The long train journey home from sunny Chatham Dockyard in Kent to a dark and rainy Yorkshire, provided a perfect slice of time to reflect upon the broader story we’re a part of. The story being, that of all the interrelated resources and skills that surround the building and preservation of traditional wooden boats.
Whilst the idea of a boat, or even a fleet of boats, begins with a thought or a specific need, the conversion of that thought into any form of practical reality, requires a partnership with nature. It also calls upon the skills of the forester who knows intimately the timescales involved and the optimum conditions in which to grow each tree.
Left to its own devices, nature does a wonderful job of regenerating itself, the wildlife playing its own role in the redistribution of the various seeds that come from each variety. Creating the long, tall planks required for a ships hull on the other hand, require the trees to be grown in specific conditions that result in straight trunks and energy diverted in reaching for the light of the canopy.
It’s clearly a vast subject and one that could easily take a lifetime to study. And so the aim will be to get straight to the people who know the subject inside out. With their help we can focus in upon the specifics, namely the trees involved, the growth cycles and how they’re harvested once maturity has been reached.
Interestingly, we’ve been offered access to some Cumbrian, wind-felled oaks, blown down in last winter’s storms. These will need cutting and milling on site, so should make a fascinating part of the story to illustrate how the planks that end up being bolted to a hull, make their respective journeys from acorn to tree, then from tree to planks and all the stages in-between.
And talking of taking time to reflect, it’s almost time for our annual trip to the South West coast. A perfect place to stand back and form the long view. It’s also just the spot to see the old wooden boats on the sea, to meet the people who keep them afloat and in turn, play their vital role in preserving these long established traditions.
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