Off she goes, Iain Oughtred's slightly foreshortened Penny Fee, at 15ft. Sails by Jeckells, spars by the wonderful Jeremy Freeland at Collars. The rest by Messrs Burke and Morgan (that's Jonny by the way...)

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The Best

The Shetland boat I am restoring is a constant source of delight. Built by Iain Best (a man I admire but have never spoken to, let alone met) it is a thing of simple, honesty. The shape is gorgeous (I think she'd be called a Whilly Boat but I am no expert) and the planking fair and true. The garboards angle up at about 45 degrees which gives the keel extra bite in the absence of a centreboard, and which requires some clever bottom bevelling on the next plank up amidships, and top bevelling on the garboard fore and aft, all executed by Mr Best effortlessly, as befits one who I read spent time in Scandinavia learning from the experts.

But it is the sheer honesty of the boat that impresses me most. Nothing fancy, all done to a high but not obsessive standard, all joints close fitting, all the important details right. All in all, a joy to work on and bring back to close to where she was when launched, perhaps 20 years ago. As good, or nearly, as new with a couple of rotten sections of planking replaced, chips, dings and blemishes smoothed away, new thwarts and the distinctive canted rangs remade and refitted.

The pleasure restoring her was akin to that of building the Woodfish faering you see in the photo that heads this blog. Three planks and a few brilliant frames, developed over centuries, fashioned from natural crooks, loose fitting thwarts and there you have it: to my mind the quintessentially perfect clinker boat, perfected by the Vikings and never likely to be bettered for its elegant simplicity.

Photos of the Whilly Boat will follow at some stage, when the first of the undercoats is on and she emerges into the daylight after many years on the beach (literally). My hat off to you, Mr Best...

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