Sunday, April 29, 2012

Keeping The Boat Afloat

My friends Hardy and Layla live on a boat.  It's not only their home but also a full-on historical restoration project somewhat akin to an upside-down barn conversion, their "homeymoon" destination/accommodation and their floating wedding list.  It's an inspiring project and one that I've been dying to photograph for a while.  

The Northern Sky is a 58 foot larch on oak Scottish fishing boat built sometime around 1937, and she's designed to carry up to 22 tonnes of fish which, with no fish in the holds means that there's ample space  for some very unique living quarters.  Make no mistake, when they bought the boat it was in an absolute state, even being sold complete with a flea-ridden ships cat, and Hardy has spent much of the last two and a bit years working day and night and every hour in between trying to restore the boat so that she won't sink with all of their possessions aboard, and then once that's done, turn it into a home.  No mean feat.  

Captain Hardy in the port door of the wheelhouse, which actually serves primarily as Layla's country style kitchen where tea-towels hang to dry off the ship's wheel.

Ahoy!  Layla looking out of our bedroom porthole with a nautical scaffold platform below, showing past work below the waterline and one of the jobs "to do" painting topside.

Hardy has slowly but surely been replacing the majority of the oak frames that make up the skeleton of the Northern Sky;  after buying curved sections of sawn oak (from where the branch meets the trunk) he has to cut them down into beams and then take complicated multi-angle measurements of the section to be replaced, cut the replacement to fit and then swap them out.  

The aft cabin will eventually be the main bedroom.  You can see all of the work that has been done replacing the frame of the boat, and work yet to do above the waterline where there are holes in the planking big enough to stick your fingers through.  Last winter, during all of the snow and cold weather that we had in Cornwall, Hardy was sleeping in here and was woken up by rain being blown through the gaps.  Luckily there are no such holes below the waterline.

This illustrates perfectly how much hard(y) work has gone into restoring the good ship hardship:
That square nail is called a galvanised dump; each one is 150mm long and Hardy reckons that each whack of a 25lb (11kg) sledgehammer sends it 1mm further into it's hole.  So it takes roughly 150 whacks to hammer it in.

There are 60 frames running the length of the boat (2 sides) with 40 planks on each side.  Each plank is secured onto the frame by 2 nails (dumps).

60 frames 
 40 planks 
 2 nails
 2 sides of the hull
 150 whacks of the hammer
 2 because Hardy has only re-planked the Northern Sky up to the waterline and still has the topsides yet to do
 720,000 swings of a sledgehammer out of a total of 1,440,000.

To complete the re-planking of the Northern Sky Hardy will have swung his big sledgehammer almost one and a half million times, and there is no easier or faster way of doing this job.

The multi-purpose ships wheel.

Living on the water means getting friendly with all of the wildfowl.  Layla has been adopted by their local swan. 

Hardy rowing their tender back towards home on sunny evening, April 2012.  Refurbishing the little rowing boat will be nothing compared to the work done on the mothership.

The Northern Sky dockside on a Spring low tide.  

Hardy and Layla are forgoing a traditional wedding list for their upcoming marriage at the end of August and are instead asking friends and family who might wish to celebrate their marriage with a gift to donate towards the "restore and refit" coffers.  They have started a blog to allow friends and family to keep up to date with their progress and hope to arrive at their wedding reception on the Helford River in their homeymoon vessel, blasting the foghorn and trailing a couple of tin cans in their wake.
Check out the past stories, see how far she's come and see what's being done on their blog "Keep Our Boat Afloat", it's wonderful, inspiring and makes me want to live with funny shaped walls and round windows too.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

We've Got Roots.

A 1970's early twin-fin from Hawaii with a Union Jack spray job on the bottom on display at the Museum of British Surfing.

An old hardwood alaia and olo next to one of the earliest bellyboards (from Jersey) in the museum's collection. 

 The man who made it all happen, Pete Robinson at the end of the museum's hugely successful opening night.

Tucked in the back corner is an amazing wicker bellyboard with a lightning bolt logo sprayed on from this years World Bellyboard Championships and a cardboard cored, see-through surfboard designed by Mike Sheldrake and previously displayed at the V&A.

