Thursday, 28 October 2021

A visit from a Crossfield!

On Wednesday Bonita had a visit from Eric Crossfield. Erics great great grandfather ( I think thats right) was William Crossfield who built Bonita. William was about 40 at the time, and Bonita was as far as we know his first commission for a yacht, so no doubt he was keen to make sure everything was to the highest standard. The family long ago gave up building boats but Eric is ex-Navy and a keen yachtsman. He also has lots of documents and photos from the families boatbuilding days. This may very well have been the first time a member of the Crossfield family had been aboard Bonita since she was launched in July 1888- I hope he thought she has been looked after properly in the intervening years. Bonita is not only the oldest Crossfields boat afloat, but also probably one of the most original, with much of the Victorian shipwrights craftmanship on display. It was a breezy day, but we went for a short sail with a reef in the main. You would have thought Bonita would have been on her best behaviour for the occasion, but sadly this was not so. Being the end of the season, her bottom had got rather weedy and she was slow in stays while going about. Due to the inattention of the skipper she ran aground ( on soft mud on a rising tide) and then further disgraced herself by getting a rope around the propellor while motoring off. Apart from this we had a fine brisk and enjoyable sail in the sheltered waters of the Swale and picked up the mooring under sail. Eric stowed the sails while I unwound the remains of the rope from the propellor. It was a great pleasure having Eric aboard. He has very bravely taken on Peggy, a Crossfields boat that went round Britain with us in 2013 but now needs a lot of restoration. Hopefully she will be afloat and sailing again before too long!

Sunday, 17 October 2021

Second Arnside Conference

D and I went to Arnside (by train) for the second conference on the Crossfields and the boats they built for use in Morecambe Bay and beyond. The conference was once again ably organised by Alasdair Simpson, Commodore of the Arnside sailing club. At the last conference a couple of years ago I gave a talk on Bonita. This time we went to listen, learn and network. We had a very interesting and sociable time and hope the conference will become a regular, if not annual occasion. Its good to hear of the efforts going into preserving these fine boats. As well as the old wooden boats there are several grp Crossfields boats made from a mould taken of the old Morecambe Bay lifeboat, the William Priestley. The Crossfields made hundreds of boats and about 40 are still in existance. Bonita is the oldest, as shown in the poster on display at the conference....
The Church Hill boatyard where Bonita was built no longer exists- it was demolished a couple of years ago and replaced by new housing. Unusually, the boatyard is not on the waters edge, but up a fairly steep hill in the middle of the village. When completed, the boats were rolled on a trolley down the hill and onto the beach, to be lifted off by the incoming tide. The Crossfields had no way of getting boats back into the yard if there was a problem, so everything had to be 'right first time'. The second picture shows the river Kent, running west from Arnside out towards the sea.