Thursday, June 23, 2011

This is what keeps a designer going.

Gone Walkabout.
A couple of years ago I had an email from one Osbert Lancaster who lived on the shores of the Forth of Firth in the South East of Scotland.  For many of us here in New Zealand that’s a place of ancestral connection, there are an awful lot of us with Scots forefathers, but its also a place that is much colder than we’re used to. 
However, it has very long evenings, long periods of calm weather and an incredible coastline dotted with ancient, and I mean many hundreds of years or in some cases over a thousand years  old.  Its an area that cries out for exploration by a boat small enough to creep in close to the edges of the water as well as tough enough should the weather blow up. This is the edge of the notorious North Sea after all.
Now this is how to enjoy sailing, Osbert surfing his Walkabout with a solid tail wind,  the wake of the boat suggests that he's moving slightly faster than the wave train, I bet that was a thrilling ride

Photo by John Mac Pherson

Osbert wanted to go our and enjoy this northern small boat paradise and chose to build my Walkabout design,   , a boat that could almost have been custom designed for what he wanted to do, a boat that was more than capable of the job at hand.  Osbert bought plans, had a part kit cut by Fyne Boat Kits over in Cumbria not that very far from his home  and got on with the build.
I heard from Osbert fairly regularly over the next while, he was a beginner builder when he began (An expert is but a beginner with experience, and experience begins when you begin)  He’s documented the build “here” 
I don’t mind hearing from builders, and sure sometimes I get the same question several times a day but I manage, its getting to know the people and following their frustrations and their joys, and then hearing about the adventures when the boats complete that really makes my day. A couple of good photos and a story about how much fun they had pays for the myriad emails and the chore of explaining for the nth time, how not to do something that I learned about years back.
Osbert though seems not one to do things by halves, I’ve been getting reports from him on a regular basis, racing as a rowing boat, racing with the local dinghy club, cruising the waters of the Firth, and getting involved with the Dinghy Cruising Assn  .
Today though, he topped them all,  I spotted a reference on a boating forum to Osbert and Sail Caledonia, a “raid” type event that runs from Loch Ness ( yes, the place with the monster)  on Scotlands West Coast, reknowned for fast currents and wild weather, through the Caledonia canal with Lochs, Locks and rivers, estuaries and sandbanks, through to his home waters on the Firth of Forth.

Here she is at the finish.  This event is a real test of man and machine, and I'm pleased to say that Osbert and Scratch both seem to have finished in good order and condition.  Congratulations both.
Chris Perkins photo.
He’s collected some wonderful photos of his  very nicely built Walkabout  “Scratch” ( Number 6 on her bow in these photos) taken during the event, and I don’t think I need to elaborate other than to say he had a very good time, and for a beginner sailor in a home built boat has done extremely well.
I loved the pic of Scratch surfing, but the one that really captures the spirit of dinghy cruising is the one with the tent up, a tiny but comfortable little home among all the other boats.
Well done indeed.  You’re an inspiration sir!
John  Welsford


  1. John

    Thanks for that, glad you approve! I'm not at sure I'd have done this, from building Scratch to Sail Caledonia, without the inspiration, advice and encouragement of yourself and fellow JW builders and sailors on your yahoogroup.

    You give me a little too much credit for the distance and challenge of the Sail Caledonia trip - perhaps getting all our firths mixed up! The route is from the sea by Fort William in the west of Scotland, along the Caledonian Canal, to the sea by Inverness in the east. About 60 miles our so. The 'canal' is in fact mainly a series of natural lochs connected by canal. Not the English narrowboat type canal, but large enough to take seagoing cargo vessels. The lochs are big enough to make a small boat feel very small, and to kick up serious waves.

    If anyone from overseas wants a serious sailing holiday in Scotland this is a great way to do it. You don't need a boat as the organisers can help you find a crewing role on other participant's boats, and I believe they are also looking to offer some suitable boats for hire. And a piper welcomes the fleet to the barge clubhouse every evening!

    All the best


  2. Hello Osbert,

    I really love to say that you have made such a nice design.I love the pic of yours when were sailing with your beautiful dingy.

  3. Happy sailing. Have a great race.
    Boat Hire Sydney