Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Coney Island Life-guard

Paul Kennedy has just started on a series of work inspired by his visit to the States earlier this year. We don't really have chaps like this on the shores around here, he would need a big woolly jumper and a Sou'wester, but it's nice to dream of warmer places.

Paul tells me the lifeguard is off to London to one of the galleries, but there will doubtless be more like him to follow. Although this is a slightly new, more international direction for him the work reflects some of the concepts and colours he has been working through in recent work. I've added a few examples below and more can be seen on

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Some Thoughts on Model Boats

8 metre yacht Fulmar, photo Gisela Scharbaum
The models made by Gisela and Helmut Scharbaum are virtually perfect reproductions of the originals, evidence of a search for authenticity which eventually led them to build the 1:1 model of Tringa featured in my last post.

But their models are more than this. Apart from representing the prototype in all respects these incredible creations are also meant to sail. It seems to me that this inevitably leads the Scharbaums into areas of technical difficulty which lesser mortals would do well to avoid.

Firstly there are problems of scale. At anything smaller than full size the exact scale model will inevitably lack sufficient displacement to carry her full canvas. In other words what is a nice Force Three breeze to the full sized ship becomes a terrifying Force Six or Seven for her quarter or sixth scale model sister. It seems a pity to have to limit one's sailing of the model to days of gentle winds (are there any anymore?) or to have to devise a way of reefing down.

Secondly there are problems associated with keeping water out of the lovely open cockpits of these models and keeping the radio control equipment, batteries and servos dry.

For these reasons most conventional model-builders go down one of two distinct routes, building either full or half models for display or working models for sailing. However one also shouldn't lose sight of the original purpose for which ship models were built, to assist with the design process.

The earliest builders of full-sized vessels would start by carving a model out of solid. Once a shape acceptable to builder and client had been produced it would be sawn apart crosswise to produce sections, which would then be scaled up to produce the shape of the building moulds. Even in the computer age models still feature large in the design process, as the dynamics and variables involved when a hull passes through water at various angles of heel are far too complex for predictive modelling. Tank testing was first developed by the English mathematical genius William Froude, who persuaded the Admiralty to build the first one in 1871. Dennys of Dumbarton were impressed and built the first commercial tank in the world on the Clyde in 1883. Today tank testing is in use world-wide and the makers of the finest models in the United Kingdom are probably R F H Pierce & Associates of the Lake District. There is a fascinating insight into their thought processes and working methods here:-

Richard Pierce and his son James have occasionally built full-size yachts and sailing dinghies to order. After Richard completed the replica Scottish Islander Shona his client requested a display model for his house and James produced a first, "practice" one and a second, final version. Here is a photograph of the first one, which I took on a visit to Windermere before she was rigged.

Scotland's leading builder of static display models is undoubtedly David Spy, whose efforts are displayed world-wide. Here is his eight metre Anitra:-

David's website can be accessed here:-

Alongside these renowned experts I hesitate to portray my own efforts, which have been graced with enthusiasm rather than skill. I recently completed a six metre for radio control and it's been interesting to find that she actually floats. She's a John Lewis "Tern" design if anyone is interested.

The Wee Giff only took about thirteen years to build, off and on, and was completed with fittings from the English guru Graham Bantock, whose website can be found here:-

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Tringa lives again - in more ways than one

I was totally astonished to receive the guest post which follows, with a digital album of photos. Blogging is a strange, solitary activity, which has to be seen as its own reward, especially one like this which makes no pretensions to be a money-spinner. Sometimes a bonus turns up, an unexpected gem of information or a story from another corner of the World from a kindred spirit.

I leave it to Gisela and Helmut Scharbaum to describe their obsession in their own words.

"Our interest in model making started sometime in the 1990s. I have always been interested in sailing and when we both saw a model of a wooden sailing ship during an exhibition of model makers, we decided to buy a model kit for Christmas. It was a modern plastic yacht, but since then we have been infected and many radio controlled models followed. We developed our interest in the classic wooden ones, which were not available as a kit. So we started to construct them completely according to the drawings, made everything for ourselves and thus we became more and more experienced.

One day in 1999 we saw the film "enchanted by the dragon" on TV,  a film made by Tom Nitsch, a German film maker with special interest in Fife and his yachts. He knows a lot of the history, the yard and the owners. Secondly the book about Fife, written by Franco Pace, an Italian photographer, confirmed  our wish to build a model of a Fife yacht.

We chose Fulmar, an 8mR and soon we found out that research was difficult and the drawings were hard to get. In the end we managed it with the help of the owner and since then things became much easier. Travelling around in Scotland and South England and the Mediterranean followed, and especially with the help of the RNCYC, especially Ian Broadley and May Kohn and all the other people in Scotland we learned so much about the Fife´s , found so many pictures and drawings which allowed us to build these models as close to the original as possible.

The first time we saw Tringa was in the book Fast and Bonnie, it is the  picture which shows her standing on an iron slip trailer at Robertsons Sandbank. It was the design of the hull which is so remarkable, that we fell in love somehow. After finishing the model and having seen her sailing in 1:4, we made another step further and decided to try 1:1.

5000 hours later Tringa is sailing at the Baltic. There was a lot of learning by doing and one of the most dificult problems was to get the fittings. In the end we visited Classic Marine in Woodbridge and Ording Blokken in the Netherlands to order the fittings for the deck and the mast. For the rest, for example the roller fairleads we made wood patterns and let them cast in Britain at Haworth Castings. Research, trying to find out what Tringa looked like is one of our most favourite jobs.

