooden boats.’

It featured historian Mike Smylie, whose book “Fishing Boats of Cornwall” has just been published by The History Press.

In the article he is quoted:

‘”For this book on Cornish fishing, I spent a lot of time in Newlyn talking to local fishermen and the people involved with the local fishing industry . . .

“Something which particularly saddens me is seeing boats being chopped up – there’s a photograph in the book of a perfectly good wooden fishing boat being demolished in Newlyn in 1998 with a JCB. This happened because of the European Union fishing policy which encouraged fisherman to take boats out of fishing and scrap them.”

In 1995, Mike co-founded the 40+ Fishing Boat Association to fight that policy and help preserve old, decommissioned fishing boats.’

I am ashamed to say I have not heard of this association up to now. However, those of you who have been following the For Love of a Boat series will know this is precisely my own view on what has happened as a result of the European policy. Captain George’s video shows a Greek fishing boat demolished in just the way mentioned above for exactly the same reason.

Looking at the 40+ website I have not discovered how to join the Association yet, but will pursue it and let you know how I get on. The link to the equivalent Greek website is here. (To translate into your own language, I find Babel Fish works reasonably well).

I have ordered Mr Smylie’s “Fishing the European Coast” and look forward to reading it. The Cornish book will come later.

In the meantime, I wish Mike Smylie well – and encourage him to keep up his good work.

For love of a boat – keep them alive

Last week, I admired this boat in Padstow, Cornwall

and early last month, this one in Finikas, Crete

They are about the same size, both registered fishing boats.

One is built for fishing inshore in the Atlantic Ocean off Cornwall. the other in the Lybian Sea off Southwestern Crete.

To look at, these are totally different boats – but there are many similarities – similarities that come from their function and the work that is put into building, maintaining and running them.

Without a specific function and the people who use them, working boats become mere objects to look at (albeit very fine objects). Add in the people who built them and run them and they take on a life.

Someone decided to build them, lay the keel, add molds, timbers, planking, decking, an engine. Someone finished them. Perhaps the same people, perhaps someone else now takes them to sea, fishes from them, maintains them. These people have families, friends, fellow fisherman, customers – a community of people who know the boats.

Well, they have one other thing in common, they won’t last for ever. As time goes on, and fishing becomes more regulated, and plastic and metal construction finally takes over from wood, and universal design takes over from local design, and costs become more and more prohibitive, so these boats and those like them will disappear into history. Maybe this generation. And the skills that come with them will likely dissolve or resolve into some other field.

Celebrate them now, while you see them working.

Record them and share them

. . . and admire those who are working to keep those skills alive.

Try the boatbuildingacademy site – here, or Charlie Hussey’s marinecarpentry site – here.

Enjoy Mark Harris’ video on building the Isolde, then go to his woodenboatbuilding site – here.

For love of a boat – one year on.

A year ago, I started the Love of a Boat series following a holiday in Croatia.

I had seen an old boat arranged ‘tastefully’ on the sand as a piece of beach furniture for tourists. I was saddened that something as complex and special as a wooden boat should be left as a casual prop for those who probably wouldn’t care whether it was there or not.

This was slightly naive of me but, as it turns out, a good basis for learning.

Since then I have shared some of my collection of boat images on a weekly basis. These are images that I take, firstly, for the pleasure of looking at boats and, secondly, because I have always been interested in how the design of working boats varies according to their location – (form following function).

In sharing them, I have found that:

  • There are many people all over the world who share my enthusiasm and care very deeply about wooden boats – (and not just wooden boats).
  • Some confine their interests to particular types of craft, interests which they pursue intensely and exclusively.
  • Thanks to blogging, it is possible to follow what they are doing and thinking, and watch new ideas emerging

Above all, I note in this group a genuine desire to learn from the past and to build the best of the past into new projects.

This may sound self-evident to you – of course we learn from the past, don’t we?  The older I get, the less sure I am.

I have banged on about this before. The way modern technology advances in leaps and bounds seems to have created a rather blinkered environment, one in which we look intently forward hoping for solutions to our problems, often ignoring the fact that man has been facing many of the same problems for generations and the core solutions are already there. Yes, technology gives us new ways to deal with them, and, yes, technology is a source of new creativity – (excitingly so!), allowing us to enter areas we have never entered before.

But for some solutions we don’t need technology . . .  just a way of dealing with them at a more human level.

to be continued . . .

Book sailing: coincidence

Furthering my interest in local craft (For love of a boat), I have been researching Greek inshore fishing boats. I contacted the library at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall and Denise Davey, one of the library volunteers, took up my request and was extremely helpful.

She came back with scanned copies of one of the appendices to H.R.Denham’s “The Aegean” – Inshore Craft. Here is one of the illustrations.

You will instantly recognise the hull shape from images in earlier posts to this blog.

This and more arrived earlier this week. I am very grateful to the NMMC. I had not heard of Denham’s book. I wondered when it was written, meaning to look it up on Google.


This evening I have been reading Hammond Innes’ “Sea and Islands”. published in 1967. Hammond Innes was one of the earliest authors I read – well before James Bond. In retrospect, I found his stories far more exciting, if less fashionable, than Ian Fleming’s.

The book was hidden on a shelf in my favourite used-book shop – Books by the Sea in Bude, Cornwall. Apart from the author and the subject, I was bowled over by the dated dust jacket. A whole different era.

In “Sea and Islands”, Innes describes various voyages in his Robert Clark designed, 42 foot, masthead cruiser-racer ‘Mary Deare’. He describes being dismasted in the RORC’s  North Sea Race; a cruise ‘rockhopping’ in Scandinavia and then taking the boat to the Mediterranean and exploring the Greek Islands.

It is when he starts to describe the islands and the sea between them that the book comes alive. I am only half way through the book but the islands themselves have brought life to it.

That’s not all: “Apart for the Mediterranean Pilot Vol. IV, our Bible throughout was Henry Denham’s “The Aegean”. This sea guide to the coasts and islands of Greece was most conveniently published the previous year (1963), and knowing that I was bound for his previous happy hunting ground, the author has kindly sent me a copy. It is the perfect introduction to island landfalls, for it not only gives the port information necessary before sailing in, but also geographical and historical details in conveniently concise form.”

So now I know. I must get hold of a copy.