Friday, 24 December 2010

Van living and working for Butler & Co.

 I have completed, well almost completed converting our LDV Convoy van, Charlotte, into our new home. We have been living full-time in Charlotte since the beginning of November and we are now based near Kingsbridge in Devon. It is so good to be living back in the West Country!

Van living is great. To live simply and to be in close touch with nature is wonderful. We have experienced gales, torrential rain, still sunny days, a thunderstorm accompanied by lots of hail, then sleet then rain, and of course lots of snow. We love this kind of living and the other day laughed at the fact we have started van living in the coldest winter probably recorded! Still our van is cosy and warm, even on the coldest of nights thanks to our Windy Smithy stove.

I am working full-time for Butler & Co at Old Mill Creek Boat yard which is in Dartmouth. Ash is great to work for and I am enjoying the work immensely. I am learning so much and feel very lucky to be working with such highly skilled and talented shipwrights. 

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Arctic adventure to 78º 12' N

Sailing on the 101 year old Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter Dolphin from Ornes to Svalbard was pretty amazing. It was a bit of a fast-paced mission though as Capps had a schedule to keep.  This meant that the overall pace of the journey was relentless and exhausting and there were times I just wished we could have spent longer in one place. We sailed approximately 900 nautical miles in total. 

Perhaps the strangest thing that I really never got used to was the 24 hour day light. This is a strange phenomenon that confused me more than once and I had to ask Rae, John or Capps if it was very early morning or mid afternoon. This confusion about whether it was day or night added to the overall other worldliness of the glacial, desolate and pristine wilderness that is Svalbard. 

It has been an absolute privilege to sail with Capps on Dolphin in the Arctic and I have met some truly remarkable people. The Arctic takes no prisoners and I have to be honest and say I am relieved that Rae and I returned in one piece.   

We worked pretty hard for the first 48 hours getting Dolphin ready for her adventure.

Midnight sun.

Torsvag, the last stop before crossing the Barents Sea.

When on land it is sensible to carry a gun in case the polar bear scarers fail to scare the bear. Happily we did not encounter a polar bear although we met a French couple who did. They, thankfully, were unhurt but their sea kayak is no longer sea worthy!

Whilst walking on this glacier we heard it boom twice in half an hour as the millions of tons of ice slowly moved seaward. 

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Pilot Cutters in Barry Harbour

I had an interesting email from a boat building buddy of mine, Seb Evans.  Seb works the Pilot boat out of Barry in Wales and he emailed me these photos taken last week of pilot cutters in Barry Harbour.  The pilot cutters are:  Pet; Mascotte; Cornubia; Maguerite and Cariad the punts belong to Mascotte and Cornubia. 

Monday, 17 May 2010

The Building of Defiant of Lyme Regis Podcast

When we installed Defiant in the National Maritime Museum Dan Matthews interviewed me and this was recorded and is now available to listen to along with their other wonderful podcasts. Here is the link if you would like to have a listen.


Sunday, 16 May 2010

Would you like to sail in the Arctic this summer?

Yesterday I spoke with Roger Capp's who owns the 100 year old Pilot Cutter Dolphin. During our chat Roger told me that someone has dropped out of the second part of this summer's Arctic voyage due to illness.  If you would like to be a crew member for this part of the trip please will you email your sailing CV to Emma Metcalf,

The crew member must be able to sail and the cost of the voyage including flights will be about £1,000.00. The proposed itinerary is listed below.

July 17th – July 26th: Sail to Sjuoyane,  Nordaustlandet, via Prins Karls Forland, Ny Alesund, Fairhaven and Moffen.
July 26th – August 4th:  Exploring Nordaustlandet. with the aim of exploring further East, and South to go walking in the area of Rijpfjorden and Prins Oscars land,  should ice conditions allow. 
August 4th – August 12th: Hinlopen Straits via Freemansundet to Storfiorden.
August 12th – August 18th: Storfjorden to Tromso
August 18th – August 22nd: Tromso to Ornes
August 22 – August 26/27th: Pack up.

Dolphin is 38ft and does not have much room.  Cockpit leads to companionway steps , galley to starboard. Navigation table to port, pilot berth behind. Saloon with two berths and the stove. Beyond the cabin with a double berth to starboard and a single to port, always full of sails. Heads in the bows.  She is a good sea boat, gaff rigged with a yard and square sail. Lots of ropes, no winches.
Expect to be cold, and cramped and amazed by the trip.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Our boat goes to the National Maritime Museum

Yesterday we towed Defiant of Lyme Regis to the National Maritime Museum where she was installed as the central exhibit in the Boats that Built Britain Exhibition. Dan Matthews the exhibition organiser met us at the gate and the installation team were on hand to safely  and efficiently get Defiant through the staggered entrance and into the micro gallery. Before we new it, Defiant was proudly sitting on her cradle.

Hannah Cunliffe was also there and both she and Dan really made Rae and I feel welcome. After a cup of coffee with Dan and Hannah. Rae and I went for a wander around the museum and the Royal Observatory. The last time I had visited the museum I was about 10. This visit as a child was a seminal experience for me and probably went some way to fueling my obsession with all things boats.

The museum is really well designed and is expanding with a new wing being built. We are going to be frequent visitors to the museum this year and we are really looking forward to hearing Tom Cunliffe's talk on the Boats that Built Britain which is being held at the museum on 20th May.

The Boats that Built Britain Exhibition opens on 8th May and runs until November. Tom's TV series began last night and is on twice weekly for the next three weeks. The second episode is on this evening at 20.30 on BBC 4 and of course there is catch-up on BBC iplayer.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Press Release from the National Maritime Museum: Boats that Built Britain

Rae and I have been working very hard for the last couple of weeks getting 'Defiant of Lyme Regis' ready for display in the Boats that Built Britain exhibition at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.  We are taking the boat to the museum on Tuesday and I am very nervous about having her on public display. Its such a privilege to have been asked to exhibit my boat and I just hope she lives up to the museum's expectations.

Please follow this link for the press release:

Sailing to Svalbard

It is now confirmed that Rae and I are going to be sailing onboard Dolphin, an original Bristol Channel Pilot Cutter. This beautiful vessel is owned by Roger Capps and we are very pleased to be part of his crew. We have booked our flights and are very excited by this new adventure. Dolphin is moored in Ornes, Norway and we will be joining the vessel in mid June.

Svalbard is an archipelago that is located in the Arctic Ocean, halfway between Norway and the North Pole,  for more information see the official Norway tourism website:

Monday, 12 April 2010

Oar Making

Here are some photos of the two pairs of 9 foot spoon oars I have recently made. If you would like a bespoke set of oars then please ring or email me so we can discuss your requirements.

The boats that Built Britain Exhibition National Maritime Museum

There has been an exciting development since being back in the UK and National Historic Ships have recently confirmed that they would like to borrow Defiant of Lyme Regis for the the next five to six months in order to display her at the National Maritime Museum (NMM), Greenwhich, London. The Museum are running an exhibition in support of Tom Cunliffe's new BBC 4 TV series entitled "the Boats that Built Britain." This exhibition is due to begin in early May and we are taking Defiant to Greenwhich on 4 May. I think the exhibition opens to visitors on 8 May.

Here are some links explaining about the TV series and also advertising the series of lectures being held at the NMM.*/changeNav/false/from/2856

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Last blog post until we return from India!

On Monday I received an email from a boatbuilding friend (Mike Lowson) who lives and works in Aberdeenshire. The photos kinda are self explanatory and these along with Mike's email made me feel wimpish for moaning about the fact that getting to my workshop was impossible because of the snow and that moving out of our rented house in preparation to going to India was proving very challenging.

Here is an excerpt of Mike's email:

"The pictures attached show that boatbuilding in Aberdeenshire in January can be tricky, if not impossible. The current record is -13C inside the workshop. The picture of my greenhouse suggests that my early crop of lettuces might be delayed this year!"

Mike Lowson of Northboats

So, this is my last blog post until I am back in the UK in March. The weather has eased thankfully today which has meant that moving stuff in the van has been easy. The last two days we have dug our way out of our road and into the roads we needed to get to, still its good to exercise those muscles!

If you would like to know what we are upto whilst in India please look at our other blog Our Adventures

Happy Boatbuilding and see you in the Spring.



Monday, 4 January 2010

Oar making

Its been ages since I have been able to get to the workshop! The need to scrape some cash together, Christmas and packing-up the house to go to India for five weeks have just got in the way! Yep, I have no paying boat building work at the moment so I am earning pennies doing some bank Nursing, yep, I am a qualified nurse also, this is handy as I enjoy the practical nursing and you know helping people is a great thing to do.

So, at the weekend I went to the workshop and started making the oars I have been wanting to make since October! It was freezing, but working keeps you warm and it was great working the Sitka Spruce. Unfortunately progress will stop now as I need to mothball the workshop until we get back from India in March. Can't wait to experience Southern India, we are off to Auroville which is near Pondicherry.

The Oars will just have to wait until we get back, but hey, there is no hurry!