Well, I have gone and done it! I have bought another boat. Naiad, a half-decked Fairey Falcon.
The river Great Ouse runs by our village, less than a mile away and since we moved here back in January 2013 I’ve entertained the idea of having a boat to use on the river. But apart from dreaming about it and on occasion looking in the Internet at what is available, I’ve not done anything about it, lacking money and time.
Just recently I had been watching some videos of Shoal Waters over on Creek Sailor’s website (Edit 2023.09.01 Now defunct, the site is now empty) as well as re-reading all the articles on the late Charles Stock’s website and I realised that a boat like Shoal Waters would be ideal in this river. Just for fun I searched for Fairey Falcon to see what turned up and found a number of boats for sale. Most of them looks to be in poor condition, but one caught my eye and before I knew it I had dashed off an email to the owner asking if the boat was still for sale. I soon received a reply confirming that she was still available and did I want to take look at her.
Indeed I did and we arranged that I should go down two weeks later to view and possibly buy the boat.
The following weekend I received an email with the subject of ‘DISASTER!!’ and read that whilst preparing the boat for viewing, the owner had found (dry?) rot in the hull and managed to easily poke holes right through the hull. He included photos of the damage and concluded that he could not sell the boat in that condition and was going to scrap her. The last photo on this page shows the damage.
I phoned him immediately and pleaded with him not to scrap her but to let me come down a look at her as arranged since I had built a number of boats before and from what I could see the hull was repairable. Eventually he agreed and remarked that he had been outside removing the fittings prior to cutting her up. A narrow escape!
So, I went along and saw the boat and came to an agreement with the owner on a price and towed the boat home this very day.
The photos on the below were taken by the previous owner and sent to me so that I had an idea of why I was going down to view. As you can see she is a very pretty boat only slightly marred in looks by the damaged shown in the last photo.
The damage that can be seen from the outside is hidden on the inside by the thwarts (seats) which had been filled with foam and sealed about 20 years ago when the last owner had bought her and worked on her. So I have to remove all the interior fittings right back to the hull so that I can inspect the inside of the hull and see how bad the damage is. This also means removing the side decks, fore deck and after deck so once the repair is completed, I will have an empty hull which will need to be refitted.
A daunting task but one that I had already decided to do since in her present role as a half-decker she is not suited to doing more than sailing up and down the 9 miles of river locally due to the bridges that cross the river 6 miles upstream and 3 miles downstream. To sail further than this I would need to take down the mast before each bridge and and put it back up again after each bridge.
The aluminium mast and rigging with which Naiad is currently fitted cannot easily be taken down and put back up again mainly due to the length of the mast and the fact that an aluminium mast needs to be set up properly and the stays quite highly tensioned to get the sails to work correctly. The intention with aluminium rigging is that you rig your boat at the beginning of the season and take the mast down only at the end of the season. Sailing outside of the 9 mile stretch of river would mean being able to take down and re-erect the mast numerous time in one day.
Instead, like Shoal Waters (shown below with a reef in her main and using only one headsail), Naiad will be rigged as a gaff cutter. Not being one to reinvent the wheel, Naiad will be fitted out as closely to Shoal Waters as I can make her, at least externally. Shoal Waters works, works well and has done so since 1963 when she was first launched. She is still going sailing most weekends more than 52 years later, although no longer in the ownership of Charles Stock who passed away in September 2012, a huge loss to the sailing world. Shoal Waters is now sailed by Tony Smith who took over custodianship from Charles back in 2011 and continues to sail her in the way that Charles did for so many years.
So, Naiad will have the short mast that is one characteristic of a gaff rig and this will be mounted in a tabernacle, a fancy, nautical world for a pivot.
Tony smith has a good video of lowering Shoal Water’s mast in less than one minute one his YouTube site (Edit 2023.09.01 No longer available), just what is needed for Naiad.
I also want to be able to sailing for more than just one day and here again, a half-decker is just not really suited for this type of sailing. It is fine for a few hours sail but beyond that it gets a bit uncomfortable. I’m being kind here, after more than 2 hours it gets very uncomfortable indeed. Besides, I want to be able to brew a tea or coffee during my sailing and here, again, a set up like Shoal Waters is ideal.
I entertain the idea of sailing the 17 miles down river to King’s Lynn and out in to the Wash, perhaps even going further around Norfolk towards Great Yarmouth. Not in a weekend, of course, but given a week or two and a fair wind, who knows where I might sail to.
So the start of a new project. I wonder how long it will take…