Beating the weather…

Gales, sleet and snow earlier in the week and today it’s howling from the West. The sun is trying but the clouds are winning. Yesterday, Thursday, we were so lucky. Not a big tide but oh-so gentle breeze with wall-to-wall, warm sunshine. Both boats out for the first trial with the latest set of oars, crafted by Rob, Peter and others in Ian’s barn.

Firstly, getting the boats ready:


Comparing the oars, weighing the previous set:


Now the new ones:


Balance and centre of gravity improving. Lacing of leathers waiting for further stretch/shrinkage before final tightening up.

Hoi Larntan and crew then took them on a record-breaking anti-clockwise circuit of the Pit while Bluejacket had a sedate row to the beach by Pinchen’s Creek, where coffee and chocolate biscuits built up energy reserves for the row back.

Rosemary took the photos – thanks.


More about Oars

The oar construction gang are in the final stages of making the latest set of oars – and this involves needlework.  First cut out a piece of 4mm  leather, mark out & punch holes for the lacing, same number each side, then soak in water for a couple of days. The result is a soft & stretchy piece of leather which can be clamped to the oar and laced with strong waxed thread whilst still wet:


The soft leather has to be stretched around the oar, so that as it dries out & shrinks it is a tight fit. To do this, the lacing is pulled hard. Really hard:


and once all the lacing is done, tighten further by picking up each pair of stitches with a screwdriver & twisting tourniquet fashion:


Nothing subtle about this – an amazing amount of force can be applied without the leather breaking – far more than might be thought possible, to the extent that consistency of highness can be checked by the ‘twang’ each stitch makes when plucked. Once done, it’s left to dry out & shrink. Time for each oar – around 25 minutes to cut & punch the leather, 2 days to soak, an hour to fit, then a couple of days to dry out.


Theres some final painting & finishing off to do, but not long to wait now.






Summer is a comin’ in

Well, it felt like it yesterday. In the morning Rob and crew were out with the turning buoy, which you can just see (if you are lucky) in the stern of the boat as they made their way back home from an outing in near perfect conditions.

(Photo taken from the Blakeney webcam, sited on the roof of the White Horse pub in the High Street, courtesy of Glaven Valley Internet and Print Ltd – many thanks to both – a fantastic resource. If you haven’t had a look, please do. New picture every two minutes or so – and the White Horse is a great place for a drink and to eat).


In the p.m. it was back to oars – stretching and lacing the leathers which had been soaking for a couple of days in a bath of water. Oars now varnished and blades being painted – bit of shaping to handles and we should be there.

Rob brought my new t-shirt, in special Strangford Skiffie Worlds livery:

FullSizeRender.jpgPretty smart eh? And they are wicking too! If you don’t know what that is, ask Rob.

Last row to How Hill…

Our 2015/2016 winter season on the tranquil waters of Barton Broad draws to a close. Our thanks to Cox’s Boatyard for having us and to all the wildlife that came to see what we were doing. On this last day, the Marsh Harrier gave us a close inspection along the river Ant, then checked us back to the marina approach and our slipway.

We tried different configurations of oars – bow and 2 together and 3 and stroke etc. – plus honing our technique for buoy rounding. No photos sadly, as clearly top secret.

The usual resting spot at How Hill we can show…


The pattern of oars here gives nothing away…


On just a very brief count of those who have rowed at Barton since November, I see more than 30 names who have had at least one outing there this winter.

But for now, it’s back to the salty stuff. Hoi Larntan has re-joined her sister Bluejacket back on the Carnser at Blakeney ready for the season ahead.

Happy Easter to all.



Grey skies and cold North wind…Where?

Roland and his crew taking advantage of the sort of weather we expect in Norfolk (but tend not to get every day in March). They rowed out to the old Lifeboat station – now the National Trust visitors’ centre on Blakeney Point. Who wouldn’t make an excuse to stop for a coffee and a chance to enjoy the view





Meanwhile, just to prove it’s not only oar-building that goes on in the kitchen at Thurning, here are some loaves I made earlier – all by hand, no machine involved.



Oars indoors…

The weather and tides have not been at their co-operative best, but still, a few hardy souls have continued to row. I couldn’t believe it when I saw Bluejacket emerge from the mud in the pouring rain and gales last Saturday at Blakeney – but all the crew were smiling and delighted they’d battled out to the Watch Tower and back safely.

The cold, damp weather is equally not good for curing epoxy glues. Heating the barn at Thurning is not an economic option, particularly when there is a perfectly good, warm kitchen!  Just the place for glueing up oars.

After just a few years of marriage Pam got wise to my antics and made sure any kitchen had a central island or pillar to stop me bringing boats in.

Bless her, she has relented and at least the oars have a chance of curing; and we can work in comfort.

The latest stage with oars three and four:



Nessa keeping a watchful eye on a previous pair in the hallway, awaiting their next application of glue and clamping:


Still lots of shaping and sanding; plus glueing the spare oar, generously funded by Andy Marczewski.

I am keeping a tally of the hours Rob and Peter have spent assisted by Barry – not to mention the cups of tea Pam has made for us.