"Ships are the nearest things to dreams that hands have ever made."
Robert N. Rose
I've heard it said that whenever you start a project, plan for it to take three times longer than you expect. I'll put my name to that.
An Reun Govynnus was a pretty ambitious project that I cautiously took the lid off back in March last year in the first "Howls From The Pit" post, and considering all of the other things that I had going on last year I really shouldn't have publicised the fact that I aimed to launch her in the summer. Needless to say I missed my planned launch date and the boat's still sat down in The Pit, 95% complete but still confined to dry land while I work on the finishing touches and take the winter to go back over her and make sure everything's all ship-shape and Bristol fashion. I don't want this fancy floating box falling apart on me when I'm around the back of the headland after all.
Since March last year a lot has happened, but often it sometimes doesn't look that way. The eight foot outrigger arms (iakos) were laminated up with 5 strips of ash sandwiched between layers of iroko top and bottom and formed to a curve to meet the outrigger float (ama).
Following a self imposed "tread lightly" sustainability challenge I researched all of the different options available for sheathing the hull and ended up opting to use standard fibreglass cloth and epoxy resin from a local surfboard materials supplier. Not all that sustainable I hear you say, but I had to balance out sustainability, safety and cost; hemp cloth absorbs a lot more resin and only really works with epoxy so would add weight and expense, after a few tests and enquiries I decided against bioresin and fibreglass (questionable bond strength with wood), and in the end after checking every cloth/resin combination the best option was the least environmentally friendly one. But it works and now the hull sections are laminated and painted white.
I glued up the biofoam offcuts using old tyre inner-tubes to strap it all together then glued on balsa and western red cedar nose and tail blocks made from workshop offcuts. I had to stand the ama on it's end in the yurt in our back yard to use it's own weight as pressure on the glue joint with the tail block which made for quite a neat image.
The deck panels had the admiralty nautical charts for the coastline where I live etched onto them using a laser cutter in case I lose my charts overboard and I realised then that all of the clamps in the world still wouldn't be enough to hold them to the tight curves as the glue set. I begged and borrowed as many clamps as I could and cut up sections of drainpipe to apply pressure in between clamps, and the decks are on.
This winter I've had even less time than last year to sneak down and whittle the boat but I've ripped down leftover lengths of iroko and capped all of the gunnels so they're looking all classic in dark hardwood. I've spent a lot of time trimming glue overspills and working on small important things that I can't even see when I step back, knowing that it's the small things that count.
I also saw an advert in my local Newsagents window, advertising an old mirror dinghy in need of some TLC. I called up and on December 27th I headed along to the next village of Rock, just inside the Camel Estuary, to take a look. The dinghy has a hole in the hull and some bits of rot that need cutting out and patching, but it came with spare everything, even a complete set of spare sails. The price on the advert had said £60 and as the elderly gentleman talked me through all of the bits laid out in his garage I was sure that he'd made a typo and that I was £540 short.
Luckily for me it wasn't a mistake so I'm now the proud owner of TWO un-seaworthy vessels. I think that makes me a Commodore? Or a straight up idiot. Probably the second.
I assembled all of the bits a couple of weekends ago on a windy but sunny(ish) January morning with my great friend Alex of Initiative Surf filming my fumbling and confusion (see below, thankfully sped up and crammed into 30 seconds), and the plan is to cannibalise all of the spare bits of the Mirror for An Reun Govynnus and get her under sail. Then I can patch the holes and have two boats...but one step at a time. Three times as long right??!
"A lot of people ask me if I were shipwrecked, and could only have one book, what would it be? I always say "How to Build a Boat."
Top two images shot by Dave Williams.
Bottom two images by Mat Arney.
Mirror Dinghy footage shot and edited by Alex Espir.