Monday, 30 December 2013

Shamrock Review of the Year 2013

As Shamrock sits in her dock at Cotehele Quay riding out the winter storms, her crew enjoying a winter break, it's review of the year time.

For the first time, this year has seen the recruitment of 'meet and greet' volunteers and Shamrock being opened up to the public on most weekdays, weather permitting.  This combined with the opening up of the boat shed to visitors has resulted in over £3300 in donations being collected, more paint!

January and February

Shamrock's forward deck is caulked after having some of it's planks replaced.
The forward end of the cargo hatch coaming renewed.


Bulwarks repaired and refitted.
Shamrock's hull is given a new coat of paint.
Shamrock is lowered down the slipway, floated off her cradle and then roped into her mooring dock.


Shamrock's foredeck anchor windlass and deck winch are refitted.
Masts raised and Shamrock rigged for the summer season.  


In early May the first planned trip of the year to the Old Gaffers Association 50 Anniversary event at Plymouth is cancelled due to the weather.
Painting of Shamrock continues as normal.
Late May early June trip to Plymouth's Royal William Yard goes ahead as planned.


Return trip to Cotehele from Royal William Yard.
Shamrock's planned trip to Saltash Regatta has to be cancelled due to a combination of high winds and the exposed Saltash berth location.
Slipway cleaned in preparation for the successful Cotehele "Wet Wet Weekend".


Shamrock left Cotehele Quay on the Friday 19th for a weekend in Royal William Yard where she remained until Wednesday 27th. She was then towed to Sutton Harbour in preparation for the 2013 Plymouth Classic Boat Rally.
After a successful rally Shamrock returned to Cotehele Quay on the 31st July ready for the summer visitors.


This was the month that the over-subscribed guided river trips on Nancy Belle started.
Shamrock's last planned trip of the year had to be cancelled due to, of all things, the lack of crew. How dare they go on holiday!


Nancy Belle completes her last river trip of the year.
Winter working plans are being discussed.

October and November

Nancy Belle moved from her mooring and hauled up the boat shed slipway.
Half term week and some the boat shed is used for "Half term spooky fun on Cotehele Quay" events, broom making, monster making etc.
Shamrock's sails and any loose fittings are removed to the boat shed for the winter.


Crew attend the Cotehele volunteers Christmas lunch, very nice too.
Shamrock's after deckhouse moved to the boat shed and a temporary cover fitted.


The crew's attention has been drawn to the following.
Cornish working craft have traditionally put a furze bush on the mast at Christmas time and still many Cornish harbours will see fishing boats with a fir tree attached to their masts. 
A bit late for Shamrock's 2013 Christmas but perhaps in 2014.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Shamrock Project

