Saturday, August 01, 2009

All at sea

Jer's Boat Launch 019 In the seaside  village of Porthleven in Cornwall in the UK, where I have lived all my life to date, I have thought of there being two groups of people: those who farmed and those who fished.

My family and most of my associations when growing up were from the farming side, even though the Methodist Chapel I attended through my childhood was a predominantly fishing orientated one. Consequently I never developed links with the sea and had never been on a boat I the harbour.

I say had never because this weekend was something special that changed that.  My best friend Jer bought a boat designed and built in Porthleven by someone I knew when growing up.  The boat was called Girl Ruth (and yes in a moment of synchronisity I know the actual Girl Ruth it was named for). 

After a couple of years of work Jer had the boat ready as above and the day for launch arrived.

First it needed to be taken from Jer’s home down to the harbour

Jer's Boat Launch 006Jer's Boat Launch 012

The person in the yellow oilskins and driving his tractor is one of my personal heroes – that’s my Dad Spencer, (or Spencer Cornet as some children used to call him when he was still selling ice cream).  Dad and my youngest brother Chris restore old tractors and go on tractor runs and local shows; specifically Ferguson T20 tractors as in this picture.

The route the tractor took was down to the main street of Porthleven, down it past Fore Street Methodist Chapel and into the shipyard, in preparation for reversing it down the slipway.

Jer's Boat Launch 014

Jer's Boat Launch 015 Jer's Boat Launch 016

The big challenge would be in lowering the boat carefully down the slip while maintaining control at all times.  I was not concerned in the slightest with the launching, as Dad can get his tractors to turn on a pin, he is such an excellent tractor driver (comes from growing up with them I guess).

The boat is one designed by Dennis Swire, a ship’s architect of many years standing.  The interesting thing about this all wood boat is that Dennis designed it for himself and it was built in the village, at a guess in the late 1960s when the shipyard functioned as such.

Dad reversed it slowly across the road and down the slipway.

Jer's Boat Launch 019 Jer's Boat Launch 021 Jer's Boat Launch 026

The weather wasn’t sunny but the rain was only very light so everyone who came to watch were able to do so without getting soaked.  Eventually the boat was ready to be floated off it’s cradle. At this point  a number of seagulls hoved into view, thinking that the boat had just come in and there might be scraps to eat.  Aboard her for the launch were our best friends Wendy and Jer and our Godson Neythan.

Jer's Boat Launch 030  Jer's Boat Launch 034

This was quite a momentous day already with the launching of Jer’s refurbished boat but more was to come for me, after a snagging check.  Jer sensibly had advice and guidance from another local fisherman Robert, who came along side and accompanied the sea trials that came next.

Jer asked for volunteers to go on the boat’s maiden voyage since refurbishment and I jumped at the chance.  As I  said I fell into the farming camp when growing up, so had never been to sea from the village.  I had a few slight qualms about how I might feel, being in a boat many times smaller than the ferries I have mostly travelled in previously in different parts of the world. 

We set off into very calm waters off the village, which was good – given that the harbour existed in particular to give shelter from storms that ravaged shipping in the 18th and 19th Centuries.

Jer's Boat Launch 046 Jer's Boat Launch 052 Jer's Boat Launch 061

In all the time out and back I was mesmerised.  I had seen a film made of a boat trip out of the village but that is no substitute for seeing it with your own eyes.  Everything was fascinating and I only wish I had a more powerful camera to be able to zoom in places, but am happy I got some decent shots with the 5 megapixel Touch HD phone.

The boat rolled up and down as it crested the swell and turned but not once did I feel anything other than excitement and fascination,  (no doubt this will change one day when the weather is less friendly). All too soon we were back at the slip and the trip was over.  Before I accompanied Dad back up the road, with the now empty trailer, I took a quick shot of what it must have looked like when we went out.

Jer's Boat Launch 069 Jer's Boat Launch 071

It was a fun day out and I hope to be able to try that again.


austin said...

When I saw this, I freaked out! Dennis Swire is my Grandfather! Ruth is his daughter, my aunt! This is truly amazing! My Mom is Ruth's sister. I have even seen the very boat you speak about from pictures my mom has of it. If you knew Ruth, did you you know Louise, my mom?

Phil said...

Hi Austin. Yes I know your Louise. We are about the same age and were at High School together. My Mom and your late Grandmother were best friends and even though we are not related I knew her as Auntie Muriel.

I also know Ruth, though I don't see her very often. You won't remember this but, when you folks were last over and spent an evening at the home of a lady called Dorothy in Porthleven, I was the chap who came over with my Mom to visit a while.

Say Hi to your Mom from Philip - Auntie Florence's son.

About Me

My photo
Cornwall, United Kingdom
A married Cornishman who is getting an inkling of what he wants to be when he grows up. I currently work for the NHS. [See bottom of page for Blog Archive and Links.]