Sunday, 17 December 2017

Kyla Sails Again!

Earlier in this blog I've posted the saga of the Kyla and the struggles by the Russells to bring back a trophy from the United States, here : Scots in Oyster Bay I'm delighted to report that I've heard from Kyla's new owners and one of them, Jean-François THAU, President of the Cercle de la Voile du Bois de la Chaize has contributed the following guest post. Blogging has very few direct rewards and this is one of them!

Act One : The Boat

Cornered by machines, a boat of traditional construction sits on her shores. A quick look shows that she’s definitely a six metre that’s undergone a less than aesthetic modernisation. Her name is Blue Monday, date of construction 1934, origin Scottish. Acquired by three pals in 1992, the Blue Monday had seen the start of a restoration that sadly hadn’t been finished by the trio.

In 2006 the Blue Monday is donated to the Conservatoire Maritime du Havre, an organisation that takes on classic yachts and boats, supports their restoration and sells them on.

At the lecture celebrating her acquisition we learn that her original name was Kyla. The first step in her restoration is the decision by the CMH is to give her this back.

Kyle Act Two : Searching for origins

Following some deep research by Dany, the official in charge of acquisitions, the plans are recovered from Scotland. Receipt of these is a great moment for us, because they enable us at last to know Kyla’s true physiognomy. That moment settles some things for us, the helmsman’s cockpit was identical, but we have a different arrangement for the backstays and will have to add two winches.

A visit from Tim Street, the Honorary President of the British International Six Metre Association brings us a whole complement of precious information.

The renaissance has begun!

Kyla Act Three : The Boatyard

Once the transfer to the yard is done, the work of assessing the real state of the boat and producing an accurate survey follows. This defines the various tasks and how to do them, make provisions, form teams and distribute the work, always remembering that Kyla herself will guide our professional efforts.

Kyla Act Four : The Group Dynamic

The work proceeds, Kyla’s silhouette takes shape, problems are resolved, such as our blacksmith quickly realising that he has seriously underestimated how much he will have to do on a wooden boat. The dynamic of the group grows in strength, everyone knows his role, every piece of wood has to be perfect, all metal parts solid, aesthetic and brilliant, filling and sanding perfect, the masters words in our ears 

no shitty painting or varnishing, everything solid and lovely”

Kyla Act Five : The Rigging

The mast provokes an animated debate, because it doesn’t exist any more. What to do? Making a new one is technically possible at the CMH, however Patrick explaining the technique makes us realise that this measures 14.70 metres to a top like the head of a lightbulb. “Look, we’re restoring a regatta boat and we’ve only got ten months to get the whole job done and try out the complete boat on the water.”

The decision is made, we’ve got to find a mast, a task given to Ronan, an active member of the Association.

Kyla Act 6 : Completion

The project goes ahead full tilt, the restoration goes forward fast, the helm, the furniture, the fittings are put in place.

The first coat of paint goes on, the colour surprises us but gives a touch of originality. Why mauve? To give a nod to the the Swiss, whose waters we are sailing on, the colour of MILKA chocolate bars!

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Kyla Act 7 The Big Day

It’s arrived, the big day! An official presentation and presentation to the public, everyone is there, friends, families, participants.

The trip from the yard to the launch site is a great moment, it rains but who cares because we’re all overheating.

The boat touches the water, bravo to everyone! Kyla is beautiful and floats, now we just need to sail her.

mise à l'eau KYLA 007




Kyla Act 8 : Handing over

Busy with the final preparations for another big day with Kyla under sail.

Sadly we’re sorry to miss out on this premiere. Well, one is doing well just getting a boat like this to go, as it’s not at all evident!





Kyla Act 9 : Welcome to Switzerland

This part of the story consists of us arriving at Lake Geneva just before the historic boat regatta.

It’s lovely to see our Six with all the other classics. What a welcome we got from the Cercle de la Voile Vevay - la Tour

Kyla Act 10 : The boat is acquired in 2003 by Gilles Piette

She is repainted white and re-equipped with racing hardware. She takes part in several regattas at le Havre and Deauville until 2015, when her owner throws himself into the restoration of the Eight Meter Silk …

Kyla Act 11 : Stop Press September 2017

A band of comrades from Noirmoutier buy the boat from Gilles, beefing up the fleet of Sixes at the Cercle de la Voile du Bois de la Chaize .

The latest episode in the story of ten years in the recent history of Kyla happens one Monday in September, when after spending the whole weekend in discussions with Olivia and Valerie, Vincent and Jeff go to le Havre in torrential rain to see the boat.

The charm works at once. The decision to buy Kyla takes a few hours! With Christophe and Geoffroy having joined in the adventure by, the boat will join Noirmoutier in Spring 2018 with a view to the Metric Challenge 2018 Metric Challenge 2018 and the European Six Metre Championships European Six Metre Championships starting in September at La Trinite …

watch this space!

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Another Mystery Boat

I'm posting some photos taken by my friend John MacLean of Iona, of a lovely little sailing skiff that he rescued from certain destruction about sixteen years ago. He is anxious to trace her provenance and to learn about her history. I'm hoping that this post can set off a trail of detection among enthusiasts for our great Scottish designers and yards.