This post looks at the future of Shamrock and how to fund her once the National Maritime Museum grant ends.
As some of you may know, Shamrock is funded by a grant from the National Maritime Museum, which next year will be £36750. Unfortunately the grant funding will come to an end in 2015 and if the National Trust were to provide equivalent funding it would take much needed money from other important conservation projects. Consequently, we need to become innovative and find new ways to raise money to preserve Shamrock. A new ‘Shamrock Project’ has been established to lead the way and Nigel Tigwell has been exploring possibilities of raising money and reducing the costs of Shamrock without compromising her conservation standards.
The first big question to be answered in what Shamrock’s role is to be. From the 1970s restoration onwards she has been the country’s “Historian’s Ship”. This means she was restored to demonstrate to future generations the limitations of sail and the difficulties with which seamen of former ages had to contend. Her perpetual upkeep would keep museum curators and historians in touch with the practical challenges of traditional maintenance, preparing for sea and sailing an organic sailing ship. The combination of these roles helps historians better understand and interpret the naval campaigns and battles of the past, by supplementing the written records of operating larger, more complex wooden ships, both merchantmen and warships.
As the “Historian’s Ship” Shamrock was restored, not as a museum exhibit, but to sail in an identical material condition as she did in 1926. Cotehele Quay was reconstructed to provide a traditional Tamar small shipyard as her base, for her maintenance and to enable a holistic interpretation of the River Tamar trade under sail.  Shamrock is still maintained to traditional standards by traditional methods (OK, we occasionally use power tools) and she still remains as she was at the end of her restoration, with no anachronous materials and seaworthy.
Much of the cost of conserving Shamrock is in maintaining her in a seaworthy state and running her Boatshed, dock and slipway at Cotehele. If, for example, the powers that be decided the country no longer needed a “Historian’s Ship”, we could save a significant amount of money by not maintaining her to the same standard. Needless to say, the Shamrock crew and all at Cotehele are keen to continue with the “Historian’s Ship”, but the question has to be asked.
So, back to raising money, and how we might do it.  It really falls into 3 avenues: get better at what we already do; look for new revenue streams; or apply for grants from elsewhere. Covering grants first, this is superficially attractive but has a low chance of success. The Heritage Lottery Fund and others like to fund restoration projects, but not ongoing year-on-year maintenance. We might be able to get a grant to help with a specific expensive repair, but we would rather care for and maintain Shamrock so that she doesn't deteriorate to that state.
Our current money raising activities are primarily operating river trips on the Nancy Belle and inspiring people to make donations. We did 4 trips with Nancy Belle this year and made just over £100 for Shamrock on each trip. Obviously, we need to do more trips, but Nancy Belle’s engine is old and very noisy so perhaps we will need to spend money on a better engine first? Our visitors make donations when they have had an enjoyable experience onboard Shamrock, in the Boatshed and the Discovery Centre and when they understand the cost of preserving and operating Shamrock. If we can attract more visitors and further improve our visitors’ experience, hopefully Shamrock will receive more generous donations. We have some good ideas to achieve this, but again it all needs some level of investment.
In some respects creating new revenue streams is a fun and exciting prospect, but there is a cold reality check. We must, for example, comply with the rules for the National Trust’s unique charity status and, although the economy may be growing again, there is not a great deal of money floating around. Obvious things to consider are selling more Shamrock memorabilia, ideally from the information point within sight of her; we could sell experience days for people to join the crew on one of her voyages; but these alone will not raise the level of money we need. An opportunity we see at the moment is to use the expertise of Shaune and the Boatshed volunteers to take in commercial work: possibly maintaining, repairing or restoring wooden vessels; possibly making historic vessel replicas for sale; and running skills workshops. We are also considering establishing a ‘Friends of Shamrock’ fundraising group and starting a Shamrock raffle (for a desirable object made from Shamrock’s old timbers), but there are tight rules about these activities. Our final option currently is to seek commercial sponsors, again there are rules.
Nothing is decided yet, and there is a lot of work to do before any decisions can be made. However, take heart from our studies in the Shamrock Project that we are doing all we can to ensure our beloved Shamrock does not face a cliff edge when the grant funding ends. We will keep you updated with occasional blog articles in 2014.
In the meantime, if you know of any wealthy maritime history enthusiasts …
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
The Shamrock Project

Saturday, 14 December 2013


This week has seen the removal of the after deckhouse (officially known as the skylight) into the boat shed ready to be refurbished, well scraped, sanded, painted and varnished. Meanwhile the large hole left in Shamrock's deck, by its removal, has been temporary covered while a more permanent cover frame is being manufactured. This needs to stand proud of the deckhouse coaming to allow Shamrock to breath over the winter months.


It's nice to see that the boat shed is still getting a steady stream of visitors so late in the year. A lot of them are walkers and most are surprised that we are open.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Nautical Phrases

Shamrock's crew member Barry has put together this list of nautical phrases and their rumoured nautical origins.

In nautical terms, a ‘sheet’ is not a sail but a rope or chain by which sails were attached to the mast. If three sheets were untied the boat would be difficult to control and its progress erratic. Like that of a ‘drunken’ sailor.


Cannonballs would traditionally be stowed between the guns on a metal lipped tray, made of brass, called a ‘monkey’. In cold weather the brass ‘monkey’ would contract faster than the iron cannonballs causing the balls to spill out and roll around the deck.


In the mid 1700’s naval vessels often had the lower part of their hulls covered with copper plating to stop wood boring insects and barnacles eroding the wood. These vessels therefore became much more reliable and less likely to spring a leak.


To scuttle something means to cut a hole in it, (Hence the round ‘Scuttles’ on a ship) and a butt was another word for a barrel. The ‘Scuttlebutt’ was a barrel of water where the crew would congregate to get a drink of water and exchange gossip and tales.


A jib is a triangular sail at the bow between the boom or the forepeak, and the head of the foremost mast. Different countries would have different styles of jib sail. An experienced Captain could identify the nationality of a vessel from distance by the style of jib and if it were an enemy or suspicious vessel he would exclaim ‘I don’t like the cut of their jib'


The French for a ship's cargo is ’Arrimage’. If a cargo was damaged during a voyage it would be sold off cheaply at ‘A Rummage’ sale.


