The Beale Park Boat Show


The Beale Park Boat Show
by Gavin Atkin

I went over to the Beale Park Boat Show today, and it seemed pretty good to me, and so here are some pictures of Corinthian home-built and heroic craftsman-built boats.

Boats on Show was a good show last year but wasn't well attended despite some good weather, and this year I think it's fair to say that splits among the organisations representing small boat designers, builders, hirers and whoever else led to two new shows. It sounds like a recipe for commercial disaster, but things don't seem to have worked out all that badly in the end. I couldn't make the first, which took place last month, but I'm delighted to say that the show I attended yesterday seemed reasonably healthy. I would not be surprised to find that it will eventually win out as our premier commercially-run wooden and home built boat show in the UK.

Picture a small lake connected to the Thames, and a boat exhibition connected to that. What would you expect? Thames skiffs, just to begin with. A classic Thames steam launch. A heap of very pretty boats from professional wooden boat shops, of course. The Dinghy Cruising Association. And some competition entries, of course. I took photos of all of those. A few didn't come out quite as I'd have liked, but here are those that did.

The first boat I saw was this gorgeous Thames skiff - a little like the ones my father used to hire for our family when I was a boy in the 60s - however, this one has a sail and is generally prettier. Thames skiffs are not terribly stable boats, so anyone who can sail this in a narrow, winding river with fluky winds influenced - or ruined, I think its often fair to say by trees, houses and suuden clearings has my admiration.

Where there's a wooden boat show, there is the Dinghy Cruising Association. Here's the DCA's president Roger Barnes with Baggywrinkle, his remarkable Tideway adapted for cruising. USA types might be interested to learn that these people sleep in their boats, partly because they enjoy it but mainly, I suspect, because British farmers and land owners act decisively to discourage anyone from camping on their land, even when they're next to their moored boat. So you have to sleep on board, or in a bed and breakfast.

Weir's proas were interesting. The construction of the hulls appeared to be simplicity itself.

I dropped by the Swallow Boatworks people to ask a few questions about the sligind gunter rig they have designed into their Sandpiper model - I was interested because there has been some suggested that a small one could be fitted to some Mouse boats. I was assured that there's nothing tricky about this elegant rig, and that it works very well. The only oddity of this boomless rig with a mast and mast extention all in line is that it's helpful to use a paddle to hold the sail in shape on a broad reach. (If any of you Mouse boat folks are listening, btw, I think some of you should try it!)

Here's a narrow boat. Not home built, but I think it was someone's accommodation for the weekend.

Lovers of ornate skiffs will like this pair. Dig that canoe too...

This is Frank and Margaret Dye's famous Wayfarer, which they've used to cross some fearsome seas. They're regular attenders of these shows, and Margaret has the charming habit of blessing the boats in the show that she likes with little sprays of wild flowers.

Here's a boat that I think is a kind of gondola, apparently made by stitch and glue. A very elegant craft.

This Laurent Giles-designed Jolly Boat built by Harwich Boatcraft was one of my favourites. Cute, and solid and wholesome are just some of the words that come to mind. I belive the design can be bought and is intended to be suitable for amateur construction.

I've shown you pictures of this boat built by Jamie Clay before, but it's such a beauty I just had to take some more shots.

This is a 15ft Orkney yole designed and built by two third year boatbuilding students at Lowestoft College.

And this pram was built by another Lowestoft student, John Beard.

This is a very woody Wayfarer - notice the wooden spars and boom. That's something you don't often see.

This is a part-built entry for the show's competition, a Linnet designed by Woods Design and built by Ken Norman. Bolger fans will notice the off-centre daggerboard - maybe this kind of thing is catching on.

(I thought this a rather nice lightweight skiff, and it reminded me rather of my own design, the Light Trow, which is aimed at pretty well the same purpose but is as yet unbuilt. (Lucky Mr Woods!)

The builder had this to say: "We enjoy our large family dayboat but she does take ages to get ready for sailing. We wanted a lightweight boat so we could sail more spontainously, more often. This is the first boat I have ever built. I found it a really enjoyable project."

A little boat called Blue Coot designed by Paul Fisher of Selway-Fisher and built by a Phillip Cresswell was the next entry in line.

Following on was Tit Willow, an epoxy ply gaff sloop built and designed by Chris Waite. This one has a displacement of 1.23 tons, and looks to me as if it's intended to deal with some challenging passages.

The winner of this year's amateur boatbuilding competition. Built by its designer working from a half model made from MDF, it was inspired by Yorkshire cobles, Suffolk beach punts, Cornish mackerel drivers and the Breton chaloupe. A very cool boat, but my photo of the builder's explanatory notice didn't come out, so I can't tell you the gentleman's name.