Saturday, 29 June 2013

A New Zulu?

In Eyemouth we talked to Johnny Johnston who is organising the OGA gathering
Good Hope
here. Johnny is a fisherman, ex harbourmaster and much else, with many stories of the harbour and coast. He is the owner and restorer of the Fifie 'Good Hope', built 1923. She has fished all her life and is fitted out with a dipping lug rig.  Fifies were the traditional design that evolved to work on the Scottish East coast. Johnny is working on plans to build a 70 ft replica fishing boat, a Zulu and use her for sail training, and enter the Tall Ships races. With fishing in decline many small traditional harbours need people with his energy and vision.

Inevitably on this trip we have been thinking about the accounts of people who visited the same places in boats similar to Bonita. In some ways things were harder: the hours of rowing a yacht in the days before engines for example. On the other hand there were plenty of small fishing boats in the inshore waters and they often hailed a fisherman for directions and local knowledge.

E E Middleton was, it seems, one of the first to sail single handed round England in the 1860s (he went through the Forth to Clyde canal). His adventures are described in 'The Cruise of the Kate' - he named his boat after his sister, Kate Middleton. He used to enter harbour and drop anchor in the entrance, confident that before long someone would come and help him to a berth. No doubt they did, but his book gives no insight as to whether this was considered as reasonable practice by those who came out to tow him in.

There are many stories of the dirt, grime and inconvenience of sharing harbours with fishermen, but people were more tolerent of minor bumps and scrapes than they are now. It didn't seem to be so important to keep the the topsides in Boat Show condition, and much could be covered up with putty and paint.  I remember talking to an old yachtsman - the indomitable Cyril Monk of Erith Yacht Club - who sailed a lot before engines were common in small boats.  He used to keep a stock of printed cards on board: these contained a short apology, and the name of his insurance company. If they had a minor collision with another yacht, they would throw one of these cards onto the deck before setting off on the other tack. This was apparently common practice and considered good manners. I regret not asking how many cards he got through in a summer. Less scrupulous accident prone yachtsmen used to shout out 'no damage' even if there was abundant evidence to the contrary.

Yesterday evening Tim returned home having nobly seen Bonita all the way through the difficult waters between Tobermory and Eyemouth. He has also provided the generous sponsorship of the Beckett Rankine - Bonita rugby shirts. Fresh crew are expected tomorrow!

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