On sailing a Folksong – a Sunday sail in winter

1030, Sunday 13th December

My first sail since the end of October.

Blue Mistress has ridden the storms reasonably well.

The forehatch has sprung a small leak. The sail bags are wet.

We have lost not one but two shackle pins on the stern lines.

Poor mousing on my part – (yes, I did use wire), and not helped by the vastly increased run-off of water from Dartmoor into the Plym.

~~~

The wind was easterly this morning and gusting. I left the Sound through the eastern entrance and sailed happily south – course 180 degrees (M), until Dodman Point opened up  in the west.

I turned for home about 1330.

There were one or two boats sailing and a number of small fishing boats. Mostly I had the sea to myself.

Looking towards Devon in the east to Great Mew Stone and the entrance to the Yealm

and towards Cornwall in the west – Rame Head with Kingsand and Cawsand on the right of the picture.

~~~

The wind decided to back towards north which was exactly wrong for re-entering the Sound.

I was concentrating on clearing the eastern end of the Breakwater, when four dolphins appeared from nowhere . . .

They were intent on play, appearing randomly around the boat, racing passed or lazily rolling under the keel.

As they levelled with the cockpit, I could have touched them.

Delighted, excited and entranced, the tiller in one hand, the camera in the other, I took lots of images – mostly of freshly disturbed water.

They lead me on – (note the rapidly approaching conical mark on the end of the Breakwater), and, when I looked up, I had missed the entrance and had to tack very quickly.

My new friends immediately disappeared, and I was reminded of the Sirens of Greek Mythology.

“OK, guys, joke over.”

250 yards on, I tacked back and there they were again.

They escorted me to the entrance to the Sound, before swimming off – no doubt chuckling all the way back to sea!

~~~

I was asked last week why I hadn’t taken my boat out of the water for the winter.

There’s your answer.

For love of a boat – photography

I have introduced a new category in my links column – Marine photography.

Over a year ago, I started the ‘For love of a boat’ series. It originated during a walk on a Croatian beach in June 2008.

Since a child I have been fascinated by small inshore craft and will seek them out whenever I can. I have photographed them, watched them, read about them. They were always there, there was never a shortage. But now, in later life, I have woken up to the fact that the shapes I love are disappearing – fast. Others are taking there place but in very different times.

In that first post, I wrote:

“The problem is this: here is a fine-looking, well-built, working boat sitting on a beach.

It’s not in its original condition. The hot sun shines on it every day, the seams have opened, a piece of the forefoot has come away. Whether this is repairable or not is irrelevant, this boat is no longer required for its original purpose and it will finish its life as a theatrical prop on a beautiful beach in Croatia.

So, do we care? After all, there are plenty of other boats in the world. What’s special about this one?

Well,  somebody had the idea to build it. Perhaps he designed it – or perhaps he took the lines off another boat-  (I say ‘he’ because it’s less likely in this country to be ’she’ – but not impossible). Somebody sawed the timbers and found the rest of the materials required, then they built it. Maybe he sold it or maybe he used it himself to fish from, and certainly he would have put in the time to maintain it.

You see, this boat has gathered a history around it. It is the story of a life lived on the water. We may never know the details of that story, but it deserves some respect and, at the very least, it can be preserved in a picture.

I hope to post pictures of similar boats (most of them in a better state than this one) at regular intervals.”

I have been posting pictures ever since – more or less weekly. There are now well over 100 images in the back posts of this blog, and rather than invite people to browse back through them, I have posted them all in one set. Each time I add a new Love of a boat post, the image will automatically add to the set.

I have also discovered other people who share my passion, notably AA, whose insight into Greece and Greek boats has been another revelation. He also has built a similar set of images, and has kindly given me permission to link to it.

At the same time there are fine sets from Kostas Sarris and Simone Pierotti.

As time goes on I shall add sets relevant to the other themes in the blog, notably the Folksong, and the Ceres.

My interest in photography is in its ability to inform and to record, as well as in its status as an art in its own right.

For love of a boat – Trechandiri follow-up

AA comments on my Trechandiri post:

“The word Trehandiri (Τρεχαντήρι) is loosely translated to ‘A fast boat’ which is kind of obvious for the first picture (a long and narrow boat that does not upset the water around it too much, a bit like the rowing skiffs) but not so obvious for the boats in the second picture that look more stable (wide) than fast. So perhaps they were termed ‘Fast Boats’ because they were also powered by motors.

The designers had to strike this balance between speed / stability / useful volume (after all you still need space for all the fish harvest 😀 )…These dimensions and other design elements were defined (or rather homed in) without mathematical models and simulations in different sea states at expensive experimental facilities.

I think that this is a good reason to preserve the boats and relevant pieces of the art from that era…(and of course not only the Greek fishing boats).”

