Friday, 11 June 2010

Smacks and Bawleys

A beautiful Bawley and a unique specimin of this type of craft. And possibly Emma's first visit to the Blackwater this year. Emma has had a recent and  extensive rebuild.

F22 Emma of Faversham, built Haywards Southend 1850, LOA 25'

The Blackwater estuary is, as Harvey Benham once wrote, the Last Stronghold of Sail. If, like me, you sail a home water which has many craft like these you can not help but be inspired to preserve the timeless ways of gaff rig. The gaff sail has four sides and is a joy to work with. The spar at the top (head) of the sail sits at an angle to the mast and is called the gaff, it is normally shorter than the boom. It can be used to lower or raise large amounts of sail relatively quickly. The gaff rigged boat can also be very forgiving due to the sails tolerance in spilling wind.  Sheer beauty and elegance is that of a gaff rigged craft draped in fine canvas, coated in rich shades of ochre, aesthetically pleasing but is so functional. Craft that have fetched the tea and fed family's of Britain for nigh on a century of summers. It is a way of sailing that must be preserved as these boats are a window into a chapter of our nations maritime history. I still remember images of the tan sailed smacks and barges as a child looking out across the wallet from the beaches of Clacton, Frinton, Holland, Walton and Jaywick. The craft then would have been sailed mainly by enthusiasts as being in the late 60's and 70's the fishing in them had long since ceased. I do what I can when I can to preserve or promote the use of gaff rig as not only is the rig functional it is way of life - a "Tao of Sail". People that own and maintain these fine craft are not mere sailors they are living a lifestyle, one that is all consuming, one that has sadly all but disappeared. To be among so many craft in the same waters that they would have fished drifting nets or dredging over the bulwark for oysters gives you a real feeling for what it was like back in the heyday of East Coast working sail.

East Coast fishing smacks racing on the River Blackwater 2010

The letters preceding the number on the side of a fishing smack show the home port to which it is registered. Some of the East Coast letters areas follows;
MN- Maldon
CK- Colchester
LO- London
HH- Harwich
LT- Lowestoft
F - Faversham

CK 213 Boadicia built 1808 Williamson Maldon LOA 30'

CK328 Sunbeam, built Howard of Maldon in 1881, LOA 50'

LO 502 Mary Amelia, a cockler, shrimpers and cocklers generically get called bawley but a more precise term is bawley type, built Haywards Southend 1914,LOA 34'
Even though in colour these two images are timeless classics.

CK46 Skylark built in 1877, Howards Maldon LOA 35'

More detailed information regarding East Coast smacks and bawleys can be found here by clicking on this link Smackdock

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