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Wednesday 27 April 2011

A Trip on The Adventuress Schooner

Dick Thies lives on the US West coast and is interested in wooden boats, I discovered him on flickr where he is a member of the Solent Old Gaffers group and has posted some great pictures of traditional boats, many of which were taken at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival and make a welcome change to our familiar local gaffers.

We were delighted to get this account of a voyage Dick made on the schooner Adventuress.

Adventuress is a 133-foot gaff-rigged schooner launched in 1913 in East Boothbay, Maine. She was built as a luxury schooner for John Borden II who promptly sailed her to the tip of South America, through the Straits of Magellan and on up to Arctic waters near Alaska. The goal was to bring back a bowhead whale skeleton for the New York Natural History Museum. They brought back some useful items but no bowhead skeleton. In 1914, Adventuress was sold to San Franciso Bar Pilot’s Association. Her topmasts were removed and modifications were made to make her more suited for use as a pilot vessel, but made her a lot less beautiful. In 1951, she was replaced and then neglected until 1960 when she was brought to Seattle. Eventually she was restored to her former looks and put to work by Sound Experience. They use Adventuress to let folks experience what it was like in the old days of sail and to learn about such sailing and about the natural history and ecology of the Salish Sea (Puget Sound).

I first discovered Adventuress at Port Townsend’s Wooden Boat Festival. I was overwhelmed by this gaff topsail two-masted schooner with a rig height of 110 ft. and 5,478 sq. ft. of sail. So I took a 2-hr. cruise at the festival that was a great way to see other festival boats on the water. They also let us try our hands at some of the rope handling and coiling.

Last summer, I decided to try one of their 4-day trips in the San Juan Islands north of Seattle. The price seemed quite reasonable and they let you know that this was not a fancy-meal and luxury-private-cabin sort of trip. The meals were vegetarian, and I found them very good. Adventuress sailed into a quiet bay each night so it was steady for sleeping. The guests and most of the crew slept on foam bunks that were comfortable enough for me. I don’t think I would have done so well in the hammocks used in the old days. I had not slept in one room with others in fifty years. I discovered that the earplugs they suggested were very helpful. We all had a chance to do some night watch duty, which was very interesting. On mine, we could hear a blowing sound that we guessed was a whale or seal. The sunrise was gorgeous.

They asked why we came on the trip. I wanted to sing some sea shanties with work being done to the shanty rhythm. They let me take over quite a bit of the shanty man’s role. The first thing I learned is the shanty man sets the pace but he has to watch the work to see what pace is feasible. The Adventuress has a huge mainsail with boom and gaff the size of telephone poles. The gaff is raised with one crew on the head halliard and another crew on the peak halliard. The halliard shanty has to go with the hand-over-hand pulling. I found that the pace has to slow down as the gaff is raised, because it gets heavier as more canvas is raised from the boom. The foresail is much lighter and I had sing much faster to give a good pace for pulling those halliards.

The first two days were sunny, light breeze days so we put up all plain sail (no topsails for this trip due to Coast Guard rules). It was pleasant sailing around San Juan, Stewart, Orchas and Shaw islands. The third day started with light wind, but we were soon going very fast with just a reefed Mainsail and one jib. I think they called it a light gale. It was great fun, but some of us felt a bit queasy after a while. The captain decided to take her into a sheltered bay with the comment “We don’t want to risk this 100 year old schooner”.

The paying guests were treated like the crew in many ways, except most of us had much less schooner seamanship, so we learned on the job. Some tasks needed to be done by the real crew, but others were done bythe three groupings that each had some real crew mixed with us guests. The groupings were also good for fun things like skits and songs.

The educational pert of the trip gave us some options on what extra things we might want to learn about. I chose basic navigation and geology of the Salish Sea islands. Both were well presented. The “engineers report” was another way to learn. He kept track of our energy usage (there is some use of the diesel), waste generation (we were better than the teen-agers on the last trip), mpg (quite good since we sailed most of the time).

The last day, we took some time to climb the rigging if we so desired. I did not think I cared to do that at age 69, but the captain nicely pointed out that it is all with a safety harness, and it is a special feeling to be up there. So I did the climb up the main ratlines which put me about 56 ft off the deck. I would not like it in a storm, but anchored in a quiet bay it was fine. The folks below looked like wee ants. I felt a bit nervous doing it, but overall it was enjoyable and memorable.

for more information:

Thanks to Dick for letting us share in a great trip on a fantastic boat.

Saturday 23 April 2011

The Cortez Melonseed

Max told you of the Melonseed Nancy Lee from Indiana. There is a development of this diminutive 13 foot duck boat in Florida designed by Roger Allen. It is called the 16 footer, but is actually 15.5 feet long, over-all.

Mick Wick, who is the publisher of the quarterly journal of the Traditional Small Craft Association and an avid Melonseed fan, sent me some photos of himself defeating all comers in a recent race celebrating the sixth Great Florida Gulf Coast Small Craft Festival in a borrowed Melonseed, YeeHaw.

Mike is busy building his own Melonseed, so we've invited him to check in when he's done.

