For love of a boat – Kalkan 2010

The purpose of this series is to observe the small, traditional working boats that are still out there.

And to do so without being too sentimental – times change – the world moves on.  Most of the boats I am looking at will have disappeared within a generation.

However,  it’s not just the boats that are disappearing.  There is a human element to this.

Local skills that have evolved over many lifetimes are being lost in favour of shorter-term technical skills designed to serve a blander, more uniform world – one that demands quicker and quicker solutions. I am not knocking  technical skills – I am using their product as a write.  However, the fact is that within a remarkably short time (years? no . . . months) this laptop will have been superceded by a more technically advanced unit. I will never really get to grips with this one because it will not last long enough for me to master it. It’s the speed (and, often, shallowness) of this continuous innovation and change that is the problem.

For each one of us, trying to keep up with change puts a permanent pressure on the deeper human values that bind individuals, families and communities. We have to continually adjust. The pressure will always be there. It’s the failure to acknowledge it that’s the mistake.


For example, this boat moored in the harbour of Kalkan.

How many men did it take to build it – one, two? How many men fish from it – three? How many people will it feed? Not many.

It has a small engine, but the thole pin positions would indicate a time before the engine . . .

Four nets are ready to set . . .

In the early evening, two men come out to lay the nets – one to work it, one to man the oars . . .

Early the following morning, they come back to bring raise them again, bringing an extra crew member . . .

Now there is now one man to raise the net, one to clear and stow it, one to steady the boat with the oars . . .


I hope these men will forgive my intrusion on their work, but their’s is part of a story that runs deeper than my images show. Like many people, they live in an area where the local skills to build a boat, to work with it and to make a living for their family is becoming less viable.

Tourism is now sweeping along this coast, and with it an infrastructure of villas, apartments and restaurants plus the inevitable increase in living costs. Local craft is caught up in the need to satisfy a universal demand.

I appreciate the economic benefits of tourism. For many, it is a good thing. A lifestyle becomes affordable that was never there before. But deeper down there is surely a change of identity as local attitudes are reshaped to cope with the new commercial reality.

As far as fishing is concerned,  the tourist industry needs all the fish it can get to cater for the fickle tastes of  the visitors – but on such a scale that the viability of the smaller boat is compromised.

Now bigger boats with their enormous nets moor snugly in the same harbour – travelling further, catching more fish, more often.

This is a worldwide phenomenon – the number of places where small scale fishing is still viable is decreasing, and with it the boats and the skills of the boat-builders. It is not necessarily that people find it a dissatisfying occupation, it is because it is more and more difficult to make a living from it.

I wonder if the young man on the tiller will be available next year to help the gentleman (his grandfather?) . . . or will he like so many others be swallowed into the tourist industry?

If I’m sentimental, it’s because the character of those that built and worked them are reflected in their boats – together with the coast they serve. I remember admiring such men when I was a child. Perhaps they still exist here. They are certainly less in evidence. As I say, priorities have changed now and with them a whole set of attitudes.

The friendliness, hospitality and sheer goodwill of those we met in the Kalkan were outstanding. We really enjoyed our time there as we have in so many parts of the Mediterranean and Aegean.

I wish these men in their fine boat good fishing.


For the origins and full set of images in this series, here.

From Steeple Point – a question of scale

Talking of tides and waves (here and here):

The ebb tide is running fast leaving wakes trailing from both the buoy and the fixed mark.

The buoy is floating, attached only by its anchor line. The water is passing more or less unimpeded below it, leaving a clean wake; whereas the fixed mark totally disrupts the flow, resulting in very confused water downtide.

Between the two, you can see the wake from another buoy – dying down but still confusing both of the above wakes.

A short while later, the tide has built up enough to submerge the buoy.

In the foreground are eddies from the uneven bottom, causing smooth upwellings of water.

Should we be interested in this?

Aren’t the two images merely pictures of a spring tide ebbing?

Well, it’s a matter of scale. If we want to know more about the sea, this is a good place to be.

Now we move on.

Below is a an image of Ham Stone, between Bolt Head and Bolt Tail on the South Devon Coast.

The effect of the rock on the tide can clearly be seen. Although the tide is not running as fast as in the images above, the water will be confused here especially at the border with the main flow. However, for a small boat, there will be temporary shelter from the main flow of the tide.

In fact, this boat is fishing downtide of a wreck on the sea floor, the disturbing currents attracting food for the fish, the fish attracting the fishermen.

Ham Stone, South Devon

Compare this with another phenomenon – this time rocks interrupting the swell.

These are waves in motion over the surface of the sea rather than the sea itself being in motion.

Instead of causing the waves to spread outwards, the drag effect of the rocks causes them to slow down and swing inwards, so that the sea is confused on what might have been the sheltered side.

Even if the water was deep enough for a small boat, there would be no shelter from the swell here.

Rocks between St Ives and Zennor, Cornwall

In practice, what happens around the coast depends on the swell, the tide and the size of the various obstructions, whether above the surface of the sea or on the seabed – (not to mention the weather).

So, let’s up the scale again.

