Tuesday, 17 November 2015

A tub from Down Under

By 'tub' I don't mean this...

...but a training boat, not a fine or best boat. John Welsford, the Kiwi designer who knows a lot about fixed seat rowing, has designed a sliding seat double scull for Lake Rotorua so they can go out in sea states that would prevent rowing in fine boats. It may technically be a tub but it looks smart and elegant.
The idea is to provide a kit so clubs and individuals can build them themselves at low cost - all the details are on John's excellent blog here.
The chap who commissioned the design, Alistair Riddle, says the next prototype will have a fast derigging system to make the boat a bit lighter for loading onto the roof rack on the car. John says he knows of a way of doing it that 'won't bust peoples boilers', but I would say that removing the riggers before loading onto a car is very desirable as it avoids many horrible scratches in the paintwork caused by the gates gouging the metal. Don't ask how I know this.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Strike a Light

The onset of Winter last Sunday means wind and rain today so no rowing. Instead I spent an enjoyable time researching the Bryant and May factory in East London for another blog I write, Ornamental Passions.
In the course of research (isn't Google fantastic for people who want to look intelligent but can't be arsed with libraries?) I came across these early 20th century matchboxes.
The Swedish matches above are clearly destined for the British market, showing a naval cutter rowed by sturdy tars and flying the Union Jack (although a real naval cutter would presumably fly the White Ensign at the stern).
The Japanese match industry clearly wanted to get in on the act, but their cutter is in the Imperial Japanese Navy and flies the Flag of the Rising Sun.
The designer of the earlier one (above) has added a bowman, but the bloke who drew the later design has cut the crew from six to four and removed the facial hair from the seamen. The coxswain seems to have been promoted as well - with all that gold lace he must be an admiral at least.
Also, my standing search on eBay came up with a very jolly seaside postcard from America illustrating that you should beware of wishing for things in case they come true.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Why I skived off work today (again)

Because it was like this:
There were a surprising number of boats on the water, given it was a Monday. Several yachts were clearly out on the basis that another opportunity will almost certainly not present itself to them until well into next year. The trainers of Releasing Potential were out training in the St Ayles skiffs, so they can teach young n'ere-do-wells how to row.
Shortly after this picture was taken, the fog rolled in and gloom descended.

Friday, 30 October 2015

No Access

Christine Ball and I sculled around the Langstone Archipelego today. The tide was very high. 
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds was very keen for people to keep off the islands.  Penalty: wet feet. 

Monday, 26 October 2015

When to Row

Sunday was one of those frustrating days when it was too lovely not to go out, but there was hardly a breath of wind. I took Snarleyow to Itchenor to join David Sumner (left) and Chris Waite (centre) plus Len Wingfield (not arrived yet) to Pilsea Island and then to East Head.
We rowed with the tide all the way there, which was a great way to test the slightly longer distance from the thwart to the stretcher. It is now pretty much ideal for me.
After lunch on the beach, we faced a return against the tide but there was a little wind behind so it was up sail and off.
Chris hugged the shore to stay out of the tidal flow but I was seduced into moving into the centre of the channel by a yacht that seemed to have caught a decent breeze away from the shelter of the trees.
Chris was, of course, right (he has been sailing these waters all his life). His progress was still slow, but he gradually drifted off onto the horizon while I sat in the middle next to the bloody yacht, edging backwards and forwards. 
Every time I almost came to a decision to strike the rig and get the oars out, a tiny puff of wind would flutter the burgee and hope would rise. 
The burgee was new too and I was quite pleased with it. It is a bamboo from the garden shed, cut to length and secured to the mizzen mast with zip ties (zip ties should be included with duct tape and WD40 as the greatest innovations of the age). I drove a screw into the top, kept in place with a good dollop of PVA, and wound a bit of wire round it to allow the burgee to swing easily. It works a treat. 
Eventually, however, the yacht hoisted a spinnaker and began to edge forward. It was time. I dropped the sail, ran out the oars and simply romped away. I had the boat out of the water by the time the yacht got back to her mooring opposite the hard.
Oh, I almost forgot the buoy. Rowing out of Itchenor I nearly hit a buoy with an oar. Annoyed with myself that I had failed to spot it, I gave it a glare as it passed. Then I saw why it had been able to sneak up on me. It had my name on it.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Adventure Rowing

Owen Sinclair has written from New Zealand with another adventure, this time on a river that I would really think several times about before attempting - the Buller River in South Island.
One of the country's largest rivers, the Buller is used for white water rafting and kayaking so it is a challenging place for someone facing the wrong way. It has the highest flood water flow of any river in NZ.
Those tiny dots in the pictures are Owen, taken by his partner Ann on her iPad (click to enlarge - they are stunning full screen).
What a great place to row.

Owen writes:

Hi Chris,
I recently rowed my dory through the Lower Buller Gorge on the South Island West Coast.
I put in a few miles above Berlins where there is vehicle access to the river and my partner Ann followed by road.
Unlike the Upper Gorge, which I wouldn't be game to tackle, there are no big standing waves in rapids or real white water. But there are rapids. My GPS showed a maximum speed of 17.6 kilometres/hour at the end of the day. I didn't see that speed come up; I was probably rather
focused on not getting swept against a rocky bank at that point.
Mostly the GPS seemed to show 11 to 15 kilometres/hour as I came through a lot of the rapids sideways to the current pulling frantically to keep the boat from getting swept into the bank and overturned.
The photos were only taken in calmer areas. I saw some great scenery while rowing through alternating southerly showers and sunshine. 
A head wind on exiting the gorge made things hard although I gave up trying too hard once I realised I was still moving about 7km/hr without rowing. By way of comparison I average about 6 km/hr on a flat calm lake.
I was pleased to see the Westport bridge, my take-out point although 3 to 4 km short of the sea. The GPS showed 41.8 km, moving average 8.6 km/hr.
The dory is not exactly suitable for that river: much more rocker and no skeg would help. I could feel the bow being wrenched sideways, too strongly to resist at times. Easy to see why river dories are designed as they are.
The entire Buller River has been done in a dory, I understand over three weekends, by someone braver than me.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

More Lessons Learned

Yesterday, Tuesday, was one of those gorgeous autumn days when the sun shines, a moderate breeze springs up and you can hear a voice in your head saying "I am GOD and I am COMMANDING you to go SAILING because verily it raineth on the morrow."
So I did.
Lessons learned:
1) Even if you misread the 24 hour timings on the tide tables so you expect high water at 3pm instead of 17.00, when you arrive at Dell Quay at 12.30 you will still get on the water because the hard was started in Roman times and is enormous.
2) When you see a guy wading through the water pulling a quite large yacht to the pontoon (in the background of the picture), don't wade in to help because it is muddy as hell and you will lose a boot, Luckily, the bloke in the boathouse saw it happen and offered me use of his hose. It still meant I had to spend the day with one sock drying on the foredeck, though.
3) To get the boat in at this state of the tide, make sure you can see the pub sign round the corner of the sailing club, where that is where the hard sticks out further into the channel. This pearl of local knowledge also came from the man in the boathouse.
Apart from that, it went well. Even in the light breeze, with the rig correctly tensioned and me pulling the sheet in properly, Snarleyow went about every time.
And at the end of the day I saw an idle benefits-cheater cormorant hanging around on a buoy waiting for his food handout.
And today, indeed it raineth as foretold.