The next set of photos are of the Marshcat Comfort belonging to Doug Oeller, a friend of Mike's, also entered in the same "race".

A bit larger, it is another modern adaptation of the traditional shallow draft hunting and fishing designs from the Delaware River Basin, just south of New York City.

If you'd like to know more about these historic gaff rigged "duck boats" please visit the Traditional Small Craft of New Jersey and the Delaware River Basin.

Friday 22 April 2011

Greek fishing boat in Skopelos Town Harbour

This is just what 1001 Boats is all about, Graham of Port -Na-Storm blog send me an email with a couple of pictures of a small fishing boat he's spotted while on holiday in Greece.

In Graham's own words

" I saw this little Greek fishing boat in Skopelos Town Harbour last year and fell in love.

I don’t know how typical she is or what the type is called.

She seemed different from all the other local boats because instead of the usual double end shape which look almost Nordic, she has this plumb stem flared midships and counter stern, really lovely. I reckon she must have been around 18-20 feet in length.

I’m guessing the rig is Lateen judging by the length of that yard, I’d love to see her sailing."

She certainly is lovely, we have some followers who are much more familiar with traditional Mediterranean boats than Graham and I, so maybe they might be able to comment on the design?

And as a final thought if you have a favorite boat or just one that you like, please send us some details, 1001 Boats don't have to be historic, or expensive, just boats that you like - don't be shy.

We're expecting to feature Graham's beautiful Coot dinghy very soon.

Tuesday 19 April 2011


The first time I saw Harrac must have been the summer of 2007 or it might have been 2006, she was backing off of the fuel berth at Moody's marina on the Hamble and she irresistibly caught my eye in the same way that you can't help noticing pretty girl.

She was designed by lan Pape as a Yawl and built by Curtis and Pape at Looe in Cornwall in 1981 with single skin carvel construction of iroko on oak, teak decks and cockpit.

LOA: 13.7m (45' 0")
LWL: 10.0m (33' 0")
Beam: 3.86m (12' 9")
Draft: 2.06m (6' 9")
Displacement: 14.145 tonnes

In 2007/8 Harrac's skipper, Angus Cater set out to sail from UK to Smith Island, Antarctica. The objective was to make the trip in memory of Simon Richardson and Bill Tilman, both had died attempting an expedition in 1977 to climb Mount Foster on Smith Island.

The journey was 18,500 nautical mile, and took her down to the Cape Verde islands, across the Atlantic, through the Panama Canal, and then down the west coast of South America to the Magellan Straights.

Sadly, due to delays, problems with the boat including a near sinking, the narrow window for getting to Antarctica in the brief summer season was lost, but Harroc returned safely visiting Brazil and the Azores.

Sunday 10 April 2011

Bell Woodworking Seagull and Seamew

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 Dewhirst

Sabine sailing in Caernarvon Bay with Snowdonia as a backdrop Aug 2007

courtesy Edwin Dewhirst

Jerry English and his Bell Seagull at Milford Haven, Wales

courtesy Wikipedia

C. Fetz Seagull first sail

courtesy Chris Fetz

It was love at first sight for me with these boats. The slight reverse sheer and angular hull just all seem to hang together so well, and they have a reputation for speed and seaworthiness. The picture of the Chris Fetz boat above is of particular personal interest because this boat resides close to me and has recently become available. I am trying to figure out the $ and logistics.

From Edwin Dewhirst,
In the mid 1950s the Bell Woodworking commissioned Ian Proctor to design a small sailing cruiser suitable for coastal,estuary and inland water cruising that could be supplied in kit form for home completion by anyone with reasonable woodworking ability. He used the same 4 planks a side form of construction that he had used for the successful 16ft Osprey racing dinghy.. The result was the Seagull which is 18ft 6in in length, 6ft 9in beam and 1ft 5 in draft with the keel up and 3ft 8in with it down.There are 2 berths in the cabin with room for 2 children to be accommodated under a boom tent in the cockpit. (See specification pages for details of both Gull and Mew). The first boat was launched in 1956 and proved to be both fast and seaworthy and kits and completed boats sold in numbers.

Following the success of the Seagull, Bells then commissioned Proctor to design a larger sailing cruiser to cater for the demand for a boat with more facilities for families. The result was the Seamew which is of the same construction as the Seagull but at 22ft in length she could be fitted with a small inboard engine, 4 or 5 berths and a marine toilet. The first boat was launched in 1962 and again proved to be fast and seaworthy. She went into production in 1963, again selling in numbers.

There was a thriving Bell Seagull and Seamew Association but due to competition from, and the availablity of larger fibreglass cruisers in the 1970s the numbers fell and the asociation was wound up in 1983 through lack of interest. Now it is just one man banging his drum to try to rouse interest in keeping these grand little cruisers sailing.

My own involvement with the Seagull began in 1980 when looking for something a bit bigger than my 14ft Tarpon camping/cruising dinghy. After looking at several other small yachts I came upon Seagull no 145. She had been badly neglected in the 70s but the current owner had had her fitted with new decks and coachroof by a boat builder, then decided to sell. She was sat on a 4 wheel trailer and the hull had been given a coat of paint, but there was a lot of work to do. I took one look at her lines and decided that she was the boat for me and after a bit of haggling over the price she was mine.

My first task was to remove a rusty old Coventry Victor inboard engine and replace the bulkhead into the cabin that had been cut away to accommodate it, but which allowed all the water getting into the cockpit to have a free run through the cabin. The cockpit locker sides and most of the lids needed replacing and while I was at it I built a 'bridge deck' locker against the new cabin bulkhead ...

Over the years I have refurbished the keel which now gets a regular overhaul, re built the lower part of the keel case and scarphed in a new section of deadwood, re fitted the cockpit and made it self draining with 3in. coamings for the locker lids and built a pick a back trailer to my own design.

At the same time I have been cruising twice a year(mostly single handed) and have now logged in excess of 18000 miles, sailing most of the South coast with 2 trips to Scilly,. All the West coast from Lands End to Cape Wrath, cruising the Inner Hebrides many times with 5 crossings of the Minch have sailed all the East coast of the Outer Hebrides from Barra to Stornoway . I have trailed to the Moray Firth twice, sailing to Orkney each time. Further south I have been across to the I.o.M about 15 times and across to Ireland 5, sailing all the East coast and the South coast as far as Kinsale. During that time I have met some pretty rough conditions but never doubted the seakeeping qualities of my little Seagull.

Meanwhile I had only ever seen 2 Seagulls and 2 Seamews afloat and a few laid up, most in varying degrees of dilapidation, which led me to decide to try to find out how many of the 400 or so that were built are actually surviving. In the autumn of 2000 I wrote to the boating magazines asking for a letter to be published in which I invited Gull and Mew owners to contact me, the result was that I was able to compile a list of the owners of 18 Gulls and 12 Mews. Since then I have produced an annual newsletter which I have sent to all the owners on my list, some of whom have kept in touch with me.

. I can be contacted by phone on 01254 830678 or by email at dewhirste@supanet.com or e.dewhirst@yahoo.com

Edwin hosts a website about these boats here. It's worthy of your attention, and note especially the logs of his annual cuises in Sabine, a window into the capabilities of these small gems.

Wiki is here.

I wrote a piece on these boats for 70.8% here.

Thursday 7 April 2011


Well at least I think that this delightful open, half decked cutter is a Tosher.

Tosher's were I believe a common Mevagissey fishing boat, certainly I've seen pictures of similar boats which were built by master boatbuilder Percy Mitchell of Portmellon, but it could equally be a Polperro Gaffer or Falmouth working boat.

I spotted this one lying to a mooring off Bodinnick Boatyard across the river from Fowey in Cornwall. On the left of the picture below is another Percy Mitchell Tosher "Dolphin" with the white hull, she was restored by Peter Williams of Bodinnick boatyard a few years ago and appeared in Classic Boat magazine.

An original 1930's Percy Mitchell Tosher was offered for sale last year by another Fowey boat builder Marcus Lewis, which in it's unrestored form had a similar colour scheme, so this may be the same boat now restored, if anyone has any information please drop me an email.
Apologies for the poor quality photographs, they were taken on a misty morning with the strong sunlight breaking through, that's my excuse, but it was a glorious spring morning.

Friday 1 April 2011

Capitán Valdés

We received a great email from Xavier Corredor in Catalunya, a region in North East of Spain on the Mediterranean coast which has a distinct culture and regional language. Barcelona is the regional capital. The area is a particular favorite of mine, having been fortunate to spend quite a lot of time there through work, trying not to turn this into a travel guide I'd recommend it as an area well worth visiting.

Xavier explains -

Capitán Valdés is a “bot”, a traditional small boat of the East Mediterranean sea characterized by having a transom stern. The hull is made of polyester reinforced with fiberglass, and is a modern copy of a Mallorcan design of the first half of the twentieth century. Its main dimensions are as follows:

LWL: 4.3 meters (14’ 1”) BEAM:1.72 meters (5’ 8”) DRAFT: 0.8 meters (2’ 7”)

The sail plan is called “de vela mística i floc”, that means a four-sided mainsail (truncated triangle shape) and a jib. The vertical mast is placed in the first third of length and there is also a bowsprit for the jib. This rig, which is a variant of the standard lateen rig, is typical of the Balearic Islands and, by its simplicity and ease of handling, is especially suitable for learning the lateen rig sailing.

Since 2008, I sail Capitán Valdés summer and winter with my young crew (my son and my daughter) in the Palamós bay and nearby coves. We enjoy our boat and the superb landscapes of the Costa Brava (Catalonia).

I realize that Capitán Valdés is not a traditional boat in the strict sense, since it is built whit modern materials. Easy and inexpensive maintenance was a very important factor when I acquired it. However, the rig itself is in the spirit of tradition and learn to manage it is my small contribution to the preservation of the maritime heritage of my country.

Xavier raises the ongoing question of GRP v's traditional wooden boat construction, but the fact is Capitán Valdés is in every way a traditional boat and one can also see connections to working boats in many other parts of the world. He is also very fortunate to be able to sail in such a great part of the world.