On the Good Friday the highly anticipated Museum of British Surfing opened it's doors.  Founded back in 2003 by Pete Robinson, the museum is a charity that has unearthed a huge amount of British surfing artifacts and memorabilia and amassed what's believed to be the largest and most historically significant collection of surfboards in Europe.  I first saw an exhibition put on by Pete in Brighton back in 2004 and walking through the doors on the Thursday evening before the grand opening for a special preview event (I tagged along as a guest of my friends at Finisterre), Pete's achievement in pulling it all together into a permanent museum blew me away.
The man has relentlessly researched the history of surfing in this country and recently discovered a letter in the Bishop Museum in Hawaii describing how two Hawaiian Princes and their English guardian went surfing in Bridlington in Yorkshire in September of 1890, a good 30 years before the first British surfing event was thought to have occurred.  Throughout the Victorian age many Hawaiian nobility were sent to Britain to be educated and the Islands have a strong and historic connection with Britain (just check out the Hawaiian flag) and it seems that many of these young Hawaiians surfed here during their visits.  This then grew with the development of bellyboarding through the early part of the 20th Century, Jim Dix and Pip Staffieri's hollow Waikiki paddleboards in the 1930's and then the arrival of stand-up surfing via visiting lifeguards in the South West and Channel Islands in the 1950's.  From there surfing bedded into the culture of coastal communities in the South West and around the country and there's enough history to fill a couple of books, and now thankfully, a museum.

The museum will hold annual exhibitions (it's inaugural exhibition is "The Art of Surf") and rotate the boards on display (they currently only have a quarter of their vast collection hanging from the walls and ceiling) and is well and truly worth a visit.  Pete Robinson deserves a medal for his dedication, belief and effort, and for donating his personal collection to the museum's permanent collection.
The museum is in Braunton, Devon, just off Caen Street in an old railway building.  If you live West of Bristol or ever come West of Bristol then, detour or not, you ought to go take a look.   

After the launch party I camped with the guys and girls from Finisterre and we woke up on Good Friday to zero degrees and a frost, which is frustrating when you're next to a van full of warm jackets!  The guys were holding a pop-up shop event in the room adjoining the museum over the Easter Weekend as one of the Museum's supporters.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Old Man and the Sea

"Then he began to pity the great fish that he had hooked. He is wonderful and strange and who knows how old he is, he thought. Never have I had such a strong fish nor one who acted so strangely. Perhaps he is too wise to jump. He could ruin me by jumping or by a wild rush. But perhaps he has been hooked many times before and he knows that this is how he should make his fight. He cannot know that it is only one man against him, nor that it is an old man. But what a great fish he is and what he will bring in the market if the flesh is good. He took the bait like a male and his fight has no panic in it. I wonder if he has any plans or if he is just as desperate as I am?"

The Old Man and the Sea
Ernest Hemingway

Images from the top down:

La Panpa, Playa Pelada, Costa Rica
Garza Sport Fishing, Costa Rica
Nets, Playa Pelada, Costa Rica
Portrait of an old fisherman number 2, Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka
Beached Bows, Playa Pelada, Costa Rica
Pelicans, Playa Guiones, Costa Rica
A Productive Day, Playa Garza, Costa Rica

All photography copyright Mat Arney.

Last weeks "A Meditation In Motion" podcast may not have shown up if you use an RSS feed to access An Tor Orth An Mor, to access last week's post please click here.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Meditation In Motion - Podcast Special

This time last year I was sat on a train on the way to Morocco. I find travelling long distances by train to be quite a meditative experience; much like surfing and climbing you tend to focus in on the here and now and all worries and concerns are, at least momentarily, forgotten. Often by the time you arrive at your destination they're no longer such a worry or concern thanks to the calming effects of time and movement.

This week An Tor Orth An Mor takes a different track, offering up a ten minute podcast titled "A Meditation In Motion" to give your eyes a break from the photos and text and letting your ears take over for a week.

Images taken from "The Train To Taghazoute", an article that I produced for Drift surf magazine. All images by Mat Arney apart from surfing sequence above shot by Marc Fennell of Surf Berber.

Backing tracks from "A Meditation In Motion":

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Cold Sand Between Your Toes

Having cold sand squish between your toes is a pretty magical feeling.

It probably indicates one of two possible scenarios; either you're about to go for a surf out of the high season, in spring or autumn when you don't quite have to wear boots yet but it's cold enough that there aren't many other folk about, or that you're up before the first rays of the sun have warmed the sand and you're about to be the first person in the water today.

Cold sand happens everywhere on the planet if you wake up early enough because sand, with all of the tiny little gaps between the grains, heats up and cools down really quickly. It reminds me of early mornings in Western Australia, or running over the sand dunes before the sun's risen high enough to hit the beach on the other side in South West France, pre-work surfs in Cornwall and Costa Rica and waking up in the dark in Indonesia to try and peer at the whitewater way out on the reefs. I love cold sand between my toes not for the squidgey feeling but for everything that it signifies.

Whichever position you might have found yourself in, it's bound to be a good one.

This particular morning at Bells Beach I'd slept in my car aiming to get in the sea before anybody else. I was woken up in the dark by a set of car headlights swinging into the carpark though. Dammit. This local tradie beat me into the sea by a matter of minutes for his pre-work surf and I took this shot just before I locked up my car and ran down the famous wooden stairs to the sand to paddle out in his wake.
I know now why there's a race for the first lift of the morning at ski resorts; everybody wants to lay down the first tracks of the day.