The Schlei area is nowadays an area for leisure activities like sailing. But it still exudes its own special charm. Our problem is Tringa´s draft which is about 6 feet, and the shallow waters of the Schlei are tricky. For example our first trial was stopped by a sandbank, but we managed to get  free again.

This year we left the Schlei for two weeks and crossed the Baltic towards Sonderborg and Aero. Tringa is seaworthy, she always lets you feel well and safe, she also forgives mistakes and is easy on the helm even in rough weather. She is always in a hurry, we logged 8 knots in fresh wind with a reef in the mainsail!

Sailing around with Tringa is like walking on a catwalk. Everyone is watching, asking, and taking photographs. We are faster than the Nordic Folkboats, which are especially designed for the Baltic. Addictive .

But the modern sail cloth induces a lot of power to the rig, therefore it was useful to add two more frames to fix the plates for the shrouds securely. This strengthens the forward hull and leads the force directly to the metal floors and keelbolts. Former designs were too weak at this point.

The runners are quite important for the same reason. We also have to get used to all the sheets and halyards, but after having made some experiments this summer, everything works better and better. "

Overall length: 24 ft
Length on waterline 19 ft
beam: 7,5 ft
draft : 6 ft
displacement 3 tons
ballast 2 tons  lead
sail area 45 qm (500 square feet)
main 37 qm
foresail 8 qm

frames 5x3 cm
planking 2cm cedar, and larch beyond the waterline, glued with Aerodux and covered with glass fibre (800g Biax)
deck plywood 8mm and 6mm teak/mahogany , the spars are of spruce
bow sprit is of Oregon pine

There's a short film about this talented pair that can be viewed online here:-

And there's a great deal more information about the old 19/24s here:-

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Shieldhall was a Sludgeboat and she sailed upon the Clyde

A month or so ago the Brother and I made a trip to the deep South. There was a boat show on at the time, but we had no interest in visiting that. After all we had no interest whatever in acquiring one of these,

or these,

and we couldn't afford one of these

On the contrary we were down to visit our old Aunty, who had just become a hundred. Being at a loose end after the festivities we went for a wander into town and soon came upon a sight familiar to us in childhood, the old SS Shieldhall.

Glasgow Corporation had two of these ships taking sewage sludge from the population, then of a million or so, down the river. All of our major cities commissioned similar vessels, which operated until such an activity ceased to be permissible. There were two of these ships in Glasgow, the Shieldhall and the Dalmarnock, daily enduring signals from passing ships along the lines of "Where are you bound? What is your cargo?" in the days before the city ceased to be a great port.

The trips were a great boon for the pensioners of the city, who could get a free trip, a cup of tea and dancing to live music. Many a geriatric romance must have started on board, especially for those without a sense of smell.

Shieldhall now tries to earn her living as an excursion boat on the Solent, but in the present recession she is suffering somewhat. Earlier this year I heard of her plight and resolved to do something for her, not sending money of course but providing her with a nice song, the royalties from which could perhaps secure her future.

From this project I have learned about the difficulties faced by the budding songwriter/singer/impressario. You don't just write the thing and sit back to await fame. Writing it was the easiest part, certainly a lot easier than persuading my musical wife to provide a tune. A group of local women were in the habit of singing in a cowshed on Thursday evenings, but by the time I approached them they had disbanded. Months went by without the song being heard, delaying the anticipated revenue stream endlessly.

The world premiere eventually took place at that centre of the universe, Toberonochy. The song was duly preformed by a male voice choir, Charlie, Ken, Bill, John and self, before an invited audience to ecstatic applause. Sadly the event wasn't recorded as Richard, who was supposed to be there with a camera, had fallen asleep. In case someone else in the blogosphere has more luck, I reproduce the music and the lyric below. You can read more about the Shieldhall here:-

The Song of the Shieldhall

The Shieldhall was a sludgeboat and she sailed upon the Clyde
Two hundred sixtyeight feet long and fortythree feet wide
To Ailsa Craig she'd go, in sunshine and in snow
dropping off her cargo in the deep brown tide

Chorus:      To Ailsa Craig she'd go, in sunshine and in snow
dropping off her cargo in the tide, deep brown tide

The Shieldhall was the finest ship that I have ever seen
Her captain wore a jacket of Corporation green
Her hull was painted grey, she chugged along all day
While the sailors scrubbed the decks and kept them clean, kept them clean

Chorus:      Her hull was painted grey, she chugged along all day
While the sailors scrubbed the decks and kept them clean, kept them clean

Now some ships sail to India and some sail to Tiree
Some sailors meet with sharks and whales and some just see the sea
Those sights are pretty rare, but the best thing I declare
On the Shieldhall you were always home for tea, home for tea

Chorus:      Those sights are pretty rare, but the best thing I declare
On the Shieldhall you were always home for tea, home for tea

From Whiteinch and from Partick and from Yoker to this boat
All had in mind a purpose, to get themselves afloat
And if they did incline, to drink a little wine
Making sure they had a bottle in their coat, in their coat

Chorus:      And if they did incline, to drink a little wine
Making sure they had a bottle in their coat, in their coat

For many years the Shieldhall did sail upon the sea
delighting all, who got a cup of tea
but the finest thing to tell, never mind the rain and smell
for pensioners the trip's completely free, all for free

Chorus:      but the finest thing to tell, never mind the rain and smell
for pensioners the trip's completely free, all for free

If you're daft enough to have read this far you may have noticed the subtle difference between the original version of verse one, given under the tune, and the revised one. The ship was of course launched in 1954, not 1953.

The Wherrymen

The Wherrymen
Two old friends on the water