The fishing boat on the right has chosen to go between the headland and Godrevy Light, avoiding the long haul out round the off-lying reefs.

It’s about one hour after low water and the tide is running against him – the direction of the tidal stream can be seen to the right of the island

Godrevy Light, Cornwall

It’s running faster between the island and the mainland than further out to sea – but nowhere near fast enough to hold him up.

Although, as you can see, he is having to work at it.

At the western end, the swell is swinging round the end of the island against him, just as in the image of the rocks near Zennor.

He is keeping well over to the right to minimise the effects.

And when he leaves the local effect of the island he makes appreciably faster progress towards his home port.

It’s a matter of scale.

The sea is doing its thing on a vast scale – slopping around the planet under the firm but distant control of the moon and the sun and the vagaries of the weather.

For the most part, we see it locally – we watch it, we study it, often we eulogise it (as you will see in the next two posts), but in the end we have no control over it.

The fisherman chose his time according to the tide and the weather.

He could not choose the tide or the weather to suit his time.

For love of a boat – St Ives ‘Jumbo’

Following my ‘love of a boat’ post on 25th February, I want to speak up again for a project that I have only recently become aware of but one that so obviously meets the spirit of this series that I cannot believe it has taken me so long to find out about it.

We have spent this weekend in St Ives.

I had hoped to see the Jumbo, a replica of the smallest class of St Ives fishing lugger – (details of the project can be found here).

No chance – but I made up with it in viewing the many old photographs of the original boats available around the town.

Apart for appreciating the boat as a boat, my interest was sparked by a press release dated November 2007.

An extract from it reads:

“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.”

This is a brave start and I am sure that more than a few eyebrows have been raised.

However the project has powerful backing and a great deal of goodwill, to which I am happy to add my own small cupful.

I invite you to explore their well-managed site and appreciate the enterprise.

For the origins and full set of images in this series, here

For love of a boat – reflection

Following on from yesterday’s post . . .

. . . . . . . . . . .  For the origins and full set of images in this series, here

“There’s not much sail in that collection” – Ed.

No, there’s not. There’s something else I’m  . . .

“A revival of working boats, locally-built, local materials, ‘close-to-the-sea’, preferably under sail? – Sounds pretty specialist, limitist, elitist to me.” – Ed.

No, listen, I’ve been trying to . . .

“And some of those boats look pretty badly kept. If their owners don’t look after them, why should we care?” – Ed

Listen, will you? Just listen!

I have been recording the boats for lots of reasons – (not the least being that I enjoy doing it).

For me, they reflect two things – the people who built them and the places where they were built.

When I was young, there was a song we used to sing along to. It had a verse:

“And they were all built out of ticky-tacky and they were all built just the same.”

Well, there’s plenty of ticky-tacky still around, and not only are things being built the same we are now being ‘encouraged’ to think the same.

It’s not so much about tradition, or being tied to certain materials, or blessed with certain skills (although that all comes into it).

It’s about people who set out to build boats that achieve beauty through a combination of their function, their structure and the knowledge, attitudes and skills that went into their construction.

No, they are not necessarily classical, nor tidy, nor showy, they merely reflect the lives of those immediately around them – about as far from ticky-tackiness and sameness as you can get.

That’s my take on it, anyway.

“Oh, really. What’s for tea?” – Ed.

On Sailing a Folksong – annual mooring lift

The row out to the boat was shrouded in the morning mist – the top of the tide increasing the deep silence over still water.

Others were busy too. It was the annual mooring shift to allow the Cattewater Harbour Commission to lift and reset the moorings – a valuable service that gives peace of mind but requires some swift work to oblige.

The buoys are stripped of their usual tangle of lines and shackles, most of which have been there all year. As a result the pins are usually well and truly fast.

In Blue Mistress’ case this is not altogether true. We lost a pin due to a poorly moused shackle earlier last autumn, so there is one new, easily removed shackle. In fact all three of the shackles on our stern buoy (above) were relatively easy to remove but the two on the bow buoy were jammed. It required a very large spanner, another one jammed in the shackle to hold it still and two of us to lean on it.  Thanks to Freya’s skipper for his foresight and help – I promise to buy a bigger spanner next time!


When I looked up the fog had lifted and the rowers were out.

It seemed to good an opportunity to miss, so I motored down to the end of Mountbatten Pier in the sunshine, catching “Sweet As” returning from an early morning fishing trip.

The emphasis then came on lorries parked for the weekend – here below the mark (DirFRWG),

and here in gentle salute on the Cattewater Wharf.

For love of a boat – Agia Kyriaki 2004

Agia Kyriaki, Pelion 2004

I like the colours of this boat – and the sense that everything has been stowed, perhaps not to be used for a while.

The gas lamp for night fishing is still mounted but the canopy has been removed.

The rails and stanchions are rusting.

Despite all the gear aboard, there is a slight feeling of neglect compared to the vessels in the background.


Walking down from Trikeri on the hill above, we sat in the taverna with our coffees and decided to stay the night.

For the origins and full set of images in this series, here