An early, and nowadays rarely used, meaning of ‘shiver’ is to ‘break into pieces’. Shiver me timbers was often part of an oath inferring that if anything happened to them, a person's boat should be broken apart.


On a ship, orders were often given by means of a whistle (pipe) since the sound would travel further than shouted orders and could be heard across the ship. Pipe down was the last call of the day from the Bosun’s Pipe, meaning lights out and silence. The Bosun (or Boatswain) was responsible for the crew whilst on board.


The ‘mainbrace’ is the thickest part of the rigging holding the ‘Yardarms’ in place. During a battle an enemy would endeavour to disable the mainbrace as the ship is difficult to manoeuvre if it is damaged and therefore unable to easily escape from the enemy. Under the stress of battle, skilled crew members would be expected to repair this difficult part of the ships rigging. As a reward they got an extra tot of ‘Grog’ (Rum). Nowadays the reward is given to all the crew and is used to celebrate special occasions such as the Queen’s Birthday or birth of an heir to the throne. 

After the conquest of Jamaica in 1687, rum was introduced into the Royal Navy in place of brandy.  In 1740, Admiral Vernon issued an order that the daily ration of one pint of neat rum to men and half a pint for boys should be diluted with a quart of water in an attempt to reduce drunkenness in his fleet – hence sailors feeling ‘groggy’.  It was called ‘grog’ because Old Vernon always wore a cloak made of material called grogram.

The practice was totally discontinued in 1970. 
In the old days the punishment for a serious crime on board a ship, a crewman might be ‘flogged’ or whipped. It would be the job of the Bosun’s mate to administer the punishment using a ‘cat o’ nine tails’. This was a whip fashioned from a piece of rope with thin strips of leather fastened to it. The leather strips were often knotted or had sharp objects tied into them to inflict more pain. The cat o’ nine tails was kept in a bag, so it was bad news if the cat was left out of the bag.


This is an acronym for ‘Port Out, Starboard Home’ and refers to wealthy passengers travelling to overseas destinations who could afford to switch cabins during the voyage to ensure they were always on the side opposite the sun, the cool side.


Wooden ships had to be sealed with hot tar between the planks to stop the ship from leaking. The ‘Devil’ seam was the longest on the ship at the top of the hull and was next to the ‘scuppers’ (or gutters) which allow water to run off the decks. If a large wave knocked a crew member overboard he was said to have been ‘scuppered’ between the devil and the deep blue sea. Also, sealing the deck and devil board with tar was often used as a punishment hence ‘having the devil to pay’.


Towards the end of the 1700’s it became law that lime juice had to be part of the crew’s provisions to prevent scurvy, a disease caused by a lack of vitamin C. This shortfall in vitamin C resulted in spongy or bleeding gums leading to the loss of teeth. British ships are still required to carry lime juice.


An iron ball attached to a long handle was a loggerhead. When heated it was used to seal pitch in deck seams. It was sometimes a handy weapon for quarrelling crewmen.


A sailor who will drink lots of beer or rum with his fellow shipmates, but will refuse to buy a round for them.


In some ports, like Portsmouth and Plymouth, women were allowed to come on board the ships to boost the morale of the crew. The men were often forbidden shore leave for fear that those who had been forced into service (Press Ganged) would run away. Every morning the duty Petty Officer would order the occupants of the hammocks to ‘shake a leg’, or show a leg. If the leg was smooth and shapely the woman was allowed to sleep in, if the leg was hairy the occupant was ordered up on deck to assist with the swabbing of the deck.


British vessels often carried a cage of crows. If the weather was foggy, and the crew unsure where the coast was, they would release a crow, crows detest open stretches of water and will head in a straight line for the nearest shore. The cage of crows was kept in the lookout perch at the top of the mast, which came to be known as the ‘crows-nest’.


From the late eighteenth century, Bristol was the main British West coast port where all the shipping activities were carried out in a business-like and efficient manner.


Because space on board a ship was very limited, particularly if carrying a large cargo, the only available space for a woman to give birth on board was between the cannons.


Until advanced measuring equipment was invented, tracking a ships progress was very difficult. It was managed by means of casting a wooden board, or log, attached to a rope with knots tied in it at equal distances, over the stern of the ship. The log would remain stationary and the speed of the ship calculated by how long it the rope between the knots to be pulled out. Hence the ships speed is measured in knots. These calculations were recorded in a log book. This book is now used to record all events on board a ship as they happen.

Unless of course you know different.