I haven’t forgotten this series
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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?
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. . . .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.
These are beautiful boats. If I lived in the Mediterranean I would be proud to own one. But, as I mentioned before, there is something missing.
They were surely built for fishing. Where’s all the fishing gear?
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It isn’t that they don’t give pleasure to their owners - or to those of us looking on. What is missing is the original purpose – the drive that created them in the first place.
In the For Love of a Boat series.
I don’t know the Greek for bow post.
They are very distinctive to the small inshore boats in Crete and throughout Greece.
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“Greek island fishing boats destroyed”. The website is Greek Island Travel and there is an understandable slant towards preserving these boats for people to enjoy their holidays in Greece. OK, if that what it takes. But these are essentially work boats.
I have plenty of images of boats that are no longer used for fishing, many of them fine-looking craft in their own right.
But it is the fishermen himself that gives life to his boat – gives it its unique character. Lose the fisherman, you lose the character.
I will try and demonstrate this in later posts.
in the For Love of a Boat series.
This is a continuation of the For Love of a Boat series.
Here – and in a number of posts to come (I don’t know how many yet), I am putting together groups of ‘boat pictures’ taken in Crete over the past ten years.
Time goes on. Political, economic and social pressures mean that some (many?) boats will end up like this:
This boat happened to be in Crete, but there are boats like this all over the world. They become neglected, then irreparable - and then they disappear. Whatever the reasons for it – and there are reasons aplenty, most of us would prefer to see boats maintained and cared for. There follows a record of some of these :
Four tillers (click on an image to enlarge it)
We went to Crete at the end of May. We have been there several times, We like it a lot – the island, the people, the food, the climate.
We go with friends and we walk – on the rather relaxed principle that to get to know a place you walk in it rather than drive over it.
We linger – enjoying the stony paths, the smell of herbs in the air, the depth of the gorges, the occasional eagle (and the vultures), the warmth of the sea at the end of the day.
One of us lingers a lot around quays and harbours and fishing boats.
We usually find a taverna at certain points in the day. We talk about this and that.
This year we did it all . . .
except . . .
in the second week, a broken ankle changed the routine.
And something kicked in that most people only experience occasionally – the kindness of strangers.
I approve of the guidelines for the Jester Azores Challenge:
To travel on land or sea is to accept responsibility for yourself, your own safety and, if accompanied, the safety of those with you.
If you get into trouble, you may not be able to deal with it all yourself, then you turn to others for help, but that help is at their disecretion, it is not your right.
Peggy, Chris, Mike and I looked at Peggy’s ankle, then at each other, then at the tourist boat some distance away. All with the same thoughts: what should we do immediately, how should we get her to the boat, and how were we going to get the medical help she so obviously needed?
From that moment on, people appeared:
There followed a week in hospital, including an operation to place plates and screws on the day we were supposed to fly back to the UK.
And more people:
Greece, of which Crete is a part, has had difficult time over the past years. A lot has been said, and politics has taken its toll. The national self-interest of many countries have led to sometimes misleading comments, designed to satisfy a home audience rather than allowing a balanced view. But we were reminded of something important in the week that we were sorting out the ankle problem: the deep well of humanity in Crete – a willingness to help each other on a person-to-person level.
Throughout Europe we are buying into regulation, as if this is ‘the answer’. The very existence of the regulatory bodies allows them to regulate more and more. This is what they do, with the tendency to depersonalise the organisations that they are intended to monitor. It is not that regulation itself is wrong. It is that it has been overdone and, in doing so, diminished those involved.
The values they espouse are shorter-term economic ones. But where are the longer-term values of trust, goodwill, generosity of spirit – vital ingredients in the complex range of values that drive people forward? Where will they be in ten years time?
In Crete, we felt those values in action and were lifted by them.
Thank you to all those mentioned above. We will come back.
On 30th January, a large wave picked up the Girl Rona, a local trawler and dropped her onto the sandbank to the north of the channel. The fishing boat capsized and the five crewmen took to the water, to be rescued within half an hour by the local lifeboat. The wind was easterly and strong and remained so for the next three or four days.
The picture below was taken on 4th February. The main hatch had been opened and the catch had floated free, to be consumed by thousands of seagulls – to the relief of the local council
The sand is constantly moving as river meets sea and the channel is continually dredged for shipping to enter and leave the port. The longer the boat lies there, the more the sand will build up around her and fill her hold.
At the first opportunity, a salvage operation must get under way.
Sunday, 5th February, the gear has been unloaded and fuel pumped out.
Lines were attached . . .
. . . and tested
The strain is taken and the boat begins to upright.
There is much discussion. Several hundred ‘experts’ watching from the shore all know how to do this better.
The afternoon wears on. The salvage boats are in the channel. It would seem that the sand has built up between them and the trawler.
As the late afternoon sun catches the pier. . .
. . . she begins to move . . . but rolls over again.
By now the tide has ebbed and the operation is finished for the night.
The boat was finally freed the following night, “floating and stable at 0300 and back in harbour at 0430 on Tuesday morning.”.
This afternoon, there were five men on board . . . working hard. For them the story continues.
Thank you, Max, for your comment. I have taken it on board. This is for you.
I stopped writing the blog for a while because the rest of life took over. Now I’m looking back again and wondering where the cumulative experience lies – what am I learning? Hence the following:
I slipped the mooring and motored the mile down to the Citadel. There was no wind, and very few boats out this early. I had Plymouth Sound more or less to myself.
With sails set – mainsail and genoa, we barely made headway, the tide doing most of the work. I poured a coffee from the flask and found a biscuit. Time to enjoy the moment. Time to reflect.
Two or three fishing boats emerged from Sutton Harbour, hustling their separate ways past me and out to the open sea.
This one caught my eye.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Well, there is beauty here but not necessarily the beauty of lines and colour, not in the magazine-image sense anyway. The beauty here comes from all that has gone before and all that is to come from this boat. It’s not so very different from the Ceres that I have posted on a number of times. We do like her lines but, in reality, she was a Westcountry trading ketch – it was the work she did that made her. (Tugster will understand this).
Passing in front of me now was someone’s livelihood – with all the political, economic, environmental, maritime safety, health and safety, technology and science issues that surround it. Those same issues that are increasingly pressing on you and me.
But, even in the face of all that, there were still elegant lines. For this one moment, for me only, this slightly ungainly metal workshop had created an almost perfect wave in an otherwise table-flat sea. And it was beautiful.
It’s those moments that I go to sea for – not to forget all the other stuff, (how can we?), but to add to the total experience of life.
This afternoon I finished reading John Howlett’s book – ‘ Mostly About Boats’.
In the last chapter, acknowledging the experience at his disposal – (a lifetime sailing and having designed a number of his own boats), he describes the boat that he would now build for himself. One that he could sail single-handed if need be.
Remember, he was writing in 1956, when he was in his sixties.
He gives a sail plan:
I looked at the plan and thought, *Surely, I’ve seen a boat with a sail plan like that recently. . .”