Right now, all the John knows about his skiff is that he thinks she was built in 1910 and before he found her at Crinan she had apparently been lying for many years beside a loch at Scammadale, up the road from me. There are several fishing lochs up there, miles from main roads, and one can imagine it being too much trouble for the estate owners to look after this lovely little work of art. It must have taken many years of total neglect to reduce a wonderful example of fine craftsmanship to her present pitiful state. It's a sad reflection that someone considered a craft obviously built for occasional sailing in salt water suitable for a fresh water fishing loch. 

The builder's plate looks pretty authentic and ties in with our  knowledge that Robertsons built lots of tenders and small craft, along with some pretty spectacular larger racing yachts and steam yachts. It doesn't help to confirm the date though, as although Alexander Robertson brought his sons into the business he didn't set up Alex Robertson & Sons Limited until August 1922.

In the middle of the plate is the top of the lifting ring, which pulls up to allow insertion of a hook, one at each end to hoist the boat aboard her mother ship after, we hope, a happy trip around the bay under an unstayed lug sail set in that mast partner braced to the forward thwart.

It's possible  that this wee treasure was built for one of the magnificent steam yachts that Robertson was building. But from the excellent Robertsons Wiki Entry, which was largely written by David Hutchison, a member of the family, it seems that yard didn't launch anything of this type in 1910. Candidates around that date could be Alfred Mylne's 60 foot Galma of 1909, or J A McCallums 65.2 foot Aroha (also Adana) of 1914. Yards wouldn't normally farm out the small craft, but if one of them had done Robertsons would have been a good choice. Towards the First World War Robertson was building mainly for the Admiralty and I doubt they would have required a lovely sailing tender.

If we assume that the neighbour would be a West coast yard we are looking at the McGruers of Clynder and William Fife III of Fairlie. 1910 rules out the McGruers, as it seems that they were just getting going then and didn't build larger yachts until later. May Fife McCallum's book Fast and Bonnie has a comprehensive list of Fife yachts, but 1910 seems again a fallow year for large steam yachts. The only candidate is the 83 ton Shaheen, built for a London owner, not very likely.

Two other possibilities occur to me.

Firstly, it's possible that one of the shipyards, such as Connel & Co, might have been building a steam yacht and commissioned Robertsons to produce a very special sailing tender. Directors of those yards did undertake these projects, often for themselves, but usually when work in the yard was slack.

Secondly, our pet might have been ordered by James Rennie Barnet of G L Watson & Co Limited to go with one of the magnificent steam yachts he was designing. He had a special interest in small sailing boats, having been an enthusiast for canoe cruising of the Rob Roy MacGregor type in his youth. You can read about one of his trips on the Forth Yacht Clubs Association website here: Cruise of the Kelpie

So, it's over to you, dear readers, to come up with some ideas!

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Secret Summer Operations

The Yellow Boat, a Christmas Wherry designed by Walt Simmons 

At great personal risk I'm breaking the vows of omertà to describe the recent manoeuvres of the Bilderglug Fleet, a risk greater even than open sea sailing in a fifteen foot open wherry.

There was a lovely first evening at the campsite at Carsaig, where the fleet gathered and those without the luxury of a cabin set up camp, a little squishy underfoot due to frequent heavy downpours which provided plenty of fresh water for the voyage.

view North towards Scarba

At first options seemed limited, with a low pressure system unwilling to move on, but the challenge of working South against strong winds and a foul tide proved irresistible.

The trip was quite exciting, taking about six hours of windward work with waves just random lumps of water. It was tricky to get enough speed to put the wherry through the wind and a couple of times we were just stopped dead by a wave and I had to give her a push round with an oar. A problem is always how to look after two sails, the tiller and the bailing bucket with only two hands, but basically it's all good fun and perfectly safe. 

Years ago, in a much larger boat, I had been put off trying to land on Eilean Mor MacCormick by the angry tidal rips that surrounded it, but arriving at slack water was pretty easy and the little lagoon is a good haven, thanks to the efforts of the MacCormick Trust, who apparently blew up a nasty rock that used to lurk there.

For obvious reasons I don't have images of the voyage down, but here are some of the fleet at rest.

Our mother ship is a floating gem designed by Iain Oughtred.

Fleet at rest, photo courtesy of Brice

My tent is getting old but still keeps out the midges, fierce little fellows who one assumes would have enjoyed providing the monks who used to live here in caves and rock holes with endless torment.

My midge-free abode

This place is seriously spiritual and our party felt far more affected here than we had earlier on Iona.

After several years some experience and our combined resources have proved that you can be very comfortable and well fed even in the most remote of places.

central heating, Brice's pic

The BBQ Meister, photo courtesy Tina

Youth Club, who says today's young ones aren't useful? Tina's pic again

Our happy shelter, Tina's pic

We were storm-bound for a day, then the smaller boats made a break for it up Loch Sween, while the mother ship braved the trip North in open sea.

We stopped for lunch at Taynish Mill, where there are some interesting pieces of art among the trees.

We had a nice trip up the loch and were almost becalmed on the approach to Tayvallich, then just when we thought we were home we were met by what felt like a half gale straight out of the West, as the warm land accelerated an already stoury breeze. Thankfully there's a really nice cafe on the shore where they do great coffee and cakes.

The Wherrymen

The Wherrymen
Two old friends on the water