5/7: A touch obsessed . . .

from John: Lovely boats Bill, they all seem to be double enders, is that cos they are the most common or are you touch obsessed?”

The answer is yes and no – yes, I am a touch obsessed, but not about canoe sterns. As you say, canoe sterns are common to these boats.

My ‘obsession’, such that it is, is for the individual boat builders, the fisherman and all those who work these boats.

I became fascinated by small boat design when I read Edgar March’s book ‘Inshore Craft of Britain in the days of sail and oar’, published in 1970.

“. . . before the days of marine engines, scores of picturesquely-named craft, worked out of tiny harbours and off open beaches around the coasts of Britain.” It was the differences in the boats that I found so interesting.

For example, these were all designed to be fishing boats. Why did this one evolve like this?

(Click image to enlarge)

. . . .when, only 150 miles east as the crow flies, this one evolved like this?

. . .  and some 300 miles north this one like this?

Obviously, the differences came about to suit the the needs of the people who worked them. Therefore the design of working boats tells us  a great deal about the coasts they are found in and the  knowledge, skills and attitudes of the people who live there.

But local boat design is disappearing. Fishing is being discouraged, fewer people work in the industry, boat production has moved to the factories. There is no a need for the local boat-builders who were found all along the coasts in the days Edgar March was describing. There are fewer and fewer true examples of local working boats in the UK.

Similarly in Crete and mainland Greece. The local fishing boats are disappearing.  Apparently, the average working life of these wooden fishing boats is 26 years. They come, they go – they are no longer replaced. Tourism is taking over (and, yes, I am obviously part of that).

The real tragedy is the loss of the local knowledge behind the boats. If the boats are no longer needed in this form, certainly the knowledge, skills and attitudes behind them are. The local population, not the tourist, lies at the heart of  a coastal community. However important tourism may be  for a local economy, it’s influence is negative if it takes away the character of the area it occupies.

~~~

John, that’s a long way for canoe sterns. I will come back to them, I promise.

There are at least two more in the short series of fishing boats in Crete.

For Love of a Boat.

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