~~~

I think AA has got it exactly right – “These dimensions and other design elements were defined without mathematical models and simulations in different sea states at expensive experimental facilities.

Boat-building was an art before it became a science.

Men looked at the sea, applied their common sense and, using tools that they created themselves, turned local materials into craft that had value and beauty by virtue of their function.

Did they get it right first time? Probably not. But they learnt by doing. Shapes and designs evolved . . .  and kept on evolving, handed on from generation to generation.

It is the vessels that are the results of this process that are being lost today. (Yes, there are still people building in this way in some parts of the world. But they are getting fewer and fewer).

Science has created a different process. The generation thing is not necessary any more – at least in the sense of person-to-person. It is more technical advance-to-technical advance. This may be spelt out in days or weeks rather than years. For example, every year new advances in technology create new products which lead to new fashions that can be seen everywhere. This year seems to be the year of the small RIB, the sit-on kayak and some very fast boats – as well as touch-screen monitors and AIS sets.

That’s great. As someone, who taps at a keyboard, posting yet more words on the internet, I like technology – and use it more and more.

But, in posting the ‘love of a boat’ series, I have noticed how technology is occluding this one important aspect of our lives: our respect for the deeper layer of human endeavour born of past generations, that lives in the present and will hopefully be passed on to our children.

It isn’t that we do not have the ability to be creative nor the willingness to gain skills, nor even that we do not care, it is that we are being hurried along a certain path that requires us to follow rather than to lead. We barely have time to assimilate one advance before the next one leapfrogs it. The pace of change is increasing.

The price of this is in many, many small losses that individually can be dismissed but in the end will add up to an impoverished society.

The demise of the ‘traditional’ craft is one of these losses.

This:

becomes this:

by doing nothing.

When AA says “I think this is a good reason to preserve the boats and relevant pieces of the art from that era”, I absolutely agree with him.

For love of a boat – Trechandiri

Paleochora, Crete 2009

I have started reading Mike Smylie’s ‘Fishing the European Coast’.

In 153 pages, he has written a comprehensive series of notes and reminiscences on the very wide range of boats found around the European coast.

It is the perfect overview for someone who enjoys differences in boat design  from port to port, from local conditions to local conditions, from culture to culture . . . as well as for someone interested in the evolution of craft.

For example, over the past year, I have posted many images of Greek trechandiri. Smylie writes:

“The trechandiri is the workhorse of Greek coastal fishers . . . . . The advent of motors in the 1920s simply produced a fatter, fuller body section, while in profile they were unchanged. Once the rig was removed, superstructures were added! They are ubiquitous throughout the Aegean – that sea of thousands of islands, and have one thing in common, a length/beam/depth ratio of round about 9:3:1. There are two schools of thought on their origins. Some say they developed from a particular type of caique, first built in Hydra in 1658, while others suggest they evolved from the trabaccolo, a type of sailing vessel used for trading in the Adriatic.”

Agios Nikolaos, The Mani, Greece 2007

Length/beam/depth ratios have taken on a new meaning :-).

Mr Smylie adds to what I learnt from the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth earlier in the year and from Denham’s book on ‘The Aegean’.

And the images have taken on a new meaning too.

For the origins of this image series, here


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.

On Steeple Point – prevailing wind

AA comments:

It has been proved that the weather is unpredictable in the short term. One more reason for Britain lying directly below a jet stream delivering storms from the Atlantic. (If only Fitzroy knew that 🙂 )We can only establish some long term (seasonal) trends.
For example, in Greece it is known that “The ‘weather’ always comes from the West” whereas over here (UK) the direction is SW….There is evidence for this on the way that older trees are bent.

Do you mean bent like this? 🙂

Stowe Barton, Christmas 2